Maybe you discovered Logan Browning when she burst onto the big screen a decade ago as the real-life Bratz doll, Sasha. Or maybe she snared your attention as Vanessa in Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide. Possibly you noticed her as Brianna, a foster kid in Meet the Browns or as Jelena, the powerful yet cunning head dancer-turned-team owner in Hit the Floor. No matter how you found her, one thing is for certain: She’s no “one-trick pony.”
The Atlanta native’s newest character is Samantha White in Netflix’s satirical series Dear White People, adapted from the 2014 indie film of the same name. She stars opposite Brandon P. Bell, who reprises his role as Troy Fairbanks.
Remember the blackface party that broke out at the end of the movie? Well, get ready for a refresher and then some.
White—a film student who hosts the radio show Dear White People at Winchester University, a predominantly White Ivy League school—uses the platform to examine class, stereotypes and race. And there’s no soft-shoeing the topics.
“The timing is so right for all of America to have this character who is going to be loud, speak out and have no fear,” Browning says.
“I’m excited as always for people to see me in a different role,” she adds.
Browning talks with EBONY about the similarities between herself and Sam, how conversations about race relations should not be amiss after each episode and her request for all “fans from Hit the Floor to carry over to Dear White People and enjoy it.”
EBONY: Does the story pick up where the movie left off, or will it be a fresh story line?
A little bit of both. The series kind of picks up with what happens at the end of the film, the blackface party, and then it travels in a million other directions stemming from that moment. People who have already seen the film will be privy to the tone and characters, but the show has a breadth of its own.
EBONY: How did you prepare to play Sam?
I read a lot of American Black history books, a lot of Malcolm X, Angela Davis, and I felt like I have a lot of similarities to Sam. I definitely feel we’re both passionate and lead with that when it comes to anything that seems unjust. I kind of compared who I’ve been in the past five to eight years with regard to Black activism and how I thought Sam fit into that world. I talked to Justin (Simien), the creator [of Dear White People], about how he saw her. One of the best notes he gave me was to remember that Sam wears a different mask with everyone. Instead of trying to fit her personality in a box, that gave me the freedom to take her one page at a time. Of course, watching the film helped. I loved having the opportunity to watch Tessa (Thompson) and study her, all of the characters and the very specific genre.
EBONY: What’s the ideal assignment for viewers after each episode?
[Have a] conversation. The show is going to start conversation between people who definitely have the same views, but also between people who may not see things in the same way. I think it opens up a safe space for everyone to feel like they can talk about these things and examine the topics in the show and find some of the better outcomes. It’s a show about being a freethinker and finding a voice as a young college student and in society in general.
Catch the series premiere April 28 on Netflix.
*Article originally published in the April/May issue of Ebony.