Unveiling Forest Whitaker’s Best Roles In Television

Whether he’s portraying a jazz saxophonist, law enforcement officer, military dictator, Anglican bishop and human rights activist, or a Butler, Forest Whitaker approaches every role with the same intensity and dedication. Whitaker, the son of an Insurance salesman and a Special Education teacher, has risen above adversity to become one of Hollywood’s most respected actors. Unsurprisingly, he has spent his four-decade career starring in some of the best movies.

This has afforded the actor the opportunity to collaborate with the industry’s finest filmmakers. However, it isn’t only on the big screen that he has received recognition for his stellar performances. Whitaker has starred in over 35 television productions throughout his career. Honoring his TV career, these are Forest Whitaker’s best performances in television.

The Enemy Within (1994)

Forest Whitaker in The Enemy Within (1994)

Forest Whitaker led the cast of the political thriller TV film The Enemy Within (1994). It is one of several TV movies Whitaker has appeared in. The Enemy Within revolves around a planned military coup to overthrow the President of the United States of America, using the provisions of the Constitution. Forest Whitaker played U.S. Marine Col. Lyle MacArthur “Mac” Casey, the film’s main protagonist.

When Casey discovers the coup plans, he works closely with the Chief of Staff, Betsy Corcoran (Dana Delany), to secretly inform President William Foster (Sam Waterston). When all else fails to stop the couple, Casey puts his career and life on the line. Forest Whitaker received a SAG Awards nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Miniseries or TV Movie for his breathtaking performance.

ER (2006–2007)

Forest Whitaker in ER

NBC’s ER was one of the most successful medical dramas of the mid-90s and 2000s. Like actor Ray Liotta, Forest Whitaker was one of the notable guest actors who appeared in the show. Whitaker was introduced in season 13, episode 5 (“Ames v. Kovac”). He played a carpenter, Curtis Ames, who was admitted as a patient of Dr. Luka Kovač (Goran Visnjic) suffering from pneumonia. However, after Ames suffered a paralyzing stroke while still under the care of Dr. Kovač, he sued the doctor for malpractice. Whitaker exited the show after the character’s death in season 13, episode 14 (“Murmurs of the Heart”). For his guest performance, Whitaker received his second Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series in 2007.

The Shield (2006–2007)

Forest Whitaker in The Shield

Forest Whitaker played the fictional LAPD Internal Affairs Lieutenant, Jon Kavanaugh. The character was introduced in the FX crime drama in season 5, episode 1 (“Extraction”). Regarded as the anti-villain of the show, Jon Kavanaugh sought to bring down Detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis) and his Strike Team for their brutal and corrupt way of policing the city. However, when he makes his war against Mackey personally, he too begins to break the law. Kavanaugh is caught, stripped of his badge, and sent to prison for his crimes. The character’s last appearance was in season 6, episode 2 (“Baptism by Fire”).

Roots (2016)

Forest Whitaker in Roots (2016)

Unsurprisingly, Forest Whitaker was part of the star-studded cast of the History Channel’s four-part miniseries Roots (2016). The miniseries also included notable names such as Laurence Fishburne, Anika Noni Rose, T.I., and Regé-Jean Page. Whitaker played Henry (Fiddler). Whitaker’s character is introduced in Part 1 when Kunta Kinte (Malachi Kirby) arrives at John Waller’s (James Purefoy) tobacco plantation in Virginia. He’s an older slave whose real name, Henry, was replaced with a slave name, Fiddler. Whitaker appears in three of the four parts of the miniseries.

Empire (2017–2018)

Forest Whitaker in Empire

Fox’s musical drama Empire boasts an impressive roster of actors and guest stars. Forest Whitaker was one of its notable recurring actors from 2017 to 2018. Whitaker was cast as Eddie Barker, one of Lucious Lyon’s (Terrence Howard) mentors from his past, who gave Lucious his first radio airplay. Although he’s introduced as an old friend, Eddie Barker schemed and successfully took Empire from the Lyon family. A testament to Whitaker’s performing abilities, the actor is the one singing and playing the piano when he’s first invited to Lucious and Cookie’s (Taraji P. Henson) home.

Extrapolations (2023)

Forest Whitaker in Extrapolations (2023)

Forest Whitaker joined the star-studded cast of the Apple TV+ anthology drama series Extrapolations in episode 7 (“2068: The Going Away Party”). Whitaker played August Bolo, husband of Sylvie Bolo (Marion Cotillard). The couple plans a party, hiring Anna (Hari Nef) as a maid and inviting Nicolas (Tobey Maguire) and his girlfriend Elodie (Eiza González). The perfectly planned party soon goes awry when August reveals he has been invited by LifePause to digitize his consciousness, leaving the dying world until the world heals itself. He admits to his wife his reason for accepting the offer was because of their loveless marriage and a way to rid herself of him. Set on the last day of 2068, the day’s events eventually draw the Bolos closer than ever before.

Godfather of Harlem

Forest Whitaker in Godfather of Harlem

Forest Whitaker is no stranger to portraying biographical figures. In the crime drama Godfather of Harlem, Whitaker plays Harlem’s crime boss, Bumpy Johnson. The series is a fictionalized account of Bumpy Johnson’s life after he’s released from prison after serving 10 years. It also entails his collaboration with Malcolm X to regain control of Harlem. So far, 3 seasons of the show have been released, all receiving positive reviews from critics and audiences. For his performance in Godfather of Harlem, Forest Whitaker was nominated twice (in 2020 and 2022) for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series at the NAACP Image Awards.

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