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Alfre Woodard, Laverne Cox, Nicole Beharie, Danai Gurira Shine on ESSENCE's October Cover

Meet the actresses breaking new ground on the small screen this fall.

ESSENCE gathered four of the hottest stars in prime time for our October “Channel Changers” cover story, in which Alfre Woodard (who plays the president in upcoming show State of Affairs), Laverne Cox (from Emmy-nominated series Orange is the New Black), Nicole Beharie (Sleepy Hollow) and Danai Gurira (The Walking Dead) sit down to discuss this exciting moment in television.

“It is a golden age,” explains Gurira, who plays a fierce zombie slayer, “because we’re allowed to see that more people are given a voice, and that is a beautiful thing. We know when there’s been a dearth of this type of diversity. I remember watching Orange and feeling as if something new was happening.”

“People are watching television in a different way,” adds Cox, who was nominated by the Emmys for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series. “I’ve been acting for a very long time and not getting very far, and I would say we needed some sort of systemic revolutionary change for me to have an acting career.”

Woodard, who is set to play the POTUS, takes a motherly tone when she adds: “Is it the golden age, daughters? I want you all to believe: We’re not here because somebody suddenly said, ‘Let’s have some women of color [on TV].’ We’re here because we’re brilliant at what we do. We’re persistent. You could put us at the bottom of the ocean and we’d still come to the top.”

To read about how these four actresses were cast in their current roles, how they believe viewing audiences are shifting and more, pick up the new issue of ESSENCE, on stands on Friday Sept. 5.