London Brown portrays Reggie on one of the most successful series on HBO, Ballers. The fourth season of Ballers is currently airing on HBO, and Reggie is one of the show’s more controversial characters. Brown is also an accomplished stand-up comedian, musician, and he is currently working on a coffee table book of his photography to help the homeless. But if you were to talk with London Brown, you probably wouldn’t know all of that because he is so humble.
This reporter has had the pleasure of interviewing dozens of celebrities. The majority of the celebrities that I have spoken to are very kind and, for the most part, down to Earth. I have never spoken to anyone, celebrity or otherwise, humbler and more appreciative of his success than London Brown. I recently spoke with the talented artist and we discussed Ballers, his stand-up career, his upcoming book, and how he is handling heavy emotions from a recent tragedy. London Brown is a lot of things, but at the end of the day, he’s just a regular guy from South Central, Los Angeles.
Carter Lee: What’s up London? How are you, sir?
London Brown: Just getting down with you. How are you, man?
CL: I’m doing well. I really appreciate your time today.
LB: No, no, no, thank you. I appreciate that you would even want to talk with me. I appreciate it.
CL: Oh, for sure! I first became a fan of yours when you were in The Hustle on Fuse.
LB: [Laughing] Man, don’t say that. I appreciate you. People slept on The Hustle. I think that people think all of a sudden, ‘Oh, you’re working with Dwayne [Johnson] just overnight.’ They don’t understand, so I appreciate that.
CL: My pleasure! I see some parallels between Reggie from Ballers and D from The Hustle, as they are both characters going for their dreams. They are different characters, for sure, but I feel like they may be apropos as a reflection for your own life because you chased your dreams and you’re a success story. Do you see any similarities between yourself and those two characters that you portrayed?
LB: Exactly! I think what you pointed out was one of the main things, which was Reggie just trying to figure it out and work it out. As far as London, me as a person, I’m on that hustle, so London’s life parallels with D from The Hustle. I’m on that grind, and the grind is the attitude that Reggie has, which is to make sure that he looks out for his friends, and to make sure that his friends aren’t taken advantage of.
I know people are super annoyed by Reggie. I’ve had people try to fight me physically in person after Season 1 because they don’t separate London from the character, and I understand that. What I explain to them is, ‘Yo, I come from theater. I’m theatrically trained, and I try to make these characters come to life for real.’
I was in Inglewood, and a guy was mean-mugging me from across the room, and he comes up to me and says, ‘Hey man, I thought you was the dude that stole my girl. I realized you’re the dude on the show. Man, I like your character. Good work.’ I was like, ‘Whew.’ [Laughing] He looked like he just got out [from prison] an hour ago. So, I’m glad people can watch the show and be emotionally invested in Reggie.
It was cool that HBO allowed me to create and provide, and we developed Reggie because Reggie was only supposed to be in a couple of episodes. He wasn’t a lead, and he’s supposed to be fat. So, the fact that I’m not fat and they made me a lead, I’ve got to credit that to HBO for being cool and for them letting me get busy. I appreciate them for just being super cool.
— ballers (@BallersHBO) July 15, 2017
CL: That’s also a credit to your performance. Obviously, you blew them away with your performance for them to continue writing in your character and giving Reggie a significant role in Ballers.
LB: Right. Absolutely.
CL: I personally never found Reggie that annoying. Maybe I’m supposed to, but I just relate to him a bit too much. I just see him as an average human being in the way that we are all shades of grey, and he is doing the best that he can. There are good things about everyone and negatives about everyone.
LB: Right, right, right! As a theatrical actor, my job is to make sure I create a backstory and make the character relevant because there’s a lot of talented people on the show and I just want to stand out, and without being over the top, make something real and for people just to feel me. It’s good that people feel me.
CL: There’s so many things to like about Ballers; the writing is awesome; the direction of the story is sharp, of course; it has a phenomenal cast, and it’s also a great platform for African-American actors to be featured because, unfortunately, we’re in a time—well, it’s always been the case—that there’s simply not enough programming featuring black artists.
LB: Right! I think HBO’s really great for that. Shout-out to HBO for doing Insecure because Insecure is an all-black cast, and the showrunner Prentice Penny booked me for my first TV gig, The Hustle, and also Y’lan Noel in The Hustle. So, it was really dope to come full circle that we’re both on HBO a few years later.
The roles in Hollywood get cast 70 percent to white actors. This is factual, I don’t want you thinking this is an opinion, 75 percent of speaking roles get cast to white actors, and some of the diverse roles get cast to them as well. So, I think HBO is really dope to be able to diversify a show like Ballers.
Dwayne [Johnson] is African-Samoan, so him being the lead of the show—when he started the show he was like at 20 million followers. Now, he’s like at 100 plus something, something, something, million followers [Laughs]. He’s so dope, but what makes Dwayne cool is that he has no ego. He approaches the set really cool, calm, and collected. He’s super chill, and that transcends on the set. I know that HBO wouldn’t have even hired him if he was an A-hole. He’s super cool.
I think we can get more of the world to come to the idea of, ‘Hey, let’s drop the hate. Let’s drop the racism. Let’s come together, and we can work, and we can build, and appreciate other people for their differences.’ That’s what I’m on. I don’t have a hiccup about anything; I just wish that everything was fair. That’s all London’s about. I just want things to be fair. I’m from South Central, L.A. I’m from the hood, and I got a spot on HBO. I want things to be fair. That’s it. I’m not about nothing else. Let’s build, let’s vibe, and let’s grow together.
— Digi-Dude Nate (@DigiDudeNate) November 3, 2017
CL: Beautifully said. Let’s talk a little bit about your upbringing and past, as I find you very inspirational. A couple of years ago, you shared a heart-wrenching story about the loss of your baby brother, Wendell Lee, when you were filming Ballers. My deep condolences go out to you. I’ve lost people very close to me. We obviously don’t get over it, we just adjust.
That must have been a whirlwind for you. You have a dream coming true at the same time that you have such a huge loss going on in your life, and you worked so hard to improve your situation from the environment that you grew up in. How are you doing now? How do you reflect on your own journey of where you came from to where you are at now?
LB: I’m very sad, man. Everyday, there’s a part of me that’s very sad and I don’t forget. As far as my brother, it put me in an interesting dichotomy because I was filming Season 2. Right before Season 2, my brother was murdered. [Deep breath] For me, I didn’t cry until the last day of shooting, which I think was Episode 2, where Reggie shoots his best friend, cousin with a paintball gun and injures his cousin. I remember that day of shooting. I cried under the mask because nobody could see me cry and I didn’t feel safe.
Dude, I hadn’t cried up until my brother’s murder outside of acting. I thought something was wrong with me medically. I remember asking the doctor if something was wrong because when you grow up in the hood, you’re conditioned not to cry. So, I didn’t know how to cry. I say that because in Season 2, I didn’t cry while I was away in Miami filming. I held my tears until that last day of shooting, and I cried under the mask. The people I was shooting with, I know they cared about me, but I didn’t think they could relate, so I didn’t really cry until I got back to L.A.
When I cried, I always had to make sure somebody was around me because I didn’t know how to cry, because I had never gone through that before. Early, we’re trained, and we’re conditioned, we don’t cry when we feel pain. So, when I felt this pain, I didn’t know how to cry. I know that sounds weird, but I didn’t know how to cry by myself. I didn’t cry by myself because I didn’t feel comfortable, so the only time I cried is when I cried with someone.
So, since then, there’s a part of me that’s very sad. Like, even during this interview, I’m very saddened because a lot of interviews haven’t addressed it before. It’s a part of my life, and I just try to remain very focused so that hopefully I can inspire others to get theirs and be on top, but a part of me is always very sad. He was 25. He went to college. He played for D-league, but he was good enough that he was going to make The Lakers. That wasn’t even a question.
CL: Man, I really appreciate you sharing all that. My heart goes out to you. Well, let’s talk about something a little lighter. Leave it to me to depress the celebrity I’m interviewing.
LB: No, no, no, you’re fine. You are a cool dude. I’m very transparent in these interviews because people don’t know me, and I understand that they don’t, so it’s good. This is good. Don’t worry.
CL: I appreciate you. Well, you’re also an accomplished stand-up comedian, and I enjoy your work. How often do you still do stand-up?
LB: I do clubs every night. If I can do two a night, I do them. I do them as often as I can because with stand-up, we’ve got to work jokes in front of people. For example, Carter—and that’s a dope name. That’s my nephew’s name. My nephew turned one, like a week ago. So, Carter is dope—if you said, ‘I’m getting married on September 1, and London, I want you to make a cake for me.’ I can burn 12 cakes between now and August 31, and nobody would know. Come September 1, I could have you a perfect cake and you’d be like, ‘Yo, this cake is incredible.’
The thing with stand-up is, take the same analogy, we’ve gotta burn cakes in front of people. We try our material, and we don’t know if this stuff works. We don’t know. We’ve got to try this stuff out in front of people, and people come with their judgements and everything else. Then we work it out, we work it out, and we work it out, so that on September 1, when we shoot a special, or we’re going on Conan or whatever it is, then the crowd will be like, ‘Dang, that guy is funny.’ But they don’t know that we had to work out our material.
There are clips on YouTube of Dave Chappelle being booed, and people think, ‘Aw man, he’s not funny anymore.’ No. They don’t understand that Dave Chappelle—shout-out to Dave Chappelle, he’s a super cool dude—he’s working out material. We’ve got to work out material in front of y’all [Laughing]. We can’t practice at home and be good. Nonetheless, I don’t want to be vociferous about it, but the point is, is that with what I do, I just want to be good at it.
Warning: The video below contains some strong language.
I acknowledge the people that have helped me along the way. Ballers is great, but I don’t depend on it. It doesn’t make me. Dwayne could go on a WWE tour, and Ballers is over. It doesn’t make me. I’m just a young actor slash comedian, who is on his grind, trying to make it happen, and trying to make sure that my mother and my family are set. I didn’t get here on my own, so I appreciate you even taking time to talk with me.
CL: Oh, please. My pleasure. I appreciate that, and I appreciate you. That’s another reason why you’re inspirational to me because everything that I do, I do for my family.
LB: That’s it dude.
CL: In 2013, you won the Best International Comedian at the Black Comedy Awards U.K. This sounds so cliche, but how did that feel to win that coveted award?
LB: Honestly, at the time, I was touring with Chris Tucker as his opener. Shout-out to Chris Tucker for allowing me to pay some bills. I got a lot of love for the U.K. I don’t even know how I even got thrown in that category because I’m not chasing that stuff, so for them to even acknowledge me is appreciated. Shout-out to Gina Yashere. I’ve got a lot of respect for her. She’s an O.G. in this. She’s been doing it longer than me, and she’s always been super cool.
I’ve gotta respect the people that did it before me. Russell Peters, I did Just For Laughs this year. Shout-out to Kevin Hart for inviting me to do his segment of Laugh out Loud [Montreal], and anybody who was involved with allowing me to be in Montreal. That’s a big thing for comedians. It’s like a stamp of approval for being funny, if you will. Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle have done it, and peace be with him, Patrice O’Neal.
Anyways, I was invited to go up this year. Shout-out to my publicist, Karine, who got busy keeping me booked. As a comedian, we just want to tell our story, tell our jokes, and help people appreciate our perspective. I don’t take it for granted that there have been a lot of people who have been able to be a force behind my growth and my brand. I don’t take it for granted at all.
The fact that you want to talk with me, I thank you kindly. You don’t have to talk to me. I know that people don’t know who I am. Maybe they saw me on Ballers, but they don’t know I do stand-up; they don’t know that I’m the oldest of five, or of four, now; they don’t know my brother was murdered; they don’t know I’m from South Central, L.A., and I know that, so I want to say thank you for just taking time to speak with me.
I’m very grounded, and I know what the truth is. It’s not about being cocky or being arrogant, and I’m thankful for you all speaking with me. I’m a regular guy from South Central, L.A. I grew up on 91st and Figueroa. I grew up next to one set of Crips and five houses down from another set of Crips. Just getting to school I had to pass Crips and Bloods.
A lot of people just think I’m the A-hole from Ballers, they don’t even know that I’m a drummer. So, thank you for giving me a platform to express myself.
CL: It’s truly my honor. I didn’t realize that you were also a drummer. I’ve followed most of your career and I didn’t know that.
LB: You got an exclusive [Laughing]. A lot of people don’t know that I play drums. They don’t know that I play the trombone and that I mess around on the piano. They don’t even know I do stand-up, and that’s why I thank you. I tell you, five years from now, your fellow staff and the people around you are going to be like, ‘Yo, that dude from Ballers. London, that guy. You did an interview with him when nobody was messing with him.’
And you don’t even know, but I cried during this interview when we talked about my brother because he’s very sensitive to my heart. I cried in this interview because I’m transparent. I have nothing to hide. I’m just a regular dude from South Central, L.A. I don’t put that to the side.
I believe that God set it up for me to be in the position that I’m in. I don’t take credit. It’s not about me, at all. I know that there have been people placed around me to make sure I get to the success that I want to get to. I appreciate everybody who took time out to mess with me on this ground level, so thank you. I appreciate you.
CL: Oh, dude, I appreciate you. Your words are music to my ears because I write down goals all the time.
LB: Boom! That’s it dude. That’s it!
CL: I recently wrote down that in five years, I’ll have achieved all my goals that I have yet to achieve.
LB: Absolutely man. Absolutely!
CL: Real quick, I want to be respectful of your time, but I want to touch on your photography.
LB: Right now, I’m doing a coffee table book of my photography. I’m photographing people that are homeless, and I want to use part of the proceeds from the book to give back to homeless people. I realize that homeless people are just regular people. They’re not all strung out on drugs and crack and everything else. Some of these people, they were in forced situations, and they got fired from their jobs or whatever. At the end of the day, people are people.
It’s not about putting people down. It’s about respecting people for who they are at their heart, and that’s what I’m about. So, when I do this book, I want to use part of the proceeds, well, part of the proceeds I want to pay my bills because…hey [Laughing]. The flip side is that I want to help feed the homeless and clothe the homeless because people are people. We’ve got to help people out. It’s not about becoming a big deal, it’s about giving back and helping people, and it’s about keeping things equal.
That’s why I keep my foot on racism. It’s so petty to me that there is a group of people that would oppress other people because of their skin color. It’s not about that. Let’s build together. I’m not Reggie, I’m London Brown from South Central, L.A. That’s all.
CL: Dude, you’re wonderful.
LB: Man, I appreciate you talking with me because you didn’t have to.
CL: Thank you. It was truly my pleasure.
LB: Thank you and thank all your people for chopping it up with me. Thank you so much.
CL: My pleasure, man. Have a great day.
LB: You too.