Dear White People‘s Logan Browning talks to Awards Daily TV about what drives Sam, how to achieve meaningful social change, and what to expect from Season 2.
Logan Browning feels a lot like Sam, her Dear White People lead character. In fact, when I spoke with her over the phone, she just completed a middle school visit with a group of Corps members from an Americorps program called City Year. This organization assists LAUSD students in lower-income, inner city schools with improving their grades and working toward graduation. Browning recently served as keynote speaker at this year’s City Year Los Angeles Corps Member graduation, but this early visit provided an overall understanding of the program.
The social outreach really feels like something a grown-up Sam White, Browning’s Dear White People character, would really dive into.
“I want to do things that I’m called to do. I want to always be aligned with things that mean a lot to me and that my showing up is affecting something,” Browning explained. “I’m such a hands-on person that I really want to be a part of things that matter to me.”
That helps explain her involvement in the Netflix series Dear White People. The series chronicles attempts by different student groups at the fictitious Winchester University to enact meaningful social change.
Understanding Sam As a Character
Logan Browning attended college at Vanderbilt University. However, she did not experience the same level of dramatic racial tension and violence as illustrated in Dear White People. But, there were a few similarities.
“There were things like I was the only black girl on my dormitory hall, but it wasn’t a bad experience,” Browning said. “I guess growing up in general, I’ve experienced that you don’t get to be a black person in America and not experience racism. It’s just not the case. If you don’t experience it, then you’re really oblivious to the fact that you are.”
Browning draws more from the full range of her life experiences to relate to Sam. These experiences expand beyond her Vanderbilt campus life.
So what drives Sam as an individual? Browning thinks striving for social change lives at Sam’s core.
“Sam wants to affect change in a way that makes her a legend. I don’t know if that’s always what she wanted, but it’s what she aims for now. I don’t think it’s always as black and white and as easily navigated as she would anticipate, especially with everyone looking to her as the leader of the movement.”
Despite fighting for social change as the self-proclaimed leader of the Winchester movement, Browning believes Sam will eventually search for a definition of herself. Dear White People‘s Sam is a woman buried under the weight of social change.
“Unfortunately, she lacks a lot of understanding of her personal identity. I do think Sam, in the future, will probably search more for who she actually is aside of a fighter for social injustice. That’s who she’s always going to be, but I do think that’s left her in a place of ‘Who am I?’ ”
Meaningful Social Change
Dear White People helps illustrate the multiple factions within the black college experience. By centering around a controversial blackface party, the series shows how different groups react to social injustice and want to bring about meaningful social change. Some students fight the system while some students work within the system. Also, some students pretend the problem doesn’t really exist at all.
This exploration of the facets of black collegiate culture prove invaluable to audiences of any race, creed, or culture.
But how does one bring about meaningful social change? Browning thinks its all of the above.
“I think that’s what this show encompasses. There is not one correct approach in this. The different groups need each other,” Browning explained. “You need the people who are out protesting in front of city hall. And then you need the politicians inside voicing your side in city hall. It’s a chain. It doesn’t just stop at one group.”
Historically, Browning likes to protest. A few years back, she served on the front lines of the BlackOut Hollywood movement with friend Darnell Appling. Yet, her experience on Dear White People evolved her opinions and interests.
“Now, after being a part of Dear White People, I’m definitely more interested in the dialogue and influencing my politicians and making sure that the people around me are voting when they should be,” Browning said.
Moving Dear White People Into Season 2
Dear White People Season 1 filmed during the waning days of the Obama administration. In fact, their last day of filming coincided with the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America. That dramatic shift in leadership and direction for America will undoubtedly influence subsequent seasons of Dear White People.
“It’s really interesting place to write from because our show really cross-pollinates fiction and non-fiction. We are talking about real people and also imagined ones,” Browning related. “I do think that in Season 2 we have to address the effects of having a Trump presidency. I think Justin [Simien] is itching to get into it. All of the trolls on social media are giving him ammo for Season 2.”
But what about Season 2’s Sam? How will she evolve into her sophomore year? What would Logan Browning like to explore in Season 2?
“I’m very interested in the younger generation. They are so intelligent and kind and compassionate and interested in a lot of current events,” Browning imagined.
Maybe one day, Browning can pitch Sam brings an intern under her wing at the Dear White People radio show to carry on the movement. After all, Sam wouldn’t be a life-long college student, would she?
“Well, I don’t want to pitch Sam graduating just yet, so I’ll hold off on that for a while,” Browning laughed.
That’s fair. We’re not ready to leave Logan Browning’s Sam just yet.
Dear White People currently streams on Netflix.