In the Netflix original comedy series, Dear White People, you will find serious undertones about race and politics. Set at an Ivy League college that’s predominantly white, a group of students encounter various forms of racial discrimination and find that their college isn’t as “post-racial” as they were led to believe.
With season two now streaming on Netflix, we chatted with the cast in Los Angeles about what’s to come. John Patrick Amedori, Ashley Blaine Featherson, Logan Browning and Marque Richardson talk about their characters’ journeys and how the series has evolved.
What does it feel like now that season two is out?
Ashley: It feels fun and exciting. Season two has such a better response than season one immediately because people already know that they like the show. This is a moment I really prayed for, it’s so exciting. To be an actor and to be on a show that’s so important and to be so well-received, it’s an actor’s dream and I’m in such a place of gratitude.
It’s one thing to be on a really successful show, but it’s also an important show that contributes to the conversation in such a prominent way. Is it different from what you’ve experienced in the past?
John: It’s very rare that something comes along and reflects what’s going on in the world. We shot this months ago and it’s still very relevant to what’s going on now.
Ashley: And for me, I feel like it spoiled me a bit because I’m like, “I’m not just going to do any show that be talking about nothing after doing this!” I want to make sure that the art that I choose to involve myself with is art that is inspiring somebody else and isn’t frivolous. I feel like I would be doing myself a disservice to not continue on this path of doing projects that matter.
Let’s talk about Reggie and Joelle since it took so long for you both to get together!
Ashley: Twenty episodes.
Marquee: And a movie!
Ashley: Yeah, twenty episodes and a movie! (laughs)
Marquee: College is a messy place. We are messy characters with relationships.
Ashley: This is how relationships are, it’s crazy. The time when it would have been really beautiful for them to be together was just not working. And now they’re in such different places, but that’s crazy because not that much time has passed, which goes to show that things can change so fast. Now it feels like it’s going to be harder for them to make it work because of what they’re both dealing with. I’m excited to see what that might be in season three.
Since we talked about one relationship, what about the other one? Sam and Gabe?
John: I think they broke down a lot of walls in episode eight. I think Sam and Gabe are in a place where they can be really vulnerable with each other. Gabe has learned not to insinuate himself so much into her space. I think he not only empathizes a lot more, but definitely respects Sam. I know he has a very honest love for her. I think because of that they’ll have a more mature friendship.
Logan: What I really like about Sam and Gabe is that you see how much Sam needs Gabe. You see how much she needs all of her relationships. I don’t think she would survive without her Joelle, without her Reggie, without her Coco. She literally wouldn’t. She’s the kind of person who needs support, needs different people to bounce ideas off of her. With Gabe, it’s interesting because in episode 10 they end up right back where they started, which is undefined. They both matured in different ways and are kind of in the same boat now.
What impact or conversation do you think the show would have?
John: I think the episodes just lend a hand to the conversation. Like in Joelle’s episode, in a matter of minutes we go from colorism to sexism. These are personal stories coming from our writers that transcend the writers’ room.
Marquee: The show doesn’t spoon-feed the audience anything. It kind of leaves the arc with you guys. So that’s the whole point from the beginning — to spark a conversation. The show is the perfect catalyst to keep these conversations going.
We also chatted with Brandon P. Bell, who plays Troy Fairbanks, and Antoinette Robertson, who plays Colandrea “Coco” Conners.
What has the reception been like so far?
Brandon: Really good!
Antoinette: Yeah, really good! I posted on Instagram about who watched it and some people are like, “I finished it!” and it had just come out at midnight. And there are people who are about to watch it again. It’s all been really positive. The people who were apprehensive to watch it last season, because of the title, have kind of gotten to a place where after checking it out have realized, “Oh wait, it’s not attacking white people!”
Season one was focused on establishing the show and season two you got to play a lot more. What was the most fun thing about going to that deeper level with your characters?
Brandon: Exactly what you said. They threw in a lot of stuff this season from secret societies to mushroom trip to Coco’s time travelling to Reggie’s PTSD hallucination. We got to go deeper in a more progressive, creative way, which lends itself to actors to let loose a bit more. They are trusting us with it and to have fun with it. And we did!
Brandon, what are your feelings about who Troy is now after his existential crisis?
It was like a baptism, right? He went through all that to get washed off his sins and come anew, but he’s never been allowed to explore that, so he’s like a puppy dog. The scary part is that he’s never had that freedom, it’s liberating but where do you go? But that’s exciting because he can go anywhere. He’s going through a journey of self-discovery. It’s refreshing because he shed his mask of whatever he was that his dad wanted him to be. I’m excited to see where it goes.
What surprised you about your character’s storyline in season two when you first got the script?
Antoinette: You know what, I didn’t really anticipate anything with them [writers] because we know how brilliant they are. I had no idea. They took me aside and let me know episode four was going to happen. They said, “Listen, this is what we want to discuss. How do you feel? We know you can do this.” I was like, “I feel great about it.” And then I read it and was like, “Oh my god! You’re going to let me do this. That’s so amazing!” I feel like we don’t get to have these conversations about women’s health without judgment. We live in a world that has a tendency to judge women for every choice that they make, whether you choose to wear your hair straight vs. curly, natural vs. weave. It sucks that the world wants to put us in these boxes so they feel comfortable about who we are instead of letting us spread our wings and fly. So I was really excited to have these conversations because it’s a conversation starter for all women like when we start listing the states where you couldn’t have an abortion even if you wanted to. We do it with comedic undertones, but still it hits home. Like, “Wow, if you do live in these states, you don’t have a choice.” There is probably a list of men making a decision about what you can do with your body. And to explore it in such a delicate way, but also to keep the authenticity intact so that you know that she’s saying, “Listen, I’m not the girl who does this, but I’m also not the girl who does that. Where does that put me on the spectrum without judgment?” I enjoyed exploring that.