Logan Browning Says 'Dear White People' Made Her 'Think Deeply' About Colorism

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Photo credit: LARA SOLANKI/NETFLIX - Netflix
Photo credit: LARA SOLANKI/NETFLIX - Netflix

Since its premiere in 2017, Netflix’s Dear White People has been unafraid to tackle today’s most pressing racial, social, and political issues—all through the lens of its signature sarcastic humor. The show has become a cultural force, garnering awards attention ranging from nominations for the 2017 Gotham Independent Film Award for Best Breakthrough Series - Long Form to the 2020 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series.

With the fourth and final season launching today on Netflix, BAZAAR.com sits down with actress Logan Browning, who plays the ultra-woke, passionately determined, and refreshingly complicated student activist Samantha White. In a way, Browning’s life has mirrored her work onscreen. Like Samantha, she’s dedicated time to being an advocate for Black voices and women’s rights, and has used her platform to stress the importance of mental well-being and self-care. “I think [Samantha White] learned how to not let the Internet beat her down, not let other people beat her down, to take things in stride,” Browning says of her character. “The new season shows her evolution.”

Below, Browning talks about the making of Dear White People’s last season, her favorite on-set memories, and what’s next for her.

How has your character developed over the seasons, from 2017 to now? Do you feel you've grown as a person alongside your role as Sam?

I've given this character five years of my life, so it's inevitable that Sam and I have grown together side by side. I'm older than Sam, so where I'm growing and how I'm growing is a bit different. But I've learned a lot from her. I think one of the biggest things I've learned is every choice I make makes a difference. Even the ones that seem very small make a huge difference. And that I do have a choice. I used to accept a lot of things without questioning them, and Sam has made me question and act more.

The thing that Sam has taught me the most about is colorism, and the part that I play, and how I can have a more active role in speaking up. For example, I will get sent an audition for a role and be like, "I don't know if I should play this. I don't know if this role should be played by someone who looks like me." And then, I'll literally throw names back and be like, "Maybe the casting director should look at these people." I would've never thought to do that before. I would be like, "Yeah, this has landed on my desk, my table. Okay, great. I'll just audition for it." Period. No second thought. Sam has made me think a lot more deeply about my choices.

This season, there's a whole new format. What was it like adapting to the new musical elements of the show?

I loved it. I got a voice coach to work with me. I love singing. I'm the kind of person who thinks I can sing regardless of what anyone else thinks, so I was like, "Yes!” I've auditioned for so many musicals, and I've gotten close to some of them, but never booked them. I really got to stretch my talents!

Dear White People is one of Netflix's longest-running series. What do you feel has made the show such a hit?

I didn't even know when we started what we were really getting into. Netflix wasn't what it is today. Absolutely not. And Dear White People had legs already, because it was a film first—but it still had a very niche audience. After 2020, when people were looking for answers, they were looking at Dear White People. But I still feel like it hasn't even touched the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, of the impact it can make. I think that we really won't see that for another decade. There's so many shows you can look back on and point to that had their big moments long after the show ended, and I think that this is one of them. Later and down the line … it's going to have another moment. I feel that in my soul.

Both onscreen and off, you've always been an advocate for Black voices, women's voices, LGBTQ voices, and voters' rights. How would you say you use your art as activism?

It's in the choices that I make—and that means a lot of things. Like when it comes to my art, I want to choose roles that either have something to say or put me in a place, maybe I've never seen someone who looks like me before, or I hardly see people who look like me. I feel like when it comes to art and entertainment, what people see is so important. How people are represented and who is represented in entertainment and media is the defining factor for some people.

The truth is there will never be a day when everyone has a seat at the table, and I hope people realize that. I hope people never get complacent in thinking that we've hit all the boxes. The world is so incredibly multifaceted that we will never have enough seats at the table. It will never be filled. It has to constantly evolve. Art and activism has to constantly evolve together. The moment that you think you've done it all, you've lost.

Do you feel reflective as the show's last season approaches? What would you say your greatest on-set memory has been?

Hands down, my favorite season is Season 2. I felt like that was the season that everyone got to showcase their talents and to see all the characters. In Season 2, Episode 8, I did a bottle episode with John Patrick. And we had the shortest amount of time to film that episode—I think we had four days, whereas usually we have about a week. I'll never forget all of the rehearsals that we did and how much everyone really cared about the work.

Honestly, the best part is we hang out and we have way too much fun. The other thing I think about is all of the directors that we've been able to work with, who went on to do bigger things. The fact that I got to do Episode 9 of Season 2 with Janicza Bravo, who did Zola! Or Tiffany Johnson, who directed a couple of our episodes. I'm going to look back and go, "I worked with them. That's so cool."

Do you think you will explore any new creative ventures outside of acting?

Yes! Directing and just filmmaking in general is something I've always been really passionate about. I had this little digital version of a Super 8 camera as a kid, and that was way before I was acting. I think that I fell in love with acting, because I wanted to be a part of the filmmaking process. But when I look back, I believe that my little self wanted to be a part of the process as the filmmaker. So I want to honor what I think she wanted and continue to pursue that in terms of directing and producing. And I have a lot of talented people in my life who don't always get to work. I want to hire my friends and the people around me.

My family is entrepreneurial in spirit. My grandpa, when I was growing up, had a hair care business. He created his own hair care line. I know I have some things that I want to put into the world to make it a better and more sustainable and brighter place. Every entrepreneurial dream I have falls under that category in some way or another.

Are you working on any new projects?

I've been working since I was 14. I'm 32 now. I've had lots of hiatuses, meaning like lots of moments between one job and the next. And as an actor, as a freelance artist, it can become very overwhelming and anxiety inducing to wonder what your next project is. The thing that I've learned through all of these years is that there will always be another project. So instead of spending my time hustling and trying to find the next thing, I love taking this time to be with myself, to take care of my health, my mental, my emotional, my physical space that gets neglected when I'm working too much. That's kind of the thing that I'm focused, really focused on at the moment.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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