I got the idea to write this up from a conversation I had with Bluebeard on my Almost Human season finale post, about seeing problematic representation of minorities on TV. Although, in that post I criticize Almost Human for doing something that is racist, I had the idea to highlight some great representation of minorities on genre TV.
I'll preface this list by saying I'm Latino, but by no means am I posting this as an authority on minorities. I am posting this as a person of color who gets happy when there is positive portrayals of minorities on TV, and/or there are complex characters that are also people of color on the shows that I watch. In addition, this post by no means should be taken as "Hey there are a couple of minorities on TV, lets pack up and go home". There is still a tremendous lack of minority representation on TV in general, but I think it is important to highlight that in recent years TV, especially genre TV, has become more colorful. This also isn't an exhaustive list, most of the characters highlighted are taken from some of the shows I currently watch, and others where the characters have really stuck in my mind. If you have any to add, do so in the replies. If you disagree with any of the choices I made feel free to let me know why you don't think they should be on this list. Oh and this isn't made in any specific order. Finally, there will be slight SPOILERS for some of the tv shows I mention.
Person of Interest
Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson): When I first thought of this list, Carter instantly came to my mind as a one of the best characters of color on genre TV. Not just a stereotyped detective relegated to handling cases that deal with gangs, Carter is part of the homicide task force who is a badass in her own right next to Reese. Through flashbacks we learn that as an Army interrogator, a job she was excellent at, she tried to do to her job yet still be a compassionate person who often knew that the law wasn't always used in the intent it was designed for. Early in the series it seemed like she was going to be the "by the books" detective to foil the machine team, but quickly she became much more than that. Over two and half seasons we learn more about her. She is a dedicated cop, and a single mother, by choice after she kicked out her husband for refusing get treatment for his PTSD. She also has a great story arc where she comes to terms with the fact that helping people may require breaking the law occasionally, but she always weighs this with her sense of the greater good, making her just as complex as Reese. She in many ways became the moral center of the show and its characters. But that doesn't mean she wasn't afraid to bend the law either when she realized she had to be more like Reese to take down HR. Which she did by herself, only needing assistance from the machine gang once shit hit the fan.
Sameen Shaw (Sarah Shahi): Shaw has one of the best introductions into a TV show in recent memory. Brought in season two, Shaw was introduced as the other side of the shows premise, how the machine stopped terrorist attacks. Shaw is essentially Reese in a smaller deadlier package that works for the government program to stop terrorist attacks. But from that episode alone we saw that Shaw is much more colder, deadlier, and intelligent than Reese or Stanton. Suffering from a personality disorder, Shaw finds it hard to connect to people which makes it easier for her to kill you and not feel bad about it. A career marine and former doctor, Shaw regularly takes down bad guys and treats herself when injured. Talk about competence porn, watch any episode she is heavily involved in and find yourself yelling with glee at every fuck yeah moment she gets. After her intro, we learn more about her: her father died in a car accident, she is only on the team because of the Bear (the dog), isn't afraid to be sexy if it serves her assignment, loves to make Reese pay for her food, and enjoys making sarcastic remarks about any given situation she is in. Burned by her former employers, she regularly assists the machine gang on numbers knowing the full scope of what's at stake with the Machine. Also props to her for being one of the first characters to correctly guess that the Machine was an artificial intelligence.
Alonzo Quinn (Clarke Peters): Quinn as the head of HR was one of the best villains for both the Machine gang and Detective Carter. But not just your typical bad guy, but had his own corrupt view of morality on how to save "his" city by unifying corrupt cops and controlling the various gangs and mobs in New York City. He was arrogant, cunning, politically smart, and above all ruthless. Going so far as to kill his godson to protect his enterprise. Eventually his own arrogance and increasingly erratic behavior to save HR would be his downfall.
Phillip Broyles (Lance Reddick): Broyles was the head of Fringe Division tasked with investigating strange and bizarre cases. He was very much a leader often taking the role of covering for the Fringe Team as they went out there in their investigations. But sometimes he got to shine as character who wasn't afraid to get dirty politically to keep his team together. In the course of the show we saw many different versions of Broyles, but one thing remained consistent he was always trying to do the right thing to save the world and his family.
Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole): Astrid started out as Olivia Dunham's assistant who becomes Walter Bishop's lab partner as the series went on. A FBI agent in her own right, she was talented in cryptology, forensics, and had a penchant for Latin. Although we don't get many glimpses into her personal life, but we do know she is close friends with Olivia and has a very close relationship with her father. In alternate timelines we see that without having Walter out in the field she steps in and fill that role albeit without the wacky experience Walter has. Finally she perhaps had the most interesting relationship with Walter serving as his new lab partner than as an assistant.
Grace Abigail Mills (Nicole Beharie): The second witness of the apocalypse, Lieutenant Abbie Mills was set to move on the FBI before the start of the series. The arrival of Ichabod Crane and the death of her mentor changed all that. Abbie now faces the forces of evil with an irreverent humor, often providing insights that Ichabod would miss. Over the course of the first season she learns that she and her sister are intrinsically tied to the events of Sleepy Hollow. She also gets to work out some of the issues that have haunted her since she was a little girl while building a stable of friends and family that help her in her role as a witness.
Jennifer Mills (Lyndie Greenwood): Abbie's little sister and opposite in many ways. Jenny accepted the existence of the supernatural more readily. After drifting from her sister she spent years retrieving supernatural objects for Corbin. Jenny is also trained to handle various weapons and combat. She has a tendency to disregard the rules which at times put her at odds with her sister. over the course of the first season she repairs her her relationship with her sister as the come together to fight Moloch and the horsemen.
Frank Irving (Orlando Jones): Captain Irving transferred to Sleepy Hollow to spend more time with his daughter after an accident let her confined to a wheelchair, but unfortunately he too gets sucked into the Abbie's battle. At first skeptical of the supernatural occurrences, he came around to the idea when he had his fuck yeah moment fighting the horseman of Death. Since that encounter he has been an invaluable ally to Abbie and Crane providing them with support in whatever way he can. What is also great that we see that as a semi religious man we see how he struggles to reconcile what is happening to what he believed. but it never stops him from doing the right thing.
Scott McCall (Tyler Posey): The titular teen wolf, Scott McCall was your average shy teenager when she was bitten by a werewolf. Along with his best friend Stiles, Scott has done his best in the three seasons of the show to protect his family and friends from the supernatural creatures that roam beacon hills. Although not terribly book smart, Scott has shown he is adept at for strategy and planning. He has a close relationship with his mother, and a contentious relationship with his father. Overall Scott is your typical good guy who wants to save everyone if he can.
Melissa McCall (Melissa Ponzio): Melissa McCall is Scott's mother who works night shift as a nurse in Beacon Hills. Originally she is unaware of her son's transformation, trying to juggle single motherhood and a full time job. Compassionate and tough Melissa is always there for Stiles and Scott, even more so when she learns about her son's condition. In this current season she is one of the only people to correctly deduce that something was really wrong with Stiles.
The following shows are not strictly genre but they are hugely popular with people who love genre so I decided to include them anyways.
Javier Esposito (John Huertas): Detective Esposito works homicides in Kate Beckett's team which also includes his best friend and partner Kevin Ryan. A former military man he became a detective after serving in Iraq. It is mentions he struggled with PTSD when he came back, but he sought out treatment. He is close friend with Castle and Beckett often joining Castle in teasing Beckett, or making fun of Castle and his outlandish theories. he is fiercely loyal to his partners going as far as supporting Beckett in a off the books investigation into her mother's death which earned him a suspension.
Lanie Parish (Tamala Jones): Dr. Lanie Parish is the medical examiner and Kate Beckett's best fire. She is one of the only people Kate will go to for frank advice. Lanie is also much more comfortable having a social life outside of work.
Victoria Gates (Penny Johnson Jerald): Coming from a family of cops Captain Gates is a tougher boss than her predecessor. Transferring from Internal Affairs she earns the trust of Beckett's team when they realize that she is fiercely protective of those under her command. She is outwardly antagonistic to Castle, believing him to be a distraction to real police officers although she has developed more of a frenemy relationship with him. Now she tolerates him as a potential asset in her squad room.
Joan Watson (Lucy Liu): Joan Watson started out in the series as Sherlock's sober companion but ultimately ended up being his detective partner. Before her work as a sober companion she was a surgeon, but quit medicine after she lost a patient due to a mistake. Initially she is intrigued by the work Sherlock does, but remains his sober companion even though she is often used as a sounding board for Sherlock's ideas, and occasionally giving new insight Sherlock may have missed. At the end of her tenure as a Sherlock's companion she chooses to stay with Sherlock as his apprentice/partner having realized she has a talent for detective work. What's great is this is purely her choice, she doesn't do it because Sherlock needs her, but because she genuinely likes the work they do. Also I just wanted to add that she has the best wardrobe on TV.
Marcus Bell (Jon Michael Hill): Detective Bell is the primary officer that has to deal with Sherlock and Watson. At first he was averse to having Sherlock consult on his cases not because he didn't Sherlock wasn't good, but because he disapproved of his methods. However this doesn't mean Detective Bell isn't a good detective in his own right, in many episodes he has been shown to keep up with Sherlock and even offer his own theories that prove correct.
Alfredo Llamosa (Ato Essandoh): Alfredo has the hard job of being Sherlock's sober sponsor. Initially he was rebuffed by Sherlock, as Sherlock didn't see the need in having a sponsor, but when he realized there was more to Alfredo that he thought he decided to give it a try. Sherlock doesn't believe in the twelve step method of recovery until he does it and see that it works for him and his sobriety. Alfredo turns out to be a really great character beyond just being a good sponsor to Sherlock. After he got clean he went into testing car security systems for flaws, and often times bonds with Sherlock over their shared talents of breaking into cars. Alfredo also pushes Sherlock to become a sponsor himself, realizing it was time for Sherlock to give back to the program.
Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne): Jack Crawford its the special agent in charge of the behavioral sciences department of the FBI. Crawford is interesting because although he is mostly a large physical presence he is much more intelligent about psychoanalysis than he lets on. He is married to Bella Crawford (played by Gina Torres). Though recently things have been strained since Bella was diagnosed with cancer and Jack has been thinking about why they didn't have kids. Some of the best scenes of the series were this couple talking about their marriage in the face of Bella's terminal cancer diagnosis.
Beverly Katz (Hettienne Park): A special agent specializing in forensics, Beverly Katz is one of the few characters on the show to not think Will Graham is weird or disturb. All indications are she finds him fascinating and will even occasionally flirt with him. She is incredibly intelligent and in the second season seems to be he only one who thinks that Will might be innocent.