Although she made her screen debut in 1996, Tracee Ellis Ross’ career has risen to prominence in the last decade or so. The Girlfriends star and daughter of iconic singer Diana Ross has become a Golden Globe winner and 5-time Primetime Emmy nominee since 2016, all for her impressive work as Rainbow Johnson on ABC’s hit sitcom Black-ish.
With Black-ish coming to a close in 2022, Ellis Ross looks ahead to a pair of new TV projects in the works, including series entitled Jodie and The Premise. Along with the recent film The High Note, Ellis Ross will most likely return to the big screen in the near future as well.
10 Reed Between The Lines (2011-2015) – 6.3
BET’s beloved sitcom Reed Between the Lines starred Ross and Malcolm Jamal Warner as Carla and Alex Reed, married psychologists navigating their personal and professional lives in New York. Ross left the show after the 25-episode first season, which resulted in the show’s cancellation nine episodes later.
The crux of Carla’s dramatic arc derives from discovering her father has a secret life, which prompts her to leave for Los Angeles and leave her children in the care of Alex in New York. The show lived and died by Ellis Ross’ elegant magnetism and lack thereof once she departed.
9 The High Note (2020) – 6.4
Ellis Ross was poised for a real breakout role on the big screen as Grace Davis in The High Note. Alas, COVID-19 dashed the film’s theatrical release and severely hindered its overall visibility. Still, Ellis Ross is lovely as can be as he legendary R&B singer, not too far off from her famous real-life mother.
When Davis’ successful career halts due to lack of new material, her tireless assistant Maggie (Dakota Johnson) begins inspiring the singer in unlikely ways that help to reinvent her public image. Ellis Ross gives a commanding turn that reminds everyone of her performative lineage.
8 Life Support (2007) – 6.7
Life Support is a terrific made-for-TV HBO movie that earned Queen Latifah SAG, Golden Globe, and NCAAP Image Award wins for her heartrending performance. Based on a true story, Latifah plays Ana Wallace, a former crack cocaine addict with HIV who turns her life around to become a positive role model and activist in the African American community.
While Ellis Ross has a small supporting role as a neighborhood local named Tanya, the film is Latifah’s through and through.
7 Private Practice (2010) – 6.7
Ellis Ross appeared in a single episode of Private Practice in 2010, the popular medical drama spinoff series that some say is superior to Gray’s Anatomy. In the 2010 episode entitled “War,” Ellis Ross played Dr. Ellen Sicher, a psychiatrist who treated Violet (Amy Brenneman) prior to her return to L.A.
The importance of Dr. Sicher’s presence is her visible pregnancy, which forces Violet to confront her past and open up about her violent attack and subsequent birth of Lucas. Dr. Sicher helps Violet to realize that she put her baby’s needs before her own and should not beat herself up about the incident any longer.
6 Five (2011) – 7.0
Five is an important Lifetime anthology film meant to raise awareness for breast cancer. The film features a quintet of vignettes, all of which surround women dealing with the intense struggle to fight the illness while maintaining some semblance of normalcy.
Ross costars with Rosario Dawson and Jennifer Lewis in the chapter entitled Lily (Dawson), directed by Alicia Keys. When Lily’s mother Maggie (Lewis) insists she attends an impending wedding, Alyssa (Ellis Ross) is there to help break the news of Lily’s breast cancer, which forces mother and daughter to become closer. All three women earned Black Reel Award nominations for their work on the film.
5 Sue (1997) 7.1
Written and directed by Israeli filmmaker Amos Kollek, Sue is a harrowing character exam of a young woman struggling to survive the unforgiving cruelty of New York City. In just her second feature film, Ellis Ross plays a character named Linda, Sue’s friend who is pursuing a degree in psychology. It’s Ross’ character who helps provide context for Sue’s psychological unrest.
Also known as Sue Lost In Manhattan, Sue (Anna Thomson) searches for meaning and connection in an ever-changing metropolis. While it’s an under-viewed coming-of-age movie, Linda is one of many characters Sue interacts with on her tumultuous journey of self-discovery but is too beleaguered to reciprocate her friendship.
4 Black-ish (2014-2022) – 7.1
In perhaps her most popular role to date, Ellis Ross has won 6 NAACP Image Awards for her performance as Rainbow Johnson/Bea on ABC’s hit show Black-ish. She’s played the role 164 times and counting since 2014.
The show challenges racial stereotypes and defies pejorative conventions as Bea and Dre (Anthony Anderson) raise their children in an upper-class, largely white neighborhood. The show’s importance and popularity have led to two spinoffs, Mixed-ish, and Grown-ish, both of which Ross has appeared in.
3 Girlfriends (2000-2008) – 7.2
In perhaps a role of a lifetime, Ellis Ross played the beloved lead character of Joan Clayton on BET’s Girlfriends 172 times from 200-2008. A rebooted pilot was produced in 2020 but unfortunately never aired.
Girlfriends is a highly enjoyable show about four female best friends – Joan, Toni (Jill Marie Jones), Maya (Golden Brooks), and Lynn (Persia White) – as they navigate the pitfalls of friendship, singlehood, romantic partnership, unpredictable careers, and the like. Ellis Ross was so compelling in the show that she earned two NCAAP Image Awards and a BET Comedy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
2 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation (2011) – 7.6
Ellis Ross gave a memorable four-episode performance as Gloria Parkes in CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the wife of Dr. Ray Langston (Laurence Fishburne) and target of the vicious Nate Haskell, aka Dick & Jane Killer (Bill Irwin). Prior to their divorce, they appeared to be one of the best couples from CSI.
When Gloria arrives in Las Vegas, Ray realizes it’s time to move on. However, Gloria is soon kidnapped and taken to Los Angeles by Haskell as a ploy to draw Ray into his trap. With time running out, Ray must save Gloria in the nick of time. Ellis Ross gives a genuinely sympathetic turn as a kidnapped woman desperate to survive, which sells the dramatic conflict for it to be both riveting and believable at once.
1 Broad City (2016) – 8.1
According to IMDb, the best TV show Tracee Ellis Ross has appeared in so far is the Season 3 finale of Broad City. The hilarious and irreverent season capper continues Ilana and Abbi’s harrowing flight to Israel, where they meet such characters as Jared (Seth Green) and the stern flight attendant Winona (Ellis Ross).
Unfortunately, Abbi and Ilana’s interactions don’t last long, as they are apprehended and denied entry into Israel when they are mistaken for terrorists. As always, Ellis Ross adds elegant sophistication to her sense of humor that often enriches whatever project she participates in.
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