It's mid-afternoon in Cali, the multi-faceted London Brown hops on the line. After a comedic reminiscent about Ramona's Burritos, a local gem in Los Angeles. I was able to catch up with Actor, Photographer, Comedian and Community Advocate. From teaching kids in Los Angeles to capturing amazing images behind his lens and hosting stand up comedy at the Comedy Union, I quickly realized Mr.Brown is clearly the epitome of black excellence within the arts and the community. This man is BUSY! His most recent project playing Reggie in Season 4 of Ballers, premieres this Sunday, August 12th 10 pm on HBO and ya girl was able to snag a few pointers for you guys to prep you before this seasons touchdown!
Q: Growing up in South Central, how did the environment impact you? There’s always this pre-conceived notion that inevitably if you are from a certain area, from the ghetto, that you are going to be a statistic and you are put in this box; How did you fight against the grain?
Honestly, the block I grew up on; I stayed next door to crips, five houses down from another set of crips, and I went to Washington High School. Walking to school I passed all kinds of hoods. One thing my mom did do, that she still does that is effective today, she prayed that God would keep me so busy that I wouldn’t have time to be caught up in the streets. My life has been busy very early on. When I was going to Washington High School, I had checked into Washington a month late because I was touring doing theatre. When I checked into Washington I continued doing theatre and got into this thing called acting. Throughout high school, I was still touring each summer doing theatre. I think a lot of people in the hood get caught up in the hood because they haven’t been exposed to anything. I was open to trying the arts. I have always been an artist but (what kept me from the streets) was me wanting something better, because I had known everyone around me was either getting shot or going to jail. Also growing up, I learned how to cut hair, I cut hair at rehab centers. So I have always been tied to street people and the street life because I was always around them. Being around them I always felt comfortable, but it also made me very aware of the way things can go if I don’t figure out what I want to do. The arts saved me.
Q: I also read that you are a community advocate, can you articulate about the impact you made on the community?
A: One of the things that I do is feed the homeless. This started because I use to teach at the afterschool program in Gardena and when I was there I would notice the kids would throw away the snacks that I would give them. Every day I would see piles of food in the trash, so I was like this food shouldn’t go to waste because it’s still good. So, I would take the food that they didn’t want to skid row. When I would hand them their food and see how gracious they were to eat that food, it opened me up a lot more to do something for people who didn’t have much. That’s one level of it, another level is the fact that I was working as a teacher at the afterschool program as well as an official teacher. I realized that it was important for me to go back and teach at these schools I went to, so these kids would know that you don’t have to be a product of your environment. I went to Bret Harte middle school so I was walking distance from the school I attended, as well as the school that I came back to teach for. I thought that it was important for them to understand that they not dealing with somebody from someplace far off from the hood. Someone that’s coming back from some program to pay off some school loans or something like that. I was actually from the hood, I’m right there with them, I walked home with them. I was in the same environment, so I understand the dynamics. I didn’t grow up with my biological father, I know all of those dynamics of needing a strong male around so that you can keep your mind together. I think also my whole thing with working afterschool programs was to teach them all the stuff that I can do, whether it’s a barbering class an editing class, I think at one point I did a skating class; whatever I’m able to do I just want to teach them, give them something that will allow them to have a focus, because a lot of kids from the hood don’t know what they want to be because they haven’t been exposed to anything. When I grew up in the eighties the only things that I thought I could be was a doctor, lawyer, teacher or play sports. No one told me that I could do photography or I could do the same thing as the people I’m watching on TV. So, it was very important for me to open them up to these ideas of things outside of sports and being a rapper. It’s a lot of things that you can do right if you are from the hood if you start early enough.
Q: You do a lot you’re a comedian you do photography you are also an actor What arena did you start working within in first? How did it transition to multiple arenas?
I think the first thing was my ability to draw. Initially, I thought that was what I was going to be an animator for Disney, I was really set on that. When you are black, you end up being a musician because we have rhythm anyway, we just come from that, it’s in our culture it’s in our blood. Playing drums and instruments is not really that far off for us. So, I was playing drums and keys for the church, and then when I got into high school I signed up for a keyboard class but I didn’t know keyboard meant typing so I signed up for the class thinking it was keyed piano! They said the class was full but we got a theatre class. I was like alright bet I’ll try this theatre thing. From there that really planted the seed in acting at Washington (high school). The director name was Mark Swinton. When I did some of my first plays that are when I realized I can get a reaction from the audience from being on stage. That’s key because that seed of getting that reaction and making people laugh from doing a play grew into what I do now which is standup. I didn’t make the connection at the time, but years later the school was doing a fundraiser to raise money for the kids, a comedy show. I asked about it and the assistant principal just signed me up for it. Once I did it, I thought THIS is the thing I'm supposed to do, this is my voice. I did a lot of artistic things but I didn’t feel like it was my voice, I could just DO them. I always felt like our gifts aren’t for us, I don’t have a bunch of gifts or feel I’m super talented because I have a bunch of things I can do. I feel like, God gives us gifts so we can give them away. That ties back to why I was working with an afterschool program. I can give away those gifts to students in the hood so it can spark something in them. I do have ex-students who cut hair today, students who do photography professionally and we run into each other professionally.
Q: Tell us about your character Reggie on Ballers, how have his character attributes changed from season to season?
A: "When we (the producers and I) set out for Reggie to be a lead in the show, let alone have a few scenes. Through the audition process, through my improve-ing, we kind of pieced Reggie together. They knew at some point that Reggie would be a best friend to friend who's in the league and he has some trifling ways, but on set, we started to find a good flow for Reggie. We were writing stuff- and I say we because they were with the pen but I was improve-ing and they would keep the stuff. Reggie became an antagonist of season one. They were able to give Reggie room to grow (thereafter). This upcoming season, we get to see Reggie grow on the mature side and have more of a voice. "
Q: Ballers navigate through the politics of the sports industry, including contracts. What are your thoughts about contracts within the sports and entertainment industry?
A: "Athletes definitely have to learn how to invest their money because none of that stuff lasts. What I do think is unfair, I don't see enough respect for the players the ones that are putting the physical work on the field, on the court; I think the tone of how they are treated should be better. They just treat them like a commodity or something ' like yo I'm not a return shirt don't just be bringing me back with the receipt let me know like yo you didn't fit yo the sleeves!' It's not how much about what they do it's how they do it. I wish within the contracts players had a lot more say so in the decisions that affect their livelihood. "
Q: How is the chemistry on set on Ballers?
A: "There isn't any negative energy and we attribute this to Dwayne Johnson because he is very humble, very down to earth and always have this positive energy. (It is) something that affects everybody, from the producer to the director. If anybody had an ego he can have one and nobody would 'trip' because he's the biggest star right now. Everyone on set is cool, its the kind of energy where you don't mind getting up at five/four every morning to get to work every day."
Q: What can we expect from you in the latter half of 2018?
A: "Right now I'm on tour, but when I am in the city I host a comedy club called the Comedy Union that is in LA that is a black-owned comedy club. I also played a paralyzed athlete in a film called Asia A that's doing well in film festivals right now."
We hope you all stay tuned with London Brown, follow him on Instagram @reallondonbrown. Also, be sure to tune into HBO's Ballers this Sunday, Aug.12th at 10 pm!