While the first season of Netflix’s Dear White People introduced the characters and conflict at the center of the series — a group of black students at a mostly white, faux–Ivy League college navigating a campus simmering with racial tension, social injustice, cultural bias, and more — the second dove much deeper into the inner lives of these hard-working Winchester University students — overachieving future politicians, future investigative journalists, and more.
Rotten Tomatoes met with stars Logan Browning (Sam), Ashley Blaine Featherson (Joelle), Antoinette Robertson (Coco), Brandon P. Bell (Troy), Marque Richardson (Reggie), DeRon Horton (Lionel), and John Patrick Amedori (Gabe), who discussed their characters’ pivotal moments in season 2 and what they’re most excited to see in a potential third season.
After a season of dancing around each other post-breakup, Sam and her ex-boyfriend Gabe finally hooked up again.
“But even after we were together and we don’t know what we’re doing,” she says. “Which honestly, it’s almost like a full circle, and sometimes relationships do that. We’re laying in a bed, what are we?”
In the final episode, the outspoken Sam faced off against a popular conservative commentator during an on-campus debate. The commentator was played by none other than Tessa Thompson, who originated the role of Sam in the Dear White People movie.
“I’ve been a fan of Tessa’s for a really long time. I’ve always been able to see myself in the characters she plays, this one included, so to just play opposite her was dope,” she said. “I feel like from an outside perspective, watching someone who is literally having a scene with a person playing a role that they did already, that was incredible. That was so cool! To be honest, I think the three of us, me, myself, Justin [Simeon, creator], and Tessa just wished we had more time because we had to shoot that scene so quickly.”
After budding journalist Lionel teamed up with radio host Sam to investigate the mysterious Xes they’d seen around campus, they came face-to-face with Giancarlo Esposito — the series’ narrator.
“Lionel and Sam, they are seeing a lot of Xes, and Lionel is realizing that there is a lot of hidden things at Winchester that he wants to uncover. He’s realizing that a lot of the systematic racism is stemming from the secret societies — or at least he thinks so. So, I think Sam is going to help him uncover that and now there is this elite group of people … and the narrator’s come in. I guess that’ll be a window into what the secret societies are about. I would hope!”
No longer a buttoned-up future politician, Troy hasn’t been the same since he threw a chair through the window in a riot that ended the first season. In the second season, Troy embraced the slacker life and even tried his hand at stand-up comedy.
“I like the different dynamic — the dynamic of, like, picture perfect versus just a mess and unsure. As an actor its fun because it’s two sides of the same person. It was great to play, because even though he has a sense of liberation when he shattered the window, he’s still in turmoil. He’s masking that by drinking, partying, because he doesn’t want to deal.”
As for the stand-up, “Me and Marque, who plays Reggie, took stand up classes just as an exercise. It’s extremely difficult. You have to really like, not care, and its easier said than done. Because when you get up there and nobody laughs at what’s funny with your friends, you instantly get insecure. Instantly. And there’s nothing you can do to mask that other than to practice it. So, I’ll say out of respect for the medium, I suck at stand up comedy. It is so hard.”
Coco’s episode focused on her decision of whether or not to have an abortion. And after a flash-forward, fantasy future in which she had the child, she snapped back to the present and decided to terminate her pregnancy.
“I’m super proud of her for being courageous enough to listen to her heart and her feelings and not let anyone else — not society, her family, whatever the case may be — dictate what she decided to do with her body. I think that’s a big deal. Especially when we see through the flash-forward episode, the Sliding Doors [moment], you see that she could either live vicariously through her daughter, or she could choose herself and give herself the potential to reach the height of success that she’s always dreamt of, so I’m happy that she chose herself. And I’m super proud of her for being courageous and doing so.”
Joelle not only repaired her friendship with roommate Sam, but she also (finally!) hooked up with Reggie.
On Joelle and Reggie: “As a fan of the show, I was happy that they finally got together. And I don’t know what’s going to happen going forward, but I think that moment was still pretty satisfying. And I like that it wasn’t so easy. It wasn’t just like, oh now they’re [together]. They had a conversation, they still went through nine episodes in the second season playing at it.”
On Joelle and Sam: “Logan and I are really good friends in real life, so it just is always a joy to play besties. … You realize that now that they live together, despite how close they were in season one, that they were hiding things that just have to come up and have to be addressed because they’re four feet away from each other.”
On Gabe and Sam’s future: “I don’t know where it’ll go, but I do think they’ll both be a little bit mature in how those situations with each other from now on. It really broke down a lot of emotional walls with each other.”
On what he learned about his character: “I just learned more about Gabe’s conviction, his motivation. He’s an emotional person. He’s very susceptible to Sam’s emotions and her struggles even though he doesn’t understand it. I just learned more about how much he’s willing to put himself out there to be an example, which may or may not come into play later on in season 3 or something, but I think that’d be cool to explore more, because I feel like that’s a strength of his, is his empathy, and his willingness to put himself out there.”
On what he learned about his character: “I learned that Reggie really doesn’t know who he is at all, or who he wants to be, which I think is blocking his healing — especially going through the PTSD and still having that façade of badass, tough guy, whatever, and not fully leaning in to his vulnerability with other people and even himself. He hasn’t even gone there yet, so we’ll see how it all plays out.”
Bell: “I want to see more about Lionel’s heritage. Because it’s obvious how important and influential our upbringing is. Like, Coco not getting enough from her mother. Troy’s dad, this is the result of that, and Lionel is still kind of a mystery. We found out in season 1 his dad left really early.”
Howard: “I want to see that! I mean, I feel like a lot of times for people of that demographic, who find themselves later on, find out, ‘Oh, I like this rather than that.’ I think there’s a coming-to-Jesus moment sometimes, or that’s what I’ve heard and studied. And, I feel like there’s a certain point in life they realize, ‘Oh, that’s it.’ I’m curious to see when did he discover that?”
Robertson: “I want to see Coco have more fun. I just do. I feel like everything was so heavy this season that when you saw her with Kurt there was this moment that you saw this giggly Coco that you really haven’t ever seen before. You saw Colandrea, maybe, a little bit more. The guard was down more, but seeing Coco, still vixen outside, but giggle when a boy kissed her, even though its not serious, was nice to see her life after an abortion. She made a decision, and she wasn’t in a room with her head down and super depressed. It was, ‘I’m going to go out, and I’m going to live my life, and I’m going to be true to myself and what I want.’ And I love that.”
Richardson: “More car chases.”
Featherson: “I’m excited about the Order of X, and I’m also excited to see what happens with Giancarlo.”
Browning: “I’m excited for more group scenes because in season 1, the groups were all pitted against each other. Season 2, there was all of us coming together. So with season 3, now we get to play. It would be fun to have more group scenes where everyone is interacting again in a space where they’re not butting heads.”
Featherson: “I’m excited to see if Coco and Sam stay friends, or if they are friends. I don’t really know what’s going on. That’s exciting. Oh, Joelle and Coco too.”
Amedori: “Troy doing his stand-up.”
Dear White People seasons 1 and 2 are now available on Netflix.