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Brian Jordan: Breaking out of the Black Box

Brian Jordan: Breaking out of the Black Box

Written By: Jessica Johnson
Photographed By: Andrea Quiroz

He started on Broadway then made the transition to acting, he now stars as “Maurice Webb” on Tyler Perry’s hit TV show “Sistas”. Brian Jordan discusses his rise to stardom and the struggles he overcame on the way, including filming an entire season of the show during COVID-19. Jordan is a huge role model and a very talented individual who is helping pave the way for African American actors in Hollywood. Jordan also wants to continue pursuing his acting career with the hopes to act and direct in one of his own movies in the future. 

We jumped right into this interview with some key questions to help us get to know a little bit more about who Brian Jordan is as a person, his impact acting has had on himself and his audience with a small discussion on his very promising acting career and so much more

Jessica: “I know you continued to film the show “Sistas” throughout the Pandemic, I know you did the new season, so just kind of tell me a little bit about how that’s going, how things have changed, what’s your experience been like through this?”

Brian Jordan: “So we started filming season 2 during the pandemic, we were supposed to start filming season 2 in mid-March, but obviously that’s when COVID became an issue and a national emergency here in the United States. We were then pushed back to July when the cases were still high in Atlanta, but Tyler Perry developed a very expensive plan to make sure that everyone was safe and that we would be safely inside of a bubble. We actually lived at Tyler Perry studios for the duration of filming and we were tested every 3 days and we had to practice social distancing the entire time. We were placed in separate homes and after we were tested we were quarantined, so we got results back every other day. We wore masks, and shields the entire time unless you were on camera, then whenever you were done filming you had to put your mask back on. It was a very challenging, but rewarding experience.”

Jessica: “That sounds like an extremely long process! I’m really glad they kept everyone safe, it was really nice of them to let you stay there during all of this. I know you said you were alone a lot of the time and during filming, it was a lot of taking off masks and putting them back on, things like that, how did you go about filming scenes where people may have been a little bit closer to each other, did you still feel okay doing that?”

Brain Jordan: “We wanted to keep the integrity of the show, so the actors had the choice of doing those scenes and being close to each other, and we decided that we would still work together and keep the story. We were tested every three days, so a month prior to going to the studio, we knew that everyone inside the bubble had tested negative multiple times, so it was definitely a very high level of trust when it came to our health and safety. We were checked very frequently and no one that was there was positive. If anybody would have tested positive they would have been forced to leave. We were lucky and blessed that everyone was quarantining up to the point and being safe and cautious, so no one tested positive.”

Jessica: “Everyones really excited to see the new season come out, so for your part in the show, I know you play ‘Maurice Webb.’ I did some research on your character and I know in the new season there’s a situation where your character is involved in a hate crime because of his sexuality. Tell me a little bit about him and is there any way you can relate to your character? Have you ever experienced anything similar to what your character experienced?”

Brian Jordan: “That’s an amazing question, I’m so glad you asked, I have not experienced anything like that. The relatability of me to Maurice, is very simple, I think that from what I’ve learned about Maurice compared to me is that we’re both black men, and we both desire to be loved and we’re both people. When it comes to hate crimes being done, nothing to do with my sexuality has happened to me. I do think there seems to be a disparity and a constant struggle when it comes to black men, such as police brutality and things like that. I do feel like there is a certain level of fear that I have as a black man in America, and if I had to use anything to relate me to a hate crime of any type I would say that would be the closest thing. In researching and preparing for the scene and the role knowing that Maurice went through those things, I learned so much, and that so many transgender drag performers and gay men experience hate crimes all the time, from murders to violence done to them just because they’re being who they are. It is something that really kills me because I was not aware of all the things that happened before I had to be aware. I publicly say that because I feel like I need to be an advocate for equality and an advocate for the protection of all people.  I have to be able to admit that I was just ignorant to the fact that there are just so many instances where transgender men and women and gay or queer men and women were being harmed or mistreated for just living their lives and I think it’s just disgusting that this happens to them.” 

Jessica: “Unfortunately the news lately has been a lot of situations where transgender people have been victims of hate crimes and a lot have been African American. I feel like you yourself and your character in general, being an African American actor in television where there’s not a lot of representation, you’re such a great role model and such a great representative for that kind of community, especially your position and role in that show. It’s a huge thing for a lot of people when they’re watching.”

Brian Jordan: “Wow that’s very kind of you to say, it’s really humbling and inspiring to me. It is a goal of mine to be the person that someone sees and knows that they are being seen or they feel seen on television. Tyler Perry really created a genre for people who never felt seen, people who were at home in middle America, African American people who are in lower socio-economic areas who don’t have the type of intellect that would interest them in some things such as researching or watching certain things on television. I feel like Maurice represents so many people that you haven’t seen on TV before, and I am beyond honored to play him. The fact that you think I’m a role model is really humbling, it’s a dream come true honestly.”

Jessica: “I’m happy to hear that and I just think that the show, in general, was just a huge step in the right direction, because there’s barely any shows or movies out there which have a full African-American cast. I know a lot of people watch those and can’t really relate to a lot of the people or characters when they see your show they’re like oh it’s a full African American cast and they feel like it is such a huge step In the industry. It’s really awesome to see Tyler Perry really take on that challenge and show that an all African-American cast can do everything that any other cast can do and they’re just as talented. The whole aspect and the idea of the show is just wonderful.”

Brian Jordan: “Absolutely you know another thing is that I’m so honored and I just have this huge responsibility. I’ve noticed when it comes to African American actors, we don’t get the chance as much as non-black counterparts to be character actors, and when I say character actors I mean the opportunity to play these roles that are so removed from other roles. It makes you really dig down through who you are, you really have to delve into a character, it causes you to have a full-on transition when it comes to physicality, voice, articulation, accent, those types of things. When it comes to Maurice, I think a lot of people are slightly disappointed that I’m not Maurice and that I’m so different from who Maurice is. In a way, it also makes me happy to know that I’m so different from the character and to know that I’m not even nearly the same. I take pride in the work that I’m doing with Maurice because I’ve literally created the character. From the way that he wears his socks to the way that he walks, even his cadence of the speech and the way he breathes. I get really deep into my character and we see Meryl Streep do these things, we see Tom Hanks do these things, but it’s very rare that we’re able to see black people, not in a box. I think because Hollywood is so white run,  it is very easy to put African-Americans in a box. You see people doing the same type of roles over and over again, but I do believe that African-Americans have so much more talent than what is being showcased, and hopefully people that will start normalizing black character actors.”

Jessica: “That really shows how talented and impressive you are as an actor, and as a person. You are able to completely immerse yourself into a character like that and completely switch it up to where when people meet you they’re like oh wow you’re completely different from your character. That just shows the type of actor you are, that’s awesome. 

Brian Jordan: “That’s a blessing, I’m working every day to get better, and I have so many people to thank for that and so much training went into it, work and lessons and also learning more about myself. It takes a lot to play such an extreme character, especially in opposition. I never thought in a million years that I would be in drag in my first-star role. It was something I really had to work mentally to get to a point of comfortability with it. It was so rewarding to see how many people were touched by that story. Just to be able to speak to so many LGBTQ+ people who reached out to me and told me “thank you for adequately representing me.” It’s an amazing feeling to represent such a strong and beautiful group of people who have been so resilient. Even thinking about it now gives me chills. It was something I was so nervous about and it’s been an honor, a wonderful opportunity.”

Jessica: “I think it’s amazing that you were able to have that opportunity to do that for so many people, and I know that it’s a lot of younger people in the LGBTQ+ community who are watching that and a lot of younger African American people such as teenagers, people in their early 20’s who can probably relate to your character. They’re seeing what you’re doing with and in the show and they’re saying oh, I can do that! They feel accepted and feel like they can do what Brian’s doing. It’s so important for them to see someone such as yourself on television that way they can create some big goals and work towards something like what you’re doing. Diving into something a little different, I know you’re doing the show right now, have you thought about where you want to take your acting career? What is your dream role to do?”

Brian Jordan: “That is a great question and I am a planner. I have a ton of plans, I manifest every day. My dream role I would love to play would be Donny Hathaway. His story is brilliant and I hope that someone sees this and calls me and casts me. I have even thought about writing it myself. I would love to play Donny Hathaway. His story is amazing, he died when he was 33 and I mean I’m 29, it’s the perfect time, we could even do it next year, for anybody reading this and that’s my dream role. I also have dreams of doing several things, I want to do some more Broadway things, I would love to do theatre, several different types of film and television roles. I really look forward to diversifying my resume with different types of roles.  I want to even go into some art education that pertains to African-American youth and give them the right tools to be prepared for the industry. The disparity runs deep when it comes to African-Americans and where I felt it most was when I wanted to become an actor, singer, and dancer because I didn’t have these tools in my area to do that. When I’m in Georgia I see so many talented people leave because there isn’t a fine arts program in the state for acting or any type of performing arts. Education expansion and really representing African-Americans and art in its purest and highest form is my ultimate goal.”

Jessica: “ You have such a vast amount of talent, and I really hope you get the chance to do the Donny Hathaway movie. There hasn’t been something such as a movie representing him. Someone needs to take charge and do it!”

Brian Jordan: “I am the one to do it! I am going to be the one, I hope you remember this conversation, I am going to be the one to play that role, and whenever I get it, promise you I’ll be your cover.”

As the interview comes to an end Jordan ends on a happy note as he looks forward to his exciting and expanding career in acting and hopefully educational programs for theatre and acting. Jordan is also hoping to land a huge role and even produce his dream movie In the near future. As Jordan stated, “I am so ready.”