lauren velez

(Lauren Velez)

*It looks like the great actor Don Cheadle is the latest in the long line of established, A-list actors taking their wares to the premium channels, in the promising Showtime series House of Lies. In fact, over the past few years the premium channels have provided a fantastic outlet for great minority actors in prominent roles. Be sure to look out for these fantastic actors 2012:

MICHAEL K. WILLIAMS, Boardwalk Empire – The smash HBO hit features Williams – who rose to prominence as the unforgettable street-wise killer Omar on The Wire – as bootlegger Albert “Chalky” White. Steve Buscemi might get most of the show’s press, but Williams’ performance gives the show its soul.

J.B. SMOOVE, Curb Your Enthusiasm – Okay, the show hasn’t officially been renewed for season 9. However, considering the quality and ratings of season 8, it’s a good bet that Curb will return – and J.B. Smoove’s profanely hilarious Leon will be right at the forefront of Larry David’s adventures.

NELSAN ELLIS, True Blood – The blood- and sex-soaked True Blood isn’t for everyone, but Ellis (as gay prostitute / short order cook Lafayette) is undoubtedly a standout.

SHANOLA HAMPTON, Shameless –As the next-door neighbors of the Gallagher family, Hampton’s Veronica partners with Kev (Steve Howey) to give television one of its rarest finds – a truly happy and entertaining interracial couple.

LAUREN VELEZ,  Dexter – It’s been an uneven series for the once-excellent show, but Velez’s Captain LaGuerta is still one of the series’ best characters.