‘Dear White People’ is a growing experience for Logan Browning
Logan Browning has had acting growth spurts. It started in 2004 with “Summerland,” her first role on a TV series, and continued through projects like “Hit the Floor.” The Atlanta native has used each job to develop how she works in front of a camera, and that’s continuing with her Netflix series, “Dear White People."
The third season, streaming now, is based on Justin Simien’s critically acclaimed independent film of the same name. Set against the backdrop of a predominantly white Winchester University, “Dear White People” looks at what happens when racial tensions are always bubbling just below the surface. A group of students of color must deal with a diverse landscape of social injustice, cultural bias and political correctness.
Browning plays Samantha White, a college student looking to shake a school population out of its social doldrums to address the serious issues on campus and in the world. Her outlet comes through her on-air work at the school’s radio station.
“I am growing a lot on this show,” Browning says during an interview on set. “I am kind of paralleling Sam’s life with my own. It’s not an exact parallel, but her dad passed, my dad passed. She’s dealing with becoming a persona and de-escalating from that place, and I’m kind of experiencing the question of, ‘Do I want to be this person who is in the eye of fame or do I just want to be Logan?’”
Along with her current role on “Dear White People,” Browning worked on the TV series “Meet the Browns,” “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide” and “Pair of Kings.” At one point, Browning was starring on two series as she appeared on “Powers” between seasons of “Hit the Floor.” The most notoriety she has earned came from playing Sasha in the 2007 live-action release “Bratz: The Movie.”
Working on “Powers” was one of the best jobs Browning has had because the series created for PlayStation Video was filmed in her hometown and she got to play a superhero. Her character, Zora, was an inexperienced hero who had the power to manipulate light.
“I liked playing a young hero, kind of like Spider-Man, who is trying to figure out everything,” Browning says. “I didn’t grow up reading comic books, but I have always liked the comic book movies. I like the Marvel and DC Universe.”
In the case of “Powers,” Browning grew as she learned to work with the special effects. Her acting process on “Dear White People” is different and starker, as she often is alone in a radio studio booth talking to a microphone.
“I find the stillness so powerful,” Browning says. “If you are sitting behind a microphone and you clearly have something to say, you feel like it is an isolated viewpoint. When I am sitting there, I feel like that is my throne.”
The radio station is a key place for presenting big ideas, but Browning stresses the series should be looked at chiefly being about the lives, loves and losses all the characters go through. Looking at the series that way grounds the program, and the big issues are layers on top. She stresses the layering must be done right — especially because of how much satire is used — or the show will come across as forced and unnatural.
The big topics are just one of the ways “Dead White People” is a completely different job for Browning than “Hit the Floor.” The VH1 series followed the members of the Devil Girls, cheerleaders for the professional basketball team, the Los Angeles Devils. Browning played the captain and chief agitator on the squad.
Although the show focused on a dance group, Browning had no dance training and trained for months before the show filmed.
“I was just watching dances from ‘Hit the Floor’ because I love that so much. I remember how much the fans loved the show because they had never really seen this world on television,” Browning says. “I think in the same way, fans are reacting to this show, because they have never seen this world depicted in this way.”