Dear White Peo­ple’s Lo­gan Brown­ing re­flects on re­turn­ing to her break­out role.


Lo­gan Brown­ing stands by her be­liefs, on­screen and off

Lo­gan Brown­ing doesn’t know what to wear. When she calls from Los An­ge­les, the At­lanta-born ac­tor quickly re­veals that she’s de­bat­ing be­tween out­fit choices for a char­ity gala—one that’ll no doubt re­sult in a flurry of pho­tos on­line within hours. “I’m still fig­ur­ing that out,” she says of her red-car­pet style. “I feel strong in any look that’s some­where be­tween com­fort­able and bossy—an­drog­y­nous even.” With her lead role as Sa­man­tha “Sam” White on Net­flix’s Dear White Peo­ple, her sta­tus as one to watch in Hol­ly­wood, how­ever, is firmly es­tab­lished.

In its sec­ond sea­son, the satir­i­cal drama set at the fic­tional Ivy League school Winch­ester Univer­sity sees col­lege ra­dio host Sam and her class­mates still grap­pling with racism, cul­tural bi­ases, cy­ber-bul­ly­ing, and so­cial in­jus­tice. But this time, cam­pus cru­sader Sam is in a much more vul­ner­a­ble place than she was when the se­ries—based on writer-direc­tor Justin Simien’s 2014 film of the same name—be­gan. “I re­ally wanted to crack her shell, and they did,” says Brown­ing, 29. “I didn’t want peo­ple watch­ing the show to per­ceive ev­ery young ac­tivist as a per­son with no soft core. I wanted to ex­plore the softer [side] of some­one who is the face of a move­ment.”

Brown­ing—an ac­tivist in her own right—says she learned to let go of her fix­a­tion with want­ing to make sure her char­ac­ter was en­tirely un­like her­self while mak­ing the sopho­more sea­son. “I put way too much pres­sure on my­self to try to make us so dis­tinct,” says the ac­tor, an ad­vo­cate for LGBTQ rights who stands against gun vi­o­lence and po­lice bru­tal­ity. “The truth is, I’ve been work­ing for 14 years and had the op­por­tu­nity to play char­ac­ters that are un­like my­self. So if there is this one char­ac­ter that is closer to me, I re­al­ized that I don’t have to fight it.” When this writer sug­gests that the com­par­i­son is largely flat­ter­ing, given her small-screen al­ter ego’s am­bi­tions, the ac­tor coun­ters: “She has her is­sues. But that girl is bril­liant, and a lot of peo­ple are drawn to her. I don’t mind be­ing like her.” Still, she likens be­ing ex­pected to have all the an­swers when it comes to stand­ing against in­jus­tice to grad­u­at­ing with­out hav­ing taken all the classes. Play­ing Sam has taught Brown­ing to lis­ten more—as a woman, an ac­tor, and an ac­tivist.” The ac­tor has more char­ac­ter work ahead in the up­com­ing thriller

The Per­fec­tion, which co-stars Get Out’s Allison Wil­liams. She also hopes to even­tu­ally step be­hind the cam­era. “Di­rect­ing is def­i­nitely some­thing that I dream of do­ing,” she says. “Direc­tors are my favourite peo­ple on a set be­cause they’re the cap­tains of the ship. I’m fas­ci­nated [by them].” In her ca­reer so far, Brown­ing can count Girls’ Richard Shep­ard, as well as Barry Jenk­ins, the Os­car-win­ning direc­tor of

Moon­light, among the film­mak­ers she’s worked with and ob­served.

When she’s not on set or do­ing her part to learn about how she can tackle head­line-mak­ing is­sues, Brown­ing says, her In­sta­gram feed re­minds her of the lovely, less emo­tion­ally tax­ing vi­gnettes in the world. “To be hon­est, that is part of my self-care. If I don’t cu­rate the things that I know stim­u­late me in a pos­i­tive way, then I know I’m go­ing to be in­un­dated with neg­a­tive im­ages,” she says. “I cu­rate those pretty, beau­ti­ful, artis­tic things to fill me up.” Airy in­te­rior de­sign pho­tog­ra­phy and bossy, an­drog­y­nous out­fit in­spi­ra­tion in­cluded.

I didn’t want peo­ple watch­ing the show to per­ceive ev­ery young ac­tivist as a per­son with no soft core. I wanted to ex­plore the softer [side] of some­one who is the face of a move­ment.”

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