If the “ALT-Right” is boycotting your show, you know it is going to be good! On April 28th, Dear White People is getting a second spin via an extended series on Netflix. The initial film was a fan favorite at the Sundance Film Festival and hit theatrical release in October 2014. Described as a satire that follows Black students at a prestigious university as they navigate campus life in a so-called “post-racial” society, the Netflix series expands on the 2014 film and gives us a deeper insight on each character from the original movie.
Recently, EBONY had the pleasure of sitting down with Logan Browning (Samantha), Brandon Bell (Troy) and Antoinette Robertson (Coco) to discuss the series, their characters, current politics and more.
EBONY: What was your initial reaction when you were cast and given the synopsis of the film/series?
Brandon Bell: For me, it would be the film. I had been familiar with Dear White People since super early on. I did a table read with Justin way back and he thought I’d be okay for the character of Troy. I was really excited because I had never seen or heard or read anything like Dear White People. Now coming back to the show it was really cool to get back on board and dive deeper into this character, but also explore other characters in the show.
Logan Browning: When Dear White People first landed in my inbox I had recently switched agencies. My first thought was, “Oh my God. They just resent me an old email. That’s kind of so weird. Why would they? That’s so weird?” I almost responded like, “Hey, I think you guys made a mistake.” I scrolled and I was like, “Oh, sh-t. It’s going to be a show.” Then my thought was, “What cool universe am I in where I watched the film and saw myself as Sam and followed Tessa [Thompson’s] career and see myself in a lot of, strangely, the role she plays.” I was like, “I get a chance to do this?” It felt like me when I saw it and read it.
Antoinette Robertson: I want to say I was extremely ecstatic to the point of hyperventilating. I, like, full-on cried and was so excited because this was a dream role for me. I remember seeing the movie and falling in love with the message behind the movie. The exploration of the experience of those that feel marginalized and I was like, “Oh my God. I would love to be a part of a project like this.” So I lost it, it was amazing.
EBONY: Given the current political climate and the loud and proud racial divide of this country, what advice would you give incoming freshmen or graduating seniors who may be heading into predominately White schools or workforces?
Brandon Bell: I think self-care is really important. It’s not just a buzzword. We’re in it for the long haul. This is not a thing that’s going to change overnight. Maybe not even over a decade. Really, truly the freaks are out. They’re out and they are proud. They’re emboldened. The truth is the show is really about identity versus self. What is more important to cultivate, who you really are, who you really might be, and all that weird complexity, or the role that you play in society.
I think it’s so easy when you’re young to get caught up in one or the other, but the truth is that you need both. You got to be able to go out to the march and play a role, but then you got to go home and take care of yourself. Read and watch bad reality TV.
Antoinette Robertson: My best advice out to those students or, I guess now members of the working force, would be to stand up for themselves. In a world that tries to make people of color feel shame for expressing the fact that they feel marginalized and/or unseen and unheard. Stand up for yourself. Don’t fear the stereotypes that society will place on you because those are going to come regardless of how you choose to conduct yourself. However, stay true to yourself and understand that you don’t need to assimilate to be successful in this world. You can show pride in your culture and/or who you are, and still be successful.
EBONY: Do you guys relate to your characters in any way? And, If you were put in the similar situations that occurred in the series would you react the same way or would you have reacted differently?
Brandon Bell: Yeah, I definitely relate to Troy for sure in a lot of ways. In terms of what certain people expect or the world expects of you, and what you I guess expect of yourself. Balancing expectations of others. There’s one situation in which a character comes out. Lionel comes out to Troy about his sexual identity. I would hope to handle it in a graceful way because it takes a lot. I can imagine it took a lot for Lionel to admit that to his roommate, who is a heterosexual male. That would be my one example I would hope to handle something that sensitive and important to somebody in such a way without offending them, from some gut reaction.
Logan Browning: The Black experience is something I can relate to. It’s actually like an evolution, right? It’s realizing that for Logan, or in general, I am Black period. People will always see me as Black. The show showed me that there is so much more to my culture that I was not even embracing.
I’m from Atlanta. I felt like I knew everything there is to be about being Black, but I learned I was wrong. I learned that I actually have to go through this evolution where I’m always seen as Black. I have been. I accept it. I embrace and I’m educating myself on our culture. I never thought to research our history and culture, or lack thereof.
Antoinette Robertson: I relate to Coco Conners in the regard that I am also unapologetic ambitious. However, I’ve always been very much so a tomboy, so the world of being perfect, not one hair out of place, nails always done, always to the nine, that ideal of perfection, I’ve always kind of rejected that notion because of my tomboyish self. That’s why it was so much fun to play with it. As a Black woman, I completely understand why there are moments where she would choose the path least taken because for fear of being labeled a particular stereotype. So, in those regards, I can definitely relate to her, but everything else we’re completely different.
In terms of scenarios that she’s been placed in during the course of this season. I would say that she exudes more strength than I would have in a lot of these moments. I wear my heart on my sleeve, so I’m easily affected by negativity and harmful things. She has more of a veneer and although these things may affect her, she’s developed a little bit more of a callous I want to say, so she’s more likely to mask her emotions than I would have.
Get your Netflix account payments up to date because this series is a must-see! Catch it HERE, on April 28th.