As the DC Extended Universe continues to take shape, one of the last major cornerstones yet to be addressed is Green Lantern. Most indications are that we’ll be seeing multiple human ring slingers in 2020’s Green Lantern Corps. While the exact number isn’t known, we’re at the very least likely to see a duo. The two most obvious candidates are the iconic silver age iteration (and star of the much maligned 2011 film) Hal Jordan, and the longtime fan favorite, John Stewart. John Stewart has been an intriguing member of the DC Universe since the 1970s, but he was catapulted to new levels of adulation with the acclaimed Justice League animated series that began in 2001.
Whichever actor ends up portraying John Stewart in the films will have big shoes to fill. And while it’s tempting to cast big name stars like Idris Elba or Michael B. Jordan, it seems more likely a lower profile actor will tackle the role (not to mention those two actors’ current commitments to Marvel). This is not a bad thing: there are a plethora of immensely talented actors on the rise who would be a perfect fit. Here are 15 Actors Who Could Play Green Lantern John Stewart.
15 Omari Hardwick
Long a fan favorite for the role, Omari Hardwick would be an intriguing choice for John Stewart. Once an aspiring professional football player, Hardwick has become a dynamic actor, starring in everything from Spike Lee-directed war epics to the cheesy A-Team remake. He also had a small turn in another beloved comic book movie, Kick-Ass, as Big Daddy’s former police partner.
Most notably, he’s spent three seasons as the lead on Starz’ acclaimed crime drama Power, where he portrays Ghost, a man with one foot in legitimate business and another in the world of large scale drug dealing. Hardwick plays the moral ambiguity of the role beautifully; he is, of course, a criminal, but he carries himself with the sort of dignity and intensity that one would immediately associate with John Stewart. Hardwick is probably overdue for a star-making movie role, and Green Lantern seems like it plays to a lot of his strengths.
14 Leslie Odom Jr.
A longtime stage actor with a resume full of relatively minor television roles, Leslie Odom Jr. became a superstar almost overnight thanks to his association with a genuine American sensation: the Broadway musical Hamilton. Odom starred as Aaron Burr, the ostensible antagonist to the titular Alexander Hamilton (played by Lin Manuel Miranda). Odom won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical over Miranda for a very good reason: he is astonishingly talented. The guarded, surprisingly complex Burr is given humanity and empathy through Odom’s star-making performance.
Odom is going to be a star for a very long time, and Warner Bros. would be smart to hitch their wagon to him. He would be an excellent fit for John Stewart; not only is he capable of switching between measured restraint and blistering fury at the drop of a hat, but he’s proven he works exquisitely in, essentially, a duo. Since this is a version of John that’s likely to be bouncing off of Hal Jordan, an easy chemistry with a co-leading man would be an invaluable asset.
13 Omar Sy
Omar Sy is no stranger to big-budget blockbuster filmmaking. After starting his career with minor television roles, the French actor was met with critical acclaim for 2011’s The Intouchables. Hollywood quickly took notice, and Sy was quickly cast in a pair of American-made blockbusters, as the watchful protector of the raptors in Jurassic World (where he interacted with a couple of Marvel Cinematic Universe stalwarts, Chris Pratt of Guardians of the Galaxy and Vincent D’Onofrio of Daredevil), and as the energy absorbing mutant Bishop in the reality bending X-Men: Days of Future Past. It’s a testament to how underused he was in the latter film that we’re considering him for another superhero role here.
Casting Sy as John Stewart could also open the door for an interesting original wrinkle for the character: presenting him as a non-American. It’s a little strange that virtually every Earth based GL is from the United States, so having John be from a different part of the world might be an interesting way to contrast him with the prototypically American Hal Jordan.
12 Trai Byers
Trai Byers has only come to prominence as an actor in the last few years, but he’s already made a strong impression. After some minor television roles in soap operas and the 90210 revival, Byers had a small but memorable turn in the critically acclaimed 2014 Martin Luther King Jr. biopic Selma (opposite another name on this list) as James Forman. His major breakthrough, however, has been on Fox’s hit show Empire, where he stars as Andre Lyon, the son of Lucious Lyon (played by one-time Tony Stark confidant Terrence Howard). Byers has garnered acclaim for his work on the show as a young man struggling with bipolar disorder, vacillating between Herculean restraint and explosive, violent emotion.
Byers would be an excellent fit for the classic version of John Stewart, a quietly intense man unable to blindly accept the limitations the world has presented to him as fact, and who sees the power of Green Lantern as a genuine opportunity to right societal wrongs.
11 Ricky Whittle
A rising actor who is on the cusp of mainstream stardom, Ricky Whittle is currently best known for his role as Lincoln on the CW show, The 100. He portrayed his warrior character with a sense of calm, quiet dignity that would fit John Stewart like a glove, and has shown himself more than capable of tackling the sort of action beats that would be required if he were to slip on the emerald ring of will.
Whittle is about to be introduced to a new audience as the lead in Bryan Fuller’s television adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed fantasy novel, American Gods. He’s playing the lead character, Shadow Moon, among a cast that features such heavyweights as Ian McShane, Gillian Anderson, and Crispin Glover. It’s his biggest role yet, and it should be a great test drive for him taking on the mantle of a big-budget superhero movie franchise.
10 David Gyasi
A veteran British character actor, David Gyasi’s resume is not short of fan-favorite genre work: he’s appeared in minor guest roles on shows like Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Law & Order: UK, as well as in massive science fiction blockbusters such as Cloud Atlas, Interstellar, and The Dark Knight Rises. Gyasi is probably most well known by American audiences from his turn as Major Alex Carnahan, the lead in the CW’s short lived drama series Containment.
Gyasi might seem like a long shot for a role as big as John Stewart; his resume mostly consists of minor roles, though generally in very prominent productions. His talent, however, is undeniable, and if he’s not the flashiest name possible to associate with the role, Green Lantern is a rich enough concept that you don’t necessarily need A-list movie stars to anchor it, but rather actors with rock solid ability who can sell the wonder of that world. Gyasi more than qualifies.
9 Stephan James
Traditionally, the dynamic between Hal Jordan and John Stewart doesn’t hinge on any sort of generational gap; while they come from very different personal backgrounds, Hal and John are usually roughly the same age. However, if the dynamic of Green Lantern Corps is going to see Hal Jordan as the grizzled veteran space cop, making John Stewart considerably younger could be a compelling angle.
Stephan James would be a great choice for a more youthful, wide-eyed John Stewart. James broke through in 2016’s Jesse Owens biopic Race, starring as the legendary Olympian who stared down both the Nazis in the 1936 Berlin games and racism back home in America. James played the role with a fundamental hopefulness and decency in the face of both daunting adversity and genuine, unspeakable evil, which might be an interesting angle for a young John Stewart confronted with an older, more world weary Hal Jordan.
8 Derek Luke
After starting out with bit parts on less-than-stellar sitcoms, Derek Luke broke out as the title character of the Denzel Washington-directed biopic Antwone Fisher. In the story of a man who overcomes a nightmarish upbringing and unthinkable trauma to find his purpose in life, Luke gives a raw, emotional performance for the ages.
Luke has been plenty busy since his star-making turn, becoming an incredibly versatile actor in the years since. He was remarkable in a recurring role on FX’s critically acclaimed The Americans as Gregory, an American who feels so fundamentally betrayed by his own country that he becomes a covert operative for the Soviet Union in the 1980s. He even briefly hung out with another superhero as one of the Howling Commandos in Captain America: The First Avenger. Derek Luke is more than qualified to take on the role of John Stewart, and the DCEU would be greater for having him.
7 Michael Ealy
Michael Ealy is one of the more underrated actors in Hollywood. There’s an effortlessness to most of his performances that is sometimes mistaken for a lack of effort, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Whether he’s playing a reformed street thug in the Barber Shop movies, a CIA operative in the science fiction curiosity FlashForward, or a slick, powerful lawyer on The Good Wife, Ealy fully inhabits every role that’s thrown his way.
The most obvious parallel between Ealy and John Stewart is his work on the dearly departed Fox sci-fi procedural Almost Human, where he played an android cop opposite another actor that genre fans are more than a little familiar with, Karl Urban. Ealy imbued that role with a friendly, confident, warm personality that would lend itself well to John Stewart, opposite a more caustic, prototypically heroic Hal Jordan. Ealy works great as a calming, equalizing force amid chaos, something the world of Green Lantern offers by the truckload.
6 D.B. Woodside
D.B. Woodside has been a near constant presence on American television for 15 years. He’s most prominently known for two roles: as Principal Robin Wood on the final season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where he played the son of a fallen slayer, and as Wayne Palmer on 24, the brother of the much-beloved President David Palmer. Woodside’s resume is a lot deeper than that, though: he’s currently starring on Fox’s Lucifer, and has had memorable turns on shows such as Halt and Catch Fire, Parenthood, and Monk. If you’ve watched television the last decade, you know D.B. Woodside’s face.
There are a few reasons he’d make a great John Stewart. His low-boil intensity and easy confidence are a natural fit for the character. His turn as Principal Wood is maybe the most obvious evidence of his prowess when dealing with supernatural forces as an ordinary but driven man. Also, unique among entries on this list, he’s been publicly lobbying for the role recently. A talented actor with a genuine passion for the character is tough to dismiss.
5 Mahershala Ali
Mahershala Ali has been quietly building an impressive career for well over a decade, with understated, powerful performances largely in prestige television like HBO’s critically acclaimed Treme, and especially the Netflix powerhouse House of Cards, where his work as a morally troubled political operative for the much less morally troubled Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey) garnered him plenty of accolades and attention.
However, 2016 was unquestionably the year when Ali became a superstar. Following his blisteringly intense role as Cottonmouth in Netflix’s Luke Cage series, Ali is a likely Oscar nominee for his work in the universally hailed Moonlight, as a drug dealer attempting to help a young boy navigate a nightmarish daily existence.
Mahershala Ali is on the cusp of becoming a major movie star, and plenty of franchises are going to soon be knocking at his door. He’d be wise to consider Green Lantern; not only does he embody many of John Stewart’s inherent qualities (the inherent dignity, the quiet confidence), but he works fantastically in ensemble settings. It’s tough to think of many actors we’d rather see rattling around the universe with Hal Jordan.
4 David Oyelowo
It’s genuinely stunning that David Oyelowo hasn’t played a superhero yet. After strong performances in minor roles in high profile projects like Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Lincoln, the British actor skyrocketed to immediate stardom after his riveting performance as Martin Luther King Jr. in Ava DuVernay’s Oscar-nominated historical drama Selma. Oyelowo is tremendous as King, a man attempting to hold together a movement beset by political infighting, very real threats of violence, and his own personal shortcomings.
While an unquestioned critical darling, Oyelowo has seemed just a bit reluctant to make the pivot toward being a headliner of big budget Hollywood blockbusters. Green Lantern Corps would be the perfect vehicle for him to make that transition. The mythos of the character is uniquely suited to telling elementally important stories through fantastical science fiction adventures, and also can easily cater to darker, stranger fare, which Oyelowo tends to gravitate toward.
3 Trevante Rhodes
Another star of Moonlight, Trevante Rhodes’ acting background is just about as different from Mahershala Ali’s as possible, yet he still feels like a natural fit for John Stewart. A young up and comer with only a handful of acting credits, Rhodes is so singularly transcendent as a young man struggling with his own identity that he has become an overnight sensation.
Another contender who would suggest a younger, greener John Stewart, Rhodes could easily embody the frustration of a pre-Lantern John, struggling to find purpose in his life, as well as his steely eyed determination once he slides on the ring and realizes what he’s meant to do. Rhodes would be great as a young man who challenges the sometimes antiseptic worldview of an older Hal Jordan, who spends too much of his time in the clouds, ignoring the ordinary, daily plight of the humanity he’s sworn to protect.
2 Sterling K. Brown
A veteran television actor who’s appeared in shows as varied as ER, Supernatural, Person of Interest, and Army Wives, Sterling K. Brown has spent over a decade largely flying under the radar. That all changed in a huge way in 2016, when he starred as Chris Darden in the monster hit American Crime Story: The People vs. OJ Simpson. While Sarah Paulson’s performance as Marcia Clark has rightly been the awards season behemoth, Brown’s performance was the true emotional barometer of the show; a raw nerve that always seemed like it was just on the brink of exploding in righteous anger. Yet he still exuded a cool confidence, an unwavering belief in himself and his mission.
Brown’s star has continued to rise as he’s featured on NBC’s hit series This Is Us. A turn as a major superhero doesn’t seem to be too far off for Brown. Indeed, he was recently cast in a seemingly minor role for Marvel’s upcoming Black Panther film. If Warner Bros. are smart, they’ll make him a part of their cinematic universe while he’s still attainable.
1 Andre Holland
Andre Holland is, quite simply, astonishing. One of the most talented actors working today, period, Holland’s resume is slight, but on the brink of exploding. He had a strong supporting role in Selma, and is a powerhouse opposite Trevante Rhodes in Moonlight. Holland’s greatest role so far, however, is as Dr. Algernon Edwards on Cinemax’s masterful period drama The Knick. He portrays a doctor in early 20th century New York, a brilliant, innovative physician who is barely acknowledged as a human by most of his colleagues. It’s a ferocious, dynamic performance, one of the best in modern television history.
On The Knick, Holland bounced off an older, more conventional Hollywood leading man-type in Clive Owen, and their odd, intense chemistry was one of the primary drivers of the show’s drama. Imagining Holland’s John Stewart enjoying a similar relationship in Green Lantern Corps with Hal Jordan is almost too good to pass up. But really, Holland is talented enough that he wouldn’t need to rely on another actor; he’s an electric screen presence, and we’d all be incredibly lucky to see him slip on an emerald ring and defend the universe.
Who would you most like to see play John Stewart in Green Lantern Corps? Let us know in the comments!