*Be aware there are spoilers discussed for the entire season*
In Vol. 3 of the Netflix original series Dear White People, from show creator/writer/director/executive producer Justin Simien (who also wrote and directed the original film), the students at Winchester University are still on their journeys of self-discovery, as they try to figure out their place in the world and what they want for themselves. While the story is still biting and witty in its social commentary, and contains some of the great pop culture references its become known for, it’s also expanding with more overlapping stories among its strong ensemble of characters and actors.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Logan Browning (who plays the show’s most outspoken hero, aspiring filmmaker Sam) talked about how much she enjoys the fan reaction she gets from being a part of Dear White People, the show’s evolution over three seasons, working with show creator Justin Simien as a scene partner (he plays a couple different characters in the season), what it was like not to be hosting the “Dear White People” radio show anymore, her favorite moments this season, whether she gets nervous about the way they poke fun at real people, getting to work with Giancarlo Esposito (who’s previously lent his voice to the Narrator), and the possibilities for Season 4. She also talked about why she was attracted to the Netflix original film The Perfection, her desire to play people whose stories are untold, and the TV shows that she’d love to do a guest spot on.
Collider: I would imagine that this show brings a lot of fan reaction, especially with how real these characters feel and how easy it must be for a lot of different people to find something that they can relate to. What’s it like for you to hear from fans, especially the ones who see your character as representing their voice?
LOGAN BROWNING: I love it. I get it from all angles. I get it from being in person, and I get it online, through a direct message or on Twitter. It means a lot to me because I remember watching Dear White People, the movie, and seeing myself in Tessa Thompson’s character of Sam, at that time. For me, it wasn’t that I was necessarily an activist, at the time. It was just something about the way she existed in the world, unapologetically. And I feel like people see that in Sam. She’s a bold young woman, in terms of her voice, her style and her relationships. And then, you add on the fact that she’s such a powerhouse, with such a strong mind when it comes to her activism, and I love it because I relate to it. I see myself, in the character. So, any time other people can see that, I just feel like this show is doing them a solid service. Most of the time, people are forced to see themselves in characters that often look nothing like them, which can be refreshing sometimes, but can also be frustrating, if you never see a character who looks like you.
I would imagine it’s both inspiring and validating, when you actually see a character that you identify with, that does look like you.
BROWNING: Yeah, you’re like, “Whoa, wait, this is a strange new experience for me. I feel them, and I look like them. That’s crazy!” But I also enjoy the people who feel like they relate to Sam, who don’t look like Sam, because that’s the point. That’s the entire point.
This is a show that’s had a huge evolution, from its first episode and now through the end of Season 3. Did you know that it would have the type of growth that it’s had, and is still having? Is that something that you’d hoped for and that you’re happy to see playing out, or did you have an idea that you would get to this point with it?
BROWNING: I’m the kind of person, in my life and in how I approach art, where I just flow, from moment to moment. I don’t think I ever anticipated how the show would do, once our first season aired. For me, I was in the moment of actually filming and participating in what we were creating, and I remember being really surprised at how big it was, even in its first season, because that’s not why I was a part of it. What is so cool about Season 2 and 3, with the show, is how Justin has really able to expand on these characters, and show us new characters that seem to be really vibrant from the sideline and that audiences are very curious about. He’s able to go in-depth into their stories more, and I think that’s brilliant. As a viewer, I appreciate that because we’ve been taught that the format for a show or a film is to have a singular protagonist, and to break that form is the way of the future because that’s not how we live our lives. Even when I walk through my life, as my own protagonist, there are other people in my life, who have strong storylines that I’m engaged in and curious about, and that’s the way our content should be.
And it’s really the perfect setting to do that because there are so many people on a school campus that it just seems like a great way to explore so many different voices, points of view and personalities.
BROWNING: Yeah. I think Justin’s whole point of making it into a show is that, as a film, it worked, but there was room for so much more exploration and growth. I always think about what it would be like to see any of the students outside of that microcosm of the school. We do follow their characters and how they’re able to develop their personalities in the world that has been built for them, in those four walls, but I’m always curious about what those characters would be like, outside of it all.