Logan Browning doesn’t know what to wear. When she calls from Los Angeles, the Atlanta-born actor quickly reveals that she’s debating between outfit choices for a charity gala—one that’ll no doubt result in a flurry of photos online within hours. “I’m still figuring that out,” she says of her red-carpet style. “I feel strong in any look that’s somewhere between comfortable and bossy—androgynous even.” With her lead role as Samantha “Sam” White on Netflix’s Dear White People, her status as one to watch in Hollywood, however, is firmly established.
In its second season, the satirical drama set at the fictional Ivy League school Winchester University sees college radio host Sam and her classmates still grappling with racism, cultural biases, cyber-bullying, and social injustice. But this time, campus crusader Sam is in a much more vulnerable place than she was when the series—based on writer-director Justin Simien’s 2014 film of the same name—began. “I really wanted to crack her shell, and they did,” says Browning, 29. “I didn’t want people watching the show to perceive every young activist as a person with no softcore. I wanted to explore the softer [side] of
someone who is the face of a movement.”
Browning—an activist in her own right—says she learned to let go of her fixation with wanting to make sure her character was entirely unlike herself while making the sophomore season. “I put way too much pressure on myself to try to make us so distinct,” says the actor, an advocate for LGBTQ rights who stands against gun violence and police brutality. “The truth is, I’ve been working for 14 years and had the opportunity to play characters that are unlike myself. So if there is this one character that is closer to me, I realized that I don’t have to fight it.” When this writer suggests that the comparison is largely flattering, given her small-screen alter ego’s ambitions, the actor counters: “She has her issues. But that girl is brilliant, and a lot of people are drawn to her. I don’t mind being like her.” Still, she likens being expected to have all the answers when it comes to standing against injustice to graduating without having taken all the classes. Playing Sam has taught Browning to listen more—as a woman, an actor, and an activist.”
The actor has more character work ahead in the upcoming thriller The Perfection, which co-stars Get Out’s Allison Williams. She also hopes to eventually step behind the camera. “Directing is definitely something that I dream of doing,” she says. “Directors are my favourite people on a set because they’re the captains of the ship. I’m fascinated [by them].” In her career so far, Browning can count Girls’ Richard Shepard, as well as Barry Jenkins, the Oscar-winning director of Moonlight, among the filmmakers she’s worked with and observed. When she’s not on set or doing her part to learn about how she can tackle headline-making issues, Browning says, her Instagram feed reminds her of the lovely, less emotionally taxing vignettes in the world. “To be honest, that is part of my self-care. If I don’t curate the things that I know stimulate me in a positive way, then I know I’m going to be inundated with negative images,” she says. “I curate those pretty, beautiful, artistic things to fill me up.” Airy interior design photography and bossy, androgynous outfit inspiration included.
Styling by Apuje Kalu.
Hair and makeup by Saisha Beecham.
Dress by Lei Lou by Alex Dojcinovic; earrings by Kate Spade.