Top 20 Black Actors/Actresses Under 40

This list was made on a combination of both acting ability and popularity(highest salary, highest grossing movies). Also remember this only includes actors UNDER 40. Enjoy! and I welcome feedback...good or bad.
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1.
Zoe Saldana
Actress, Avatar
Zoe Saldana was born on June 19, 1978 in Passaic, New Jersey, to Asalia Nazario and Aridio Saldaña. She was raised in Queens, New York. When she was 10 years old, she and her family moved to the Dominican Republic where they would live for the next seven years. While living in the Dominican Republic...
“ Although she's Dominican, I would still consider her a part of black cinema. Zoe has really evolved from good supporting roles (Drumline, Guess Who) to leading lady status in HUGE blockbusters (Avatar, Star Trek, Pirates of the Carribbean). I would not say her acting is magnificent, but she really is more than just a pretty face and has shown some great range lately (underrated performance in Avatar!!)
Next up for her is the action revenge flick Columbiana and Star Trek sequel. ” - mrChickenNWaffles
 
2.
Anthony Mackie
Anthony Mackie is an American actor. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Martha (Gordon) and Willie Mackie, Sr., who owned a business, Mackie Roofing. Anthony has been featured in feature films, television series and Broadway and Off-Broadway plays, including Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Drowning Crow...
“ Has really solidified himself as the number one black actor under 40. I would not call him the next Denzel, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him holding an oscar a couple years from now. The Hurt Locker really put him on the map and divided him from just a good black actor to a good actor period. Mackie first gained attention as the hated Papa Doc in 8 mile and continued to get bigger roles year after year. His best performances are in The Hurt Locker, Notorious(controversial, but I loved his performance as Tupac), and Brother to Brother. His best is yet to come as he prepares to play Buddy Bolden in the upcoming biopic. ” - mrChickenNWaffles
 
3.
“ She could push for Zoe Saldana's spot at number one if it wasn't for the sad fact that she really only gets supporting acting roles. However she still manages to put the screen time she does get to work in great performances in Ray, The Last King of Scotland, etc. She has showed real talent in lead acting roles lately as well (Night Catches Us, Lakeview Terrace). ” - mrChickenNWaffles
 
4.
Jennifer Hudson
Actress, Dreamgirls
Jennifer Hudson is a Grammy Award-winning recording artist, Academy Award-winning actress and best-selling author. Bright and booming talent Hudson is a perfect example of how NOT winning the title of American Idol can actually be a boon to your career and not necessarily the end of a childhood dream...
“ Okay, some would say she should be higher for the fact that she has an oscar, which nobody else on this list does. However, she's only acted in 4 films and none of those were leading roles. I will still give J-Hud props though, her performance in Dreamgirls was great but I still would like to see more, but I can understand music is her first love and she's mainly pursuing that. I am still looking forward to her portrayal of Minnie, Nelson Mandela's wife in the upcoming film that could return her to oscar buzz. ” - mrChickenNWaffles
 
5.
Thandie Newton
Thandie Newton was born in London. She is the daughter of a Zimbabwean mother, Nyasha, a health-care worker from the Shona tribe, and Nick Newton, a British father who worked as a lab technician. She lived in Zambia until political unrest caused her family to move back to the UK. She then lived in Cornwall in the southwest of Britain until the age of 11...
“ Thandie Newton first gained audiences attention in Beloved and has since gotten better and better. She can seem to disappear from the spotlight at times but when she is at her best she is oscar worthy. I'm not even gonna get into how she was robbed of at least an oscar nomination for Crash. She's starred in big movies as well like Mission: Impossible 2 and W. ” - mrChickenNWaffles
 
6.
Paula Patton
Paula Patton was born in Los Angeles, California, to Joyce (Vanraden) and Charles Patton. Her father is African-American and her mother, who is caucasian, has German, English, and Dutch ancestry. Her family lived across the street from the 20th Century Fox lot when she was growing up and she was a fan of films from her earliest years...
“ This stunning actress got her big break in one scene in Hitch, but ever since has been on a role. From Deja Vu opposite Denzel to her hugely underrated performance in Precious, Paula Patton has both beauty and talent. She shows a great combination of both acting abiltiy and box office appeal. She will REALLY start to blow up and acquire leading roles after Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol comes out. ” - mrChickenNWaffles
 
7.
Beyoncé Knowles
Beyoncé was born in Houston, Texas. Her father, Mathew Knowles, manages Destiny's Child. Her mother, Tina Knowles (née Celestine Ann Beyincé), designs their glittering costumes. Solange Knowles, her sister (they're about 5 years apart), has released her debut album. She dances with her big sister during DC-3 concerts. Beyoncé is of African-American and Creole descent...
“ Okay! Before everyone starts ripping me for this, the simple fact is that this list is a combination of acting talent and stardom. Beyonce has shown that she can be a movie star too, in big roles in big movies like Austin Powers in Goldmember and Dreamgirls (underrated performance!). Also say what you want but Beyonce was great in Cadillac Records. Supposedly Clint Eastwood wants her in A Star Is Born remake and you know if he wants her, she has talent. ” - mrChickenNWaffles
 
8.
Idris Elba
An only child, Idris Elba was born and raised in Hackney, London, England. His father, Winston, is from Sierra Leone and worked at a Ford motor factory. His mother, Eve, is from Ghana and had a clerical duty. Idris attended school in Canning Town, where he first became involved in acting. He gained a place in the National Youth Music Theatre - thanks to a £1,500 Prince's Trust grant...
“ Elba played the GREAT Stringer Bell in HBO's legendary series "The Wire" and once again is getting praise for his portrayal of the title character in "Luther", for which he is nominated for a golden globe and emmy. Elba does most of his best work on television but has starred in big movies of late, like Takers and The Losers. Will be in upcoming action flicks Prometheus and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance. ” - mrChickenNWaffles
 
9.
“ Derek Luke broke out in Denzel Washington's Antwone Fisher and continued with success in popular sports films such as Friday Night Lights (was GREAT as Boobie Miles) and Glory Road. His most recent success was in Miracle St. Anna and Notorious, playing Sean Puffy Combs. ” - mrChickenNWaffles
 
10.
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Chiwetel Ejiofor is an English actor. He is known for his portrayal of Okwe in Dirty Pretty Things (2002), the Operative in Serenity (2005), Lola in Kinky Boots (2005), Luke in Children of Men (2006), Dr. Adrian Helmsley in 2012 (2009) and Dr. Vincent Kapoor in The Martian (2015). He played Solomon Northup in 12 Years a Slave (2013)...
“ Ejiofor has both shown great acting ability and starred in high grossing movies like Salt, American Gangster, and 2012. He really gained critics attention after his great performance in Dirty Pretty Things. He also gained a Golden Globe nomination for playing the drag queen in Kinky Boots. ” - mrChickenNWaffles
 
11.
Gabrielle Union
Actress, Bad Boys II
Gabrielle Union was born on October 29, 1972, in Omaha, Nebraska, to Theresa (Glass), who managed a phone company, and Sylvester E. Union, a military sergeant and business executive. At the age of 8, her family moved to Pleasanton, California, where she grew up and attended high school. In high school...
 
12.
Columbus Short
Actor, Accepted
Born in Kansas City, Missouri on September 19, 1982, Columbus Keith Short, Jr., started entertaining at the age of three, by putting on shows for his folks' enjoyment. Whether impersonating relatives, dancing or just making people laugh, everyone sensed something special about the boy. Fortunately, his family later relocated to Los Angeles where...
 
13.
Gabourey Sidibe
Actress, Precious
Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, the star of Precious, was born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant community in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother, Alice Tan Ridley, is a former special education teacher who gave up her career and became a street performer/singer, while her father, Ibnou Sidibe, is a cab driver. Her mother is African-American and her father is Senegalese...
 
14.
Meagan Good
Meagan Monique Good was born in 8 August 1981 in Panorama City, California, USA, to Tyra Wardlow-Doyle, who worked as her manager, and Leondis "Leon" Good, an LAPD officer. She began appearing on commercials at the age of four. Then she started guest-starring on series like The Parent 'Hood, Touched by an Angel...
 
15.
Omar Epps
Actor, House M.D.
Omar Epps is an American actor, starring on the ABC drama Resurrection. Epps was born in Brooklyn, New York, and was raised by his mother, Bonnie Maria Epps, an elementary school principal. No stranger to the big screen, Epps has appeared in lead roles in feature films, including Paramount's Against the Ropes...
 
16.
Keke Palmer
Keke Palmer was born Lauren Keyana Palmer in Robbins, Illinois--a small town 20 miles south of Chicago-- to Sharon and Larry Palmer, both former actors. Palmer showed vocal promise as a five-year-old, when she belted out "Jesus Loves Me" in her church choir. A year later the singer-actress had a solo in her kindergarten play but...
 
17.
Michael Ealy
Known for his charming looks and deep personality, Michael Ealy blessed the movie screen with his role in Barbershop. When he left Silver Spring, Maryland, with a degree in English, he headed off to New York. From there he performed in several stage productions, including the Off-Broadway hits "Joe Fearless" and "Whoa-Jack"...
 
18.
Brandon T. Jackson
Brandon Timothy Jackson was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, the son of Beverly Yvonne (Bozeman) and Wayne Timothy Jackson. His parents are both pastors, and his maternal grandfather was a Pentecostal child preacher. He credits his sense of humor to both his father and his life straddling the fence between suburbia and the inner city...
 
19.
Naturi Naughton
Actress, Fame
Naturi Naughton is an American Singer and Actress best known for her performance as "Lil Kim" in Fox Searchlight's hit film "Notorious", and her role in MGM's remake of the classic film "Fame". Naughton has starred in various other projects such as: Lottery Ticket, The Playboy Club, Mad Men and The Client List...
 
20.
Laz Alonso
Actor, Avatar
Born and raised in Washington DC, Laz always knew he wanted to be an actor. He remembers at a very early age entertaining his family by imitating relatives and family friends. He graduated from the prestigious Howard University School of Business, earning a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in marketing...