10 actors who got their big break from legendary director John Singleton

John Singleton with Taraji P. Henson, whom he directed in the classic film Baby Boy. (Image source Instagram – @johnsingleton

Movie and TV superstar Taraji P. Henson kept it real about her everlasting adoration of legendary movie director John Singleton. The woman who plays the street-savvy matriarch on the hit show “Empire” said that if Singelton had not taken a chance on her, she would not have her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Henson, 47, is far from the only one. There are at least 10 Black actors and musicians who owe a debt of gratitude to Singleton’s indelible contribution to the world of Hollywood filmmaking, beginning with rapper Ice Cube who was already reaching legendary status for his studio work with the iconic rap group N.W.A.

  1. Ice Cube

Singleton encouraged Cube to begin the process of screenwriting and filmmaking. The result of that invaluable mentorship on the set of Boyz n the Hood is the classic Friday and Barbershop franchises and several other movie projects, including Are We There Yet? that have churned out another round of stars, including Chris Tucker and Michael Ealy.

2. Janet Jackson:

Janet Jackson was already on her way to reaching her brother Michael’s status as a music superstar and Hall of Famer before she met Singleton. But Singleton cast Jackson in her first movie role with the seminal Poetic Justice that has stood the test of time.

3. Taraji P. Henson:

Taraji P. Henson has conquered TV and film, but it all began with the cult classic Baby Boy and continues today with her role on the music-drama TV series “Empire.”

4. Regina King:

Regina King, like Janet, was a child star trying to make the transition into adult roles. Singleton helped solve that issue by casting her in a succession of his films back to back, including Boyz n the Hood, Poetic Justice and Higher Learning. This past February, King took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for If Beale Street Could Talk.

5. Angela Bassett:

Angela Bassett is a Yale University graduate. But it was with Boyz n the Hood that she skyrocketed to fame. A few years later, Bassett earned an Academy Award nod for portraying Tina Turner in What’s Love Got to Do With It.

6. Morris Chestnut:

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This is where it all started. The Genesis – The Genius – The Genre Maker/Star Maker (Taraji P. Henson, Ice Cube, Tyrese Gibson, Lawrence Fishburne, Regina King,Nia Long, Angela Basset, Cuba Gooding, Jr. – in no particular order as these are all great actors/actresses). John Singleton gave me a chance. When I left the audition for "Boyz N' The Hood" as he shook my hand, he gave me a stronger grip than normal and looked me in the eye. I felt he was basically giving me a signal that I had the job without telling me. From there, there was no comprehension of the massive chain of events that was about to follow. People from all over the world literally tell me how they’re affected by Boyz ‘N The Hood. The magnitude and world-wide impact that his ground-breaking film would have for society cannot be measured. Helping to bring awareness of what it takes to come to maturity as a black male in the 'Hood, or die trying… Helping to gain a deeper understanding of the challenges faced. Dealing with challenges and adversity in life and in general. From that lesson, for anyone who watches Boyz N’ The Hood, we are able to learn a little more about ourselves and each other. Hopefully, we are able to grow, evolve and gain a deeper love and understanding of our humanity. John Singleton, thank you for your vision. Thank you for holding my hand a little stronger. Thank you for connecting with me and thank you for connecting me to history. Thank you for connecting and transcending generations, nationalities, nations, races, communities, societies. Thank you, John Singleton, for connecting us all. #RIP #JohnSingleton

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7. Tyrese Gibson:

Tyrese Gibson was mostly known as a commercial singer who released a few quality R&B records. But his Jodie character in Baby Boy catapulted Tyrese to another level of fame that he enjoys to this day.

8. Cuba Gooding Jr.:

Cuba Gooding Jr. parlayed the experience and cachet procured from 1991’s Boyz n the Hood into his career-defining role as an embittered football player in the Tom Cruise-powered movie Jerry Maguire, for which Gooding captured a Best Supporting Actor Oscar in 1997.

9. Lawrence Fishburne:

Laurence Fishburne. Photo source: Instagram – @thelaurencefishburne

Fishburne first attained urban fame for starring in a film of Singelton’s hero, Spike Lee, called School Daze. But it was the stern father Furious Styles that showed Fishburne had Oscar-level talent, which he demonstrated again in the Academy Award-nominated film What’s Love Got to Do With It.

10. Terrence Howard:

Terrence Howard. Photo source: Instagram – @theterrencehoward

Already a veteran of the film biz, Howard’s portrayal of a pimp trying to wedge his way into the rap game in the gritty urban drama Hustle & Flow, which Singleton produced, displayed Howard’s talents to a whole new audience of filmmakers.

Terry Shropshire
Terry Shropshire

A military veteran and Buckeye State native, I've written for the likes of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Atlanta Business Chronicle and the Detroit Free Press. I'm a lover of words, photography, books, travel, animals and The Ohio State Buckeyes. #GoBucks



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