When Dear White People season 3 hit Netflix this summer, the comedy continued its streak as one of the best-reviewed shows on television. Season 3 – for which creator Justin Simien brought his dynamic cast of students back to Winchester University for junior year – is currently rated Fresh at 89% on the Tomatometer. Still packed with biting social commentary, the storylines this year broke new ground for the characters and the narrative format.
Rotten Tomatoes spoke with star Logan Browning, who plays the bombastic and outspoken Samantha, who after two seasons hosting her campus radio show “Dear White People,” leaves her beloved show and host identity behind in the latest season. Below, the actress discusses what she’s watching on TV right now, what she and Issa Rae get up to during their epic yacht parties, and season 3 of Dear White People.
The most recent thing that I got to appointment watch was Big Little Lies, and I did that with my friend Camille because it came on every Sunday and I have HBO NOW. That’s the most recent thing I was able to watch every time it came on.
Rotten Tomatoes: How do you make time to watch it together?
We are very considerate of each other’s time. We would check in on every Saturday and be like, “Hey are you busy on Sunday? Do you want to wait to watch it on Monday?” And then we’d always alternate whose house we’re going to so no one’s having to constantly host and no one’s having to constantly make the trek to the other person’s place. And then, of course, we’d order food and we don’t start it until we have our food, which gets to be a problem sometimes because it just gets later and later when you’re waiting for your Postmates or Uber Eats delivery. And then, we try really, really hard not to pause it. We’ll look at each other at certain moments throughout the whole thing like, “Are we on the same page here?” I’ve tried multiple times to pause it and talk to Camille about it and she’s like, “No, we have to just keep going.” Yes, we have to power through and we will discuss it after just like a movie. That’s what it requires.
Well, I’m one of those people who does not have cable. I only have streaming. I have Hulu Live, but the way my life works, I never get to use it. I wouldn’t know what to DVR if I had one.
I’m in the middle of bingeing Queer Eye. I like to mix my fiction and my feel-good reality shows. I’m also in the middle of Stranger Things. I will start Fleabag soon, though, because I have heard so many great things about it.
Oh, that’s easy. Insecure season 3. That is whenever they release it — in like 2040! [laughs] I feel it’s never going to be here, but I can’t wait.
RT: Didn’t you and Issa Rae just throw a yacht party together? Did you ask her about it?
I didn’t. But I should have brought that up. Where’s my season three, sis? We mad, Issa. We mad! [laughs] No, I know, she’s busy making movies. She can live.
Jacqueline Coley for Rotten Tomatoes: Coming into season 3, it’s the students’ junior year and they’re more mature than last season. Everybody’s growing up and “growing out” in different ways. Talk about the maturity of this season.
I think that the characters have to grow. That’s a lot of what college is about: finding yourself, your voice, and just figuring out how the world wants you to behave, versus how you react to the world, versus how you want to create your own narrative for the rest of your next couple of years. All of the characters have core issues that they’ll always probably deal with. I know Justin has said this before, “As a writer, you want to create problems for your characters and then never solve them,” and I find that fascinating because in every season we just get closer to solving these problems. But ultimately, the things in our lives that we feel are our problems are really a part of something. That’s our shadow self, right? It’s a part of you that will always be with you. You just learn how to work around it, with it, and through it. That’s kind of what all these characters are doing. They have things in their lives that they come up against and they’ve just got to figure out how to work through it. The tagline of the season is: Grow by any means necessary.
RT: Samantha’s in a different place this time. Talk to me about coming back to Sam without “Dear White People” as her thing.
It’s funny. Sam was always experiencing the retaliation of the radio show at her mic. That’s gone this year and it’s difficult for Sam. Because in the long run she hopes this will be a vacation, and that whenever she’s got her life together she can come back to it. But in the end, she’s like, “I don’t know if I’m ready to really jump back into this.” And when you get to that moment, you have to decide, is this thing that I’ve created staying the same or is it going to change? That also happened with the show Dear White People too. Justin, Yvette [Lee Bowser, showrunner], all of the cast and crew have together created this series and now this season has been all about change. So now it’s like, “Well, what happens next?” Do you just keep running with that? Do you create something new? In a lot of ways Sam’s exploration this season parallels the show’s.
RT: Justin tackled two big issues within the black community this year: The “Tyler Perry effect,” in which a person may be thought to perpetuate stereotypes in the eyes of some, but in others’ estimation is an icon who fights for representation. The other issue being #MeToo through the eyes of black women. What was it like exploring those two storylines?
I very much appreciated both of the storylines. I mean, with the Tyler Perry reference, as someone who worked for the man himself and grew up in Atlanta going to Tyler Perry plays and films, I’m honestly grateful that Justin got to this point in his life where he can realize that there’s room for all of us. I appreciate it because as a Black person in America, we are all so different and we all get to consume whatever content we want. A lot of the reason I was able to be in L.A. during the writers’ strike or when I wasn’t working was because of the work I did with Tyler. And with the #MeToo storyline from every angle, everyone was super supportive. There are a lot of instances in and women’s lives — and in men’s lives — that they don’t talk about because they’re not sure if it was taboo or if they just unknowingly put themselves in an improper situation. What [Dear White People] shows is that opening up to people and having people not judge you when you are sharing those kinds of things with them allows for support, or it should. I feel that on so many levels.
RT: Dear White People has been consistently rated Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes but some still take issue with the title. What would you say to those that still cannot seem to get past the name?
Ultimately, what makes this show so great is that it exists. It’s art that dares to exist. This kind of art couldn’t and didn’t always exist on any platform. To the people who can’t get past something like the title? They truly don’t bother me. Because if you can’t get past it, then you’re not ready for it. And that’s OK because the show isn’t about that. The show’s not trying to force anyone to do anything. The show will always exist. Maybe in 30 years it won’t exist on Netflix, but it will be in the canon of television and maybe one day people will be ready for it — even if they aren’t now. But for the people who are ready for it and who’ve been craving it, they deserve to have it. They also deserve to have it in peace, but you know America.
Dear White People seasons 1-3 are now streaming on Netflix.