12 Famous Black Voice Actors From Film, TV, and Video Games

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From the sonorous Ving Rhames to the instantly clockable Cree Summer, great voice actors infuse their roles with personality and authenticity. While opportunities in the field haven’t always been easy for Black performers to find, many have gone on to become stars of the genre. Here’s a rundown of 12 of the best across film, TV, and video games.

LeVar Burton

This former “Reading Rainbow” host, who’s also a fierce advocate for education and literacy, has voiced characters on “Transformers: Rescue Bots,” “Family Guy,” “Pinky and the Brain,” and “Gargoyles.” He also reprised his “Star Trek: The Next Generation” character, Geordi La Forge, in several of the franchise’s video games. Burton famously voiced Kwame on the 1990 animated series “Captain Planet and the Planeteers,” in which he utters the famous phrase, “Let our powers combine!” He’s won two statuettes for his audiobook narration: a Grammy for “The Autobiography Of Martin Luther King, Jr.” and a Voice Arts Award for Carl Sagan’s “Cosmos.”

Keith David

The star of “The Thing” and “Greenleaf” has brought his rich, resonant voice to documentaries, audiobooks, video games, and a vast array of animated projects. His best-known roles include Goliath on “Gargoyles,” Flame King on “Adventure Time,” the President on “Rick and Morty,” Al Simmons on “Spawn,” Dr. Facilier in “The Princess and the Frog,” and the Cat in “Coraline.” David’s video game credits include Arbiter in the “Halo” franchise, David Anderson in “Mass Effect,” and Sergeant Foley in “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.” He won Emmys for outstanding voiceover performance on “The War” and “Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson,” as well as for outstanding narrator on “Jackie Robinson.”

Ayo Edebiri

This actor-writer-director has become a household name thanks to Hulu’s “The Bear,” but she also has an impressive voice acting résumé. The Emmy winner portrayed plucky reporter April O’Neil in “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” Glory in “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” Harriet Tubman on “Clone High,” and General Scarpaccio on “Mulligan.” She also took over for Jenny Slate as the voice of Missy Foreman-Greenwald on Netflix’s “Big Mouth.” Most recently, she played Envy, a new emotion living in Riley’s head, in “Inside Out 2.”

Donald Glover

Glover is a rapper (who releases music under the stage name Childish Gambino), writer, and actor known for his work on TV shows like “Community,” and “Atlanta” and in films including “Solo: A Star Wars Story” and “Guava Island.” The multihyphenate is also a voice actor: He portrayed Transfer Billy on “China, IL,” as well as vampire Marshall Lee Abadeer on “Adventure Time” and its spinoff, “Adventure Time: Fionna & Cake.” Most famously, Glover voiced adult Simba in the 2019 live-action remake of “The Lion King.”

James Earl Jones

Talk about an icon. Jones famously lent his commanding, gravelly voice to Darth Vader in the “Star Wars” franchise. Who could forget his delivery of the iconic (and oft-misquoted) line, “No, I am your father”? He’s also an EGOT winner, earning a Grammy for narrating “Great American Documents.” Jones delivered the CNN tagline and played Mufasa in “The Lion King,” and even God in the video game “Under a Killing Moon.” It’s no wonder why, at the 2002 Kennedy Center Honors, George W. Bush called him “the most easily recognized voice in America.”

Regina King

One of the most prolific Black screen actors of our time, King has earned Emmys for her performances on “American Crime,” “Seven Seconds,” and “Watchmen,” as well as an Oscar for “If Beale Street Could Talk.” Her voice work includes roles like Kreela in “The Ant Bully” and Dynamite in “Planes: Fire & Rescue.” She also voiced a pair of characters on the satirical adult cartoon “The Boondocks,” which became a Black cultural phenomenon. As the show’s two main characters, brothers Huey and Riley Freeman, King seamlessly weaves dialogue between the pair while keeping the two performances distinct. 

Eartha Kitt

Throughout her career, this trailblazing actor, dancer, singer, songwriter, and voice actor never settled for less. “I stayed on my own path and did not follow the herd. I made a way for myself,” she once said. Kitt’s crackling vocal tones suited villains extremely well, such as the tyrannical Queen Vexus on the sci-fi series “My Life As a Teenage Robot.” But she’s best known for her unforgettable performance (and the highly quotable line, “Pull the lever, Kronk!”) as Yzma, the evil sorceress that audiences loved to hate, in “The Emperor’s New Groove.” Kitt has earned dozens of awards and nominations over the years, including Daytime Emmys for “The Emperor’s New School” and “Wonder Pets!”

Phil LaMarr

This voice-acting virtuoso is famed for his smooth, soothing sound. LaMarr has played a litany of roles and earned multiple BVTA Awards, including best male lead in a television series and Voice Actor of the Year. As a “Mad TV” alum, he’s certainly no stranger to taking on a range of characters. Voiceover highlights include Hermes Conrad on “Futurama”; the titular fighter on “Samurai Jack”; Virgil Hawkins on “Static Shock”; and fan-favorite Wilt on “Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends.” The actor has also played numerous video-game characters in major franchises like “Final Fantasy,” “Kingdom Hearts,” and “Mortal Kombat.”

Eddie Murphy

This legendary comedian and actor has lent his voice to two roles that have stood the test of time. He brought comic relief to the guardian dragon spirit Mushu in “Mulan”; and in “Shrek,” he played Donkey, who’s determined to befriend the titular cantankerous ogre by any means necessary. Murphy’s performance in the DreamWorks film is so beloved that it won him an Annie Award and three Kids’ Choice Awards. He’ll reprise Donkey in the upcoming “Shrek 5”; and Chris Meledandri, one of the film’s producers, told Variety that he believes the character could support his own spinoff film “without question.” Fingers crossed for even more laughs.

Kyla Pratt

Pratt’s voice-acting credits may not be quite as plentiful as others on this list, but she’s earned a spot thanks to her work on “The Proud Family,” one of the most beloved Black animated series of all time. She stars as Penny Proud, a teenager in a middle-class family who can’t wait to grow up, loves spending time with her friends, hates chores, and leaps at any opportunity for adventure. 

Bruce W. Smith and Doreen Spicer’s coming-of-age sitcom became a cult classic after its two-season run on the Disney channel in the early 2000s. But cancellation couldn’t keep the Prouds down; the series was adapted into a TV movie in 2005, and Penny even made cameos on “Lilo & Stitch: The Series” and “Chibiverse.” Last year, Disney+ launched a reboot series, “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.” Through its many iterations, Penny has been the glue that holds the story together thanks to the curiosity, authenticity, and range of emotions Pratt brings to her performance. 

Ving Rhames

Voice acting may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Rhames, who’s known for his turns in action classics like “Pulp Fiction” and the “Mission: Impossible” franchise. But the actor has quite the voiceover résumé; he even won the Icon Award at the VAAs in 2019. He lent his deep, booming tones to films including “The Garfield Movie” and “Wendell & Wild”; but his most famous voice role is CIA agent–turned–social worker Cobra Bubbles in “Lilo & Stitch.” If you’ve caught recent TV ads for Arby’s, you’ve heard Rhames’ impeccable delivery of, “We have…the meats.

Cree Summer

Though she’s best known for playing the eccentric, lovable Freddie Brooks on “A Different World,” Summer is also a VO icon, voicing nearly every Black-girl cartoon character on TV from the ’90s to the early aughts. Her rich, raspy tones have leant personality, wisdom, and humor to characters including Susie Carmichael, the foil to the bratty Angelica Pickles, on Nickelodeon’s “The Rugrats”; Numbuh Five on “Codename: Kids Next Door”; Princess Kida in the “Atlantis” franchise; and Miranda Killgallen, a girl with an unforgettable cackle, on “As Told by Ginger.” She’s also performed in video game franchises like “Destiny,” “Fallout,” “Hearthstone,” and “Star Wars.” Her oft-imitated, never-duplicated sound has garnered several BVTA Awards (including Voice Actress of the Year) and an NAACP Image Award.

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