Logan Browning is an actress of many talents. Whether she’s playing a musician in Netflix’s psychological horror The Perfection, or dancing her ass off on VH1’s Hit The Floor, she never shies away from a role.
That comes as no surprise for someone who broke into Hollywood as a teen. Browning, now 32, made her television debut in the mid 2000s on Summerland then landed her first movie role in the 2007 live-action Bratz film. A string of big- and small-screen projects later, the Georgia native joined Netflix’s Dear White People TV series in 2017, adapted from Justin Simien’s indie film of the same name. Browning stars as Samantha White (a role initially played by Tessa Thompson in the movie), a student at Winchester University, a fictional Ivy League school. Sam is known for her activism as a host for the campus radio show Dear White People, which explores race relations at the institution.
After a two-year hiatus, Dear White People‘s fourth and final season premieres today—in the form of a musical. The series, which was also created by Simien, picks up in the “not-so-distant, post-pandemic future” as the characters look back at “the most formative (and theatrical) year of their lives,” according to the synopsis. “Both an Afro-futuristic and ’90s-inspired musical event, Dear White People Vol. 4 is a can’t-miss, farewell experience with one pitch-perfect promise: Sometimes the only way to move forward is to throw it back.”
After many years of wanting to perform in a musical, Browning was all ears when she learned of the season 4 format. “I’ve auditioned for a couple of musicals in the past but never booked one before. When I heard the news, it felt surreal to be like, ‘Oh, I am already part of this project. I don’t have to audition,’” the actress laughs.
Due to the vast spread of COVID-19, Dear White People‘s season 4 production experienced halts and delays. The pandemic forced everyone to pause and learn about themselves in many ways that they haven’t before. Browning, for one, went through stages of denial, shock, disbelief, and uncertainty, and seemingly learned more about her purpose in life. While she gave into the temptation of becoming a COVID dog mom, the actress also shared her experience with guided meditations on social media. Browning had participated in meditation teacher training to work with schools in her hometown, but never thought about using her knowledge to teach people online until her 30th birthday.
“I invited a friend of mine, Donald, to my birthday. There, I had sponsored a guided meditation for all my friends. He was like, ‘You should do this online,’” the actress says. After pondering the suggestion, Browning decided to host live sessions on her Instagram. “The sessions ended up being this really cool community. It was such a mutually beneficial relationship. I felt like I was able to of service of my home. I felt like I had a purpose during the pandemic.”
As ELLE.com chatted with the actress (along with her COVID pup) via Zoom, Browning spoke about understanding the power of meditation, what fans could expect of the farewell season of Dear White People, and the next steps in her career.
Season 4 of Dear White People is the final season. How was your experience filming this time around?
Number one, gratitude. I am very grateful that we were able to film. I am grateful that our crew had jobs in the fiscal 2020 year, which we didn’t know if we were going to work. Also, I am grateful we had a fourth season. Not many shows get to do that. And I was grateful that somehow we made it through filming safely. I was excited because it was a musical. I’ve auditioned for a couple of musicals in the past, and I’ve never booked them. I’ve gotten close, but I’ve never booked one before. And it felt so surreal to be like, “Oh, I’m already a part of this project. I don’t have to audition.” [Laughs]
I love what Justin [Simien] did. I love that it is based on ’90s R&B. I love getting a chance to say goodbye to the character I have grown with over the past four or five years. Also, having this last hurrah with my castmates really feels like a collegiate experience because you’re all playing these college characters, but we’re also experiencing life together. We went through two insane presidential elections together. That’s crazy.
A light was shone globally on the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. Dear White People is known to discuss uncomfortable but yet necessary topics regarding the Black community. Will the new season unpack the racial events and discussions that occurred in 2020?
To answer your question, yes, it’s definitely present. The show is always topical. I think what will be interesting about this season is that our show is kind of ahead of the curve a bit. Somehow the writers are always writing about things that people aren’t actually talking about yet. And then you can look at the show because we’ve created this content. It’s like some kind of magical, weird thing that happens. There are things that we cover in this season that have been discussed before. But I think we go a step beyond what we experienced in 2020.
How did the preparation for the role of Sam this season differ from previous seasons?
This season, you see Sam’s senior year and also her 10 years into the future. I had to do my own work to figure out what Sam ended up being in the future, who and how she is. I looked at people in our society who I think is similar to Sam’s future self. I think that Justin’s unpacking of young Black, type-A overachievers entering society is fascinating.
When I look at the season, it ends on a light note, but not all roses. There is not necessarily a happy ending, to be honest. Black people specifically always feel like we have to work really hard to achieve things. Like we all have these goals; achieve, achieve, achieve. You’re never done—you can keep achieving. But in my opinion, season 4 explores something different.
Can fans expect a lead dancing or singing number from Sam this season?
I wish I danced more. Honestly, I miss dancing a lot. My favorite number is with John Patrick Amedori [who plays Gabe Mitchell]. I love our song. It does not necessarily qualify as a ’90s R&B song, but it is a really good song, one that everyone knows. I am so excited for people to see that.
What initially made you want to embark on your meditation journey?
It started when I was filming Hit The Floor. Katherine Bailess, Taylour Paige, and I would go to hot yoga. We were trying to make sure we were flexible and got our cardio in. At the end of yoga, we lay in the Shavasana pose. I learned that was one of the eight limbs of yoga. I became curious about meditation. I started going to DEN Meditation in L.A.
Then for my 30th birthday, I challenged myself to do 30 hours of meditation in three days. Crazy right? After that was my first introduction to meditation. I realized that I grew up in a suburb in Georgia where meditation and yoga weren’t as accessible and advertised as something beneficial to your mental health along with therapy. I wanted to be a conduit to be able to bring that work back home. That is why I started meditation teaching training.
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What is next for you?
I truly have just been spending time with myself because I’ve been working since I was 14. I’ve gone from project to project, playing different characters. I do not always get a lot of time to be me and explore myself and how I am doing. I get to do that with characters I play, which is always very fruitful and helpful, but I am taking time to be with myself and make sure I am ready in every way—health-wise, emotionally, and mentally—to take the next step in my journey. Whatever that may be. I hope that it does have more to do with producing and directing in the near distant future, but I am open to many possibilities.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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