Actress Salli Richardson-Whitfield has been a muse to my writing for many years. From her voice over work in Disney’s Gargoyles to her performances in films like How U Like Me Now, Posse, A Low Down Dirty Shame, and Black Dynamite, her work has inspired many of the characters in the stories I’ve written and showed me that it’s possible for Black performers to do work that’s unique, distinct and out of the box.
My first exposure to Salli Richardson-Whitfield's work was watching the Disney animated series Gargoyles after I graduated college in 1994. I was always a big fan of fantasy and science fiction, but it made me proud when I learned that the two leads for the Disney animated series voice-overs were African-American. Up until recently it was very rare that any animated studio hired African-American actors for voice-over work, and for any person of color to get a job in this field meant they were exceptionally talented. Salli's multidimensional portrayal of Detective Elisa Maza on Disney’s Gargoyles had heart soul and passion, and conveyed more emotions than on the surface of the animated cels. She had incredible chemistry with co-star Keith David on that series, and their acting with just voices was so strong I felt like I was watching a live action drama at times.
Salli’s voice work on Gargoyles showed me that it was possible for an African-American female character to carry the lead in a fantasy/science fiction television series. Watching that series and reading Milestone comics back then made me believe that it was possible for an African-American to write Science fiction and fantasy stories. More importantly, it made me believe it was possible for an African-American to write fantasy and science fiction stories with brothers and sisters in the lead roles.
I’ve never met Salli Richardson-Whitfield, but her work has had a profound impact on me and the stories I’ve written. Whenever she's onscreen I always enjoy her work; her acting is often consistently strong and she virtually disappears into any character she portrays onscreen. I’ve always felt she was one of the best actresses of her generation and deserved more acclaim than she’s received. I’m hoping larger audiences of brothers and sisters will come to appreiciate her body of work filled with a diversity of unique roles and complex multidimensional performances.