'Dear White People' actress Logan Browning on Hollywood and giving back
Logan Browning is more than just an actress. The 27-year-old Atlanta native, who's rooting for her Falcons to take home the Vince Lombardi trophy at Super Bowl LI on Sunday, wants the world to know she's a "seeker of love, enlightenment and equality." The Hollywood insider who has had leading roles in the film "Bratz: The Movie," and TV show "Hit the Floor," also has altruistic aspirations.
In fact, in between juggling an ever-growing schedule, she made time to speak at the PowHERful Summit in December, which is an annual conference for high school and college-aged young women focusing on educational, professional and personal development, founded by TV journalist Soledad O'Brien and her husband Brad Raymond.
There, Browning spoke to young women about finding their own voice like her character Samantha "Sam" White does in the forthcoming Netflix Series "Dear White People," which is based on the 2014 film of the same name (Tessa Thompson played the role in the film adaptation). In the 10-episode, 30-minute series show, which is tentatively slated to debut this Spring, Browning explores the world of Samantha, a biracial student at an Ivy League school whose radio show and book puts her on the radar of several black student organizations who want her as their spokesperson. The problem is that she's still finding her own voice in respect to racial identity.
In between hugs and personal advice with the attendees, Browning caught up with espnW at the summit's site, which was held at Dodger stadium -- only a few feet away from Jackie Robinson's framed #42 jersey, to discuss not only her career, but why her ultimate goal is to help young women actualize their dreams.
espnW: How would you describe your character Samantha White?
Logan Browning: Sam is a rebel. She is the smartest person in the room and makes sure everyone knows it. She's a creative. Despite her political rhetoric, she has a colorful mind and her compassion drives her to fight against the unjust.
espnW: What did you learn about yourself playing this role?
LB: One of my favorite quotes from poet and author Maya Angelou is: "I have learned that I still have a lot to learn," and that is what my character Samantha also taught me about myself. I've been really vocal about social issues regarding black lives and police brutality in the past few years, and I have often reacted immediately from a place of passion. I learned that in order to have a strong and credible voice, I needed to do more research into the history of black people in America while simultaneously digesting new and pertinent news.
One of the best things I did to prepare for this role was reading! I read a lot of materials my character would have read, and in doing so I also became more knowledgeable, which aided me in my social responsibilities.
espnW: Your character Samantha struggles to find a voice of her own, have you ever experienced that personally?
LB: Everyone has felt that way at least one moment in their lives. Like when you are unsure of what path to pursue. My experience with that has been making an effort to navigate who I was when I first entered this industry, and who I want to be by my exit.
It's an ongoing task. One that constantly evolves.
espnW: How do you think the series "Dear White People" will impact its viewers?
LB: The writing is impeccable. At the very least I hope the show will incite conversation. It's obviously the most appropriate time for a show with a rhetoric like this one. I believe the show will encourage people to be free thinkers, and to take charge of growing into their chosen role in society.
espnW: Why do you feel it's important for people to come together as a community?
LB: The kind of culture and climate we're in right now can make us all feel very alienated, isolated, and alone, and you're pondering all of these things by yourself. Being part of social movements like Black Lives Matter, or organizations like NAACP, or any group representing a cause, gives you more resources, knowledge and power. They can help you use your voice.
It's the grain of sand mantra: one grain of sand serves a bigger purpose when it's with other grains of sand on a beach, as opposed to on its own.
espnW: Your character showcases the fact that being biracial or multiracial in America takes on various experiences. What was your journey like as woman of mixed race?
LB: You can call me a black woman because that's who I am, and I am proud of it.
I did experience people saying I'm too "black" or too "white" according to their standards, but I never felt like I had to choose a side. We live in a society that wants to label you with a color, sexuality, religion or ethnicity. It divides us, but it also allows us to find pride in our identity. I'm black, and I'm human. I'm a woman, and I'm human. I believe in God, and I am human.
When those kinds of labels describe us rather than define us, we'll be all right.
espW: Your work on "Hit the Floor" was very physical. You've spoken on keeping your mind and spirt nimble, but since the series ended, how are your training your body?
LB: The dancing on the show was a challenge. I trained for an extensive period of time after we shot the pilot because I was not a professional dancer. I trained in ballet, jazz and focused on my flexibility and cardio endurance. The challenge of going from zero dance training to playing the captain of a dance squad amongst real life professional dancers was fun for me. I was in class every day with young dance students who were a part of a scholarship program. We were training for different reasons, but would see each other every day.
Now that my dancing on the show is done, I don't go to class as much. However, as the saying goes, "once a dancer, always a dancer." I find the benefits of my training showing up in many aspects of my work life, particularly when I am doing stunt work on a show. Stunts require a type of balance, agility, athleticism and ability to learn quickly that training in dance preps you for.
espnW: Describe what PowHERful means to you and how do you encourage young women to embolden themselves?
LB: Having the courage to face the unknown and try new things makes me feel PowHERful. I don't mind failing, because I see it as an opportunity to try again and eventually succeed. Having this attitude and sharing it with young girls encourages them. Making mistakes is how we learn.
Gianina Thompson is ESPN's senior publicist for NBA and MLB shows and on-air personalities. She's sports all-day, every-day and lives for OT games, unless it's on Thursday nights when she's locked onto "Grey's Anatomy," "Scandal," and "How to Get Away with Murder."