Actor and producer Larenz Tate was among the originators of the Black Hollywood heartthrob of the 1990s. A fixture in film during the golden age of Black-centric cinema, starring in many a Black classic that still graces out screens and streams today. He often played the protagonist or the key love interest, lighting up the intrigue and imagination of millions for the better part of the ’90s and ’00s.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – FEBRUARY 07: Larenz Tate attends the Power Series Finale Episode Screening at Paley Center on February 07, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Brad Barket/Getty Images for STARZ)
Now at 47, Tate is still effortlessly serving as the blues and the funk in each thigh for millions of Black Gen X-ers and Millennials.
Take a look at the roles that made him an icon, and check out how his sheer refusal to age has kept him looking just as good as the first time we saw him on the silver screen.
Menace II Society, 1993
Tate had been in some television miniseries and made appearances on a few sitcoms by this point, but his appearance as the murderous wildcard O-Dog in 1993’s instant “hood classic” Menace II Society solidified him as a star.
The Inkwell, 1994
After playing a chaotic gangster in his breakout role, fans got to see a more tender side of Tate in the coming-of-age classic The Inkwell. Once again co-starring with Jada Pinkett Smith, he portrayed Drew, a shy 16-year-old getting over guilt and trauma while having his eyes opened to young love and learning how the other half of Black society lives while on summer vacation with hi family in Martha’s Vineyard.
Dead Presidents, 1995
Delving even deeper into his acting range, Tate portrayed a high school senior who shuns college for a career in the Marines but ends up getting a rude awakening when he is shipped off to Vietnam shortly thereafter. After surviving hell on Earth, he returns to a nation that doesn’t appreciate his sacrifice and offers him little opportunity. So he and his friends hatch a dangerous plan to get what the government owes them.
Love Jones, 1997
The blueprint of how Black love is depicted on-screen in the modern era, Love Jones followed two artists falling quickly and deeply for each other in late 90s Chicago. Though certain plot points read quite a bit differently rewatching 25 years later, the film is a surprisingly still relevant look at love and dating and the manner in which one or two brash decisions can permanently change the course of a relationship. Tate’s role as Darius still has many a woman searching the poetry/jazz club for a man like him to this day.
Why Do Fools Fall In Love?, 1998
Tate’s turn as the talented Do-Wop singer Frankie Lymon, whose life was claimed by addiction at age 25 leaving behind three “widows,” again demonstrated his impressive acting range in this multi-perspective look at love, manipulation, fame, and addiction. Co-starring Halle Berry, Lela Rochon, and Vivica Foxx, this biopic gave audiences a perspective they never realized on one of the music industry’s early tragic stars.
Biker Boyz, 2003
This tale of clashing motorcycle racing groups found Tate clad in leather and at peak badass levels as Wood, the brother to Meagan Good’s Tina and mechanic to the Biker Boyz racing squad as they faced off against rival crew The Black Knights, whose leaders have much closer ties than either could have imagined.
Another Academy Award-winner, Crash was an examination of race, class, family, gender and the politics and societal views that separate people in post-9/11 Los Angeles. Told through interwoven stories that force the audience to face their own biases, Tate portrayed a carjacker named Peter, who alongside his literal partner in crime (Ludacris) lamented racial stereotypes while feeding directly into them.
Tate was suave as music industry legend Quincy Jones in this Academy Award-winning biopic, co-starring Jamie Foxx, Regina King, and Kerry Washington among others. Tate and his co-stars all brought their undeniable A-game to this one, making this film immensely re-watchable 17 years later.
Rescue Me, 2007-2011
Joining the cast in season 4, Tate portrayed Bart “Black Sean” Johnston on FX’s early hit comedy series about the personal and personal lives of New York’s Bravest, the city firefighters.
Girls Trip, 2017
Perhaps most near and dear to our hearts here at ESSENCE, Tate graced this instant-classic comedy with his presence as Julian, musician and college classmate of the Flossy Posse (Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah, Regina Hall, Tiffany Haddish), coming in clutch multiple times over the course of their wild and rambunctious weekend at ESSENCE Festival of Culture.
Power Universe, 2017-2020
As Councilman Rashad Tate on both Power and Power Book II: Ghost, Tate taps into his most conniving, self-serving, and manipulative to play a city politician with big dreams of power and influence on a national scale who’ll stop at nearly nothing to get what he desires.