'Dear White People' Star Logan Browning on Speaking Out Politically, Volunteering in Swing Districts
In addition to filming the Netflix show's third season, Browning is currently starring in a video that encourages people to volunteer before the midterms: "If I choose to keep my opinions and my activism to myself then I'm not effecting any change in my time here on Earth."
Logan Browning's latest role is of a piece with her outspoken character on Netflix's Dear White People. On Justin Simien's show, Browning plays a radio host and political organizer at a tony Ivy League school who ignites frank discussion of racial tensions and advocates for change on campus. Now, as the star of a series of recent short films for progressive group Swing Left, Browning is sharing the basics of grassroots organizing and why it matters on a larger stage — in the U.S.' upcoming midterm elections.
Browning started working with the group — which organizes volunteers to support Democratic candidates in swing districts — this summer with "online academy" videos that instruct viewers on how to canvass and make calls at a phone bank. On Wednesday, a new star-studded video sees Browning joining Hillary Clinton, Kerry Washington, Mandy Patinkin, Tracee Ellis Ross, Anna Wintour, Lena Dunham, Kathryn Hahn, Uzo Aduba and more sharing why they are politically active and why viewers should volunteer before the midterms.
The goal of both Browning and the organization is to flip the House of Representatives' majority from Republican to Democrat in November's midterm elections. Though volunteering is a larger ask than, say, encouraging people to register and/or vote, as many other celebrity-fronted videos have done, Browning is optimistic that by showing people how fun volunteering can be and appealing to their Trump-era desires to get active politically: "Regardless of the outcome, just having that fight and working together toward a common goal and volunteering, you'll never forget that," she says.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter on the week of the Brett Kavanaugh Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, Browning discussed why volunteering matters, which political candidate she's most excited about and why she's not afraid that being outspoken will jeopardize her acting opportunities in Hollywood.
How did you first get involved in this short film for Swing Left?
Well, I did a series of videos for Swing Left's online academy, teaching people how to volunteer. That link was made through a mutual friend — it was nothing I really expected — and I told [Swing Left] I might be interested. It came to my attention that this video was being made, and I was really grateful to be invited to do it. That's how I first got involved and heard about it.
Why is getting people out to vote, and to volunteer their time to promote voting, important to you?
How long of a list can I make? Growing up, it was always made aware to me that voting is my privilege as well as my right, and that I always did not have that privilege and that right as a woman, and a woman of color. My parents always made me very involved when it came time for them to vote: They would show me what the process was and what they were voting for. So now that I'm in the position where I can make those choices for myself, I want to pass that on to so many other people because I know that not everyone grows up in a place where they have those resources at their fingertips. Even myself now, I'm wondering where my resources are. I just want to help other people feel like this is fun, not a difficult task and something that they should be inclined to participate in.
Are there issues that are at stake that you particularly care about this midterm election?
Just in a general sense, all of the swing districts and flipping the house means a lot to me because, granted, it's the Senate, but after today watching Kavanaugh be moved forward with his nomination by such a close margin, it just shows you how important it is who is representing the entire nation. As of right now, we're represented by a group that I don't think always has the entire nation's best interests in mind. So flipping the House is very important to me because the policies that are being made and the bills that are being passed, everything that is governing my life, does not coincide with my moral values and me as a person. They don't represent me, and they don't include me.
Are there any candidates that you're excited about this election?
I am excited about Stacy Abrams in Georgia. I'm really proud of her. I'm from Georgia, so I'm just hoping to support her, and get as many people as I can to want to support her.
What are you telling your friends and people close to you to convince them to turn out on election day this year?
It's just in the conversations that we have. Everyone that I'm friends with does not have the same party standing. For the most part, my friends are Democrats, but not everyone is, so a lot of times we just have candid conversations. Sometimes that's the best way that we can educate each other and come to our own decisions about bills and candidates and policies. But I feel like I don't have to push the people around me. By telling my friends and family that I'm really excited, that's my way of making sure they're excited, of extending that to them.
Some actresses are reluctant to speak out about their political views for fear it will jeopardize the projects they're able to star in. Why aren't you?
I am only here on this earth for a short period of time like the rest of the country and citizens, and I want the time that I spend here on earth to matter. If I choose to keep my opinions and my activism to myself then I'm not affecting any change in my time here on Earth. I do my research, and if I'm supporting something, then it's because it aligns with me morally and ethically. I have no problem with that being public: Everything about my life is already public, I've lost anonymity, so why not include my politics in that? If everyone else wants to know so much about people in the public eye, then this is included. Art and activism have always gone hand-in-hand, and artists have always been a huge part of influencing people on so many levels.
So personally, it's never really a thought to me. I guess I've never really considered it to not be an option. But even with that being said, I still make the active choice, and I'm comfortable doing that.
Do you look for projects that have a social message when you're deciding what to get involved in?
I do, and I think that they also find their way to me. But I do look for them when I am feeling a lack. For instance, when it comes to the young vote and voter suppression and being educated on your resources as a voter, I personally felt like sometimes when I'm trying to figure out who I'm going to vote for, it's very difficult. So I put myself in the general public mind-set and thought: If this is difficult for me, it must be difficult for other people; where are the resources and how can I help them to help other people? That's how I first connected with Rock the Vote, Swing Left and the ACLU. Because I found those resources and when I ran into those people who were running those organizations, I mentioned it to them and then they extended their hand.
Because you're outspoken about issues in your involvement with these organizations, has that ever jeopardized your involvement in a project, or is it generally an asset for casting?
Truly, I guess I wouldn't know if someone took me off a project. If they feel so strongly about [having apolitical talent] that they would remove me from the running, then they're not people I would want to be involved with anyway, so I thank them. As far as it being an asset possibly, I am very blessed to work for such a progressive and inclusive company like Netflix, and I would almost imagine the opposite — that If I aligned in a different way, that I would be less interested.
What are you working on now?
I just premiered a film at Fantastic Fest with Allison Williams directed by Richard Shepard that's called The Perfection, and we should have news on who's distributing that really soon. And I'm working on season three of Dear White People.
Anything else you want to add?
The volunteer aspect of voting is a big part of what this video is pushing. It's important to get out and vote, yes, and I push that as much as I can, but when I woke up the morning after realizing that 45 had been elected, I just kept asking myself, What can I do? And volunteering is something that I can do and other people can do and I just want people to know that. I want them to get how fun it can be to organize with friends and do it together. And how you'll feel the impact that you're making. Regardless of the outcome, just having that fight and working together toward a common goal and volunteering, you'll never forget that. I hope people take that away from the video and look into that.