21st Century That Guy/Girl Vol. 4 : Tracie Thoms

21st Century That Guy/Girl is a continuing series documenting the character actors that have become regulars over the past fifteen years, popping up in numerous movies you’ve seen, even if you don’t recognize them.

Actor : Tracie Thoms (Born August 19, 1975)

First Film Role : As Mother in Brother to Brother (2004)

You Might Have Seen Her In : Annie, Death Proof, The Devil Wears Prada, I Will Follow, Looper, Rent, Safe House

Who Is She : Like a lot of That Guys, or in this case That Girl, Tracie Thoms has had major leading parts, even as she tends to show up here and there as a server at a diner or random friend. Her breakout could’ve come twice now. In 2005, she was in the film adaptation of the smash-hit Broadway show Rent, which mostly fizzled with cinema-going audiences. Two years later, Thoms portrayed the tough-talking Kim in Death Proof, where Tarantino literally has a scene centering on her take-no-shit nature. Death Proof turned out to be the one Tarantino film to date to make next to no impact with the general public.

Several months ago she popped up in Annie as the titular characters alleged mother, making me realize precisely how much more we should be receiving of Thoms. It’s nothing new to say there aren’t enough good roles for women, let alone black women. It’s still a damn shame though and we’re missing out on a career that ought to be more recognized.

Favorite Performance : Somewhere along the line it became uncool to like the musical Rent. Liking just about anything in the watered-down Chris Columbus directed film has especially never been cool. Still, Thoms is terrific as Joanne Jefferson in it, playing the Ivy-league educated girlfriend of Idina Menzel’s wildcard Maureen. In a story where being bold and artistic is the way to be, she makes being conservative funny, able to pull off contrary without turning Joanne into nagging. Plus, Thoms has a ridiculously great singing voice. So, she’s got that going for her.

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