Saturday, February 21, 2015

Watch Me Work: Popular Black TV Characters in Corporate America

I asked several of my friends and families members to name a popular Black TV character in Corporate America. Every answer was preceded by a long pause. Often their answers were of Black professionals who were not necessarily in a corporate profession. Here are a few of my picks for Black Corporate TV characters:

Gina Waters, Martin
The title character’s better half Gina Waters works for a public-relations firm. She is one of the few characters on the show who is identified as college-educated. She is also often accused of being stuck up.  Not only is she a Black corporate professional, but so is her boss Mr. Whitaker. She ultimately moves up the ranks to a promotion as senior vice president of her firm’s LA office. Her promotion appears to present a conflict for her love life with Martin, but the couple jointly decides to move to LA to further their careers.

Kyle Barker, Living Single
Kyle Barker is a stockbroker living in New York and the stylish neighbor of the show's leading ladies. Through the show's run he earns multiple promotions. His iconic natural hairstyle became an issue when he was up for partner at his firm, not from the White partners, but from the other Black person in the room. One of his more memorable corporate moments was his impassioned defense of his hairstyle as an expression of his heritage. 

Joan Clayton, Girlfriends
Though the show focuses a lot on her love life, Girlfriends brings you into the office of corporate litigator Joan Clayton. Joan frequently encounters issues of race and gender in her role. One of her more memorable conflicts was her defense of a beverage company that was price gauging in Black neighborhoods. She was vilified by the Black community and criticized by her friends. When she brought concerns about the case to her boss, she was told to “suck it up.” Ultimately, she stayed on the case and found a creative solution to her problem, though her solution involved some potentially unethical legal maneuvering on her part.  

Remy Danton, House of Cards
Remy Danton is a partner at Glendon Hill where his primary role is as a Washington lobbyist for SanCorp, a natural gas company. He formerly served as press secretary of Senator Frank Underwood. Frank often criticizes Remy for chasing money, not power. Remy certainly makes some power plays in the show. 

Jessica Pearson, Suits
Jessica is the managing partner at Pearson Specter. As a skilled and confident leader, Jessica overcomes scheming former partners, failed mergers, and internal and external threats to her firm. Her office romance shows the challenges of the love life of a successful Black woman. 

Andre Johnson, Blackish
As the title suggests, Blackish takes a comedic look at being Black at home, at school, and at work. Andre Johnson is an advertising executive who encounters many common experiences in Corporate America including trying to make friends with the only other Black employee, dealing with suggestions to “keep it real,” and misguided White co-workers speaking in Ebonics.

Lucious and Andre Lyon, Empire
Empire’s Lucious Lyon is a thug turned businessman looking to take his major record label into an IPO. This character is Corporate America’s worst nightmare: a wealthy, Black business genius with a past. The pending IPO brings the mistakes of his past into direct conflict with the corporate image he’s created for himself as president and CEO of Empire Records. Lucious' son Andre is the company's CFO. Andre uses his good looks, pedigree, and government connections to meet the right people and garner early interest from big name investors. His ambitions to be his father's successor as head of the company fuel his every decision.

**Stay tuned for the movie post**

Who are your favorite Black TV Characters in Corporate America?

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