Smooth List – Nate Parker

Sometimes the beauty of another human being comes into your life when you least expect it, taking you away with its underlying elegance. One such instance came in the form of Nate Parker.


In a darkened cinema I saw him, all brown skin and dark eyes. But once he opened his mouth, the depth of his charisma blind-sided me and left me wishing for more. The Great Debaters is one of those films I wish there was more of, more use of talent and depth. The story is rich with all the things I love — historical perspective, enthralling performances from the cast, including the power of Denzel Washington and the grace of Jurnee Smollett. However, what kept my rapt attention throughout the film was the struggle Parker’s character continued to fight through — the ghosts of a past that seemed to try to constantly predetermine his future and the unconscionable breadth of his intelligence.

And that may be what drew me to him and kept me there. There will, of course, always be gorgeous men who ignite a fire in me. However, they’re beauty is usually left in the dissipating colour of the screen. What held me in Parker’s grasp, from the moment he smiled with an arrogance and slithering charm to this very moment that I’m remembering the cocky grin on his face, was the internal battle his character seemed to be fighting. And it wasn’t an over the top piece of melodrama. Rather it was his brooding subtlety and ability to showcase that struggle with maturity that has had me captivated ever since.

Of course after seeing him take charisma and turn it into seething emotion, anytime I saw him on screen I just had to stop. His portrayal as Alicia Keys’s traditional boyfriend Neil in The Secret Life of Bees [1] showcased the power and strength of the man himself. I found him a welcome distraction to the overwrought emotional stickiness of the female characters of the film (those who know me understand that I’ve never been particularly partial to the sugar and vinegar of “chick flicks.” They do absolutely nothing for me).

But it’s more than just has incredible talent. After all, there are literally dozens of actors who have left a deep impression on me and made me bow down to their sheer excellence. No, Nate Parker captures something that not very many of the new class of actor have managed to do on screen for me. He combines strength and subtlety in a way that hearkens to a time when acting was indeed an invaluable means of expression in America, especially among Black Americans [1]. His candour and his beauty continues to take my breath away and give me something to grab onto in a time when America is struggling to produce brilliance.

Nate Parker gets a spot on my Smooth List because he is an elegant look into the future and a beautiful piece of heaven that even I can’t fathom completely.


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