by Terry Carter Jr.
Modern Love actor Brandon Kyle Goodman has emerged as a powerful voice in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Last week, Brandon spoke with BuzzFeed about how the movement has inspired him, shared his thoughts on police reform, and how he’s utilizing his role as a writer on Big Mouth to deliver more inclusive storylines in the forthcoming seasons. Read on for more.
BuzzFeed: The Black Lives Matter movement has become one of, if not the most, influential movement of our time. How have you been personally inspired by it?
Brandon Kyle Goodman: “I would say the inspiration comes from the resilience of Black people and Black people banding together to demand that people respect our lives. The inspiration comes from the conversations that I get to have with my Black friends [and] with my family, just about how to overcome all of this, how to push through all of this, and how to navigate. This [movement] is not just with policy, politics, and law, but also with heart, emotion, and spirituality. I think that our ancestors had to have a lot of heart, a lot of fucking passion, a lot of resilience to make it past what this country has put Black people through. So yeah, that is where my inspiration comes from.”
BuzzFeed: Something about this time feels distinctively different from all of the other protests that we’ve seen in recent years regarding police brutality against Black men and women. Why do you think that is?
BKG: “When I was 12 years old, Amadou Diallo was shot. When I was 25, Trayvon Martin was shot. So this isn’t a new thing that’s been happening. My theory is that there’s something about the fact that the world is under this pandemic and we have been trapped at home. And so, there’s no distraction. You can’t look anywhere else. All we’ve been talking about for the last few months has been COVID-19. And then amidst COVID-19, here comes this tragedy with Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and you just can’t look away from that. You just can’t pretend like that isn’t happening.”
BKG: “I think, possibly because people are at home, that the consciousness had space to open up and awaken in the people who, up until this point, just thought that the killing of [Black] people was happening somewhere else and not inside of their own communities. [Or that] the danger wasn’t for their friends, as well for their communities.
Finally, it’s like no, no, this is something that impacts every single Black person that you come in contact with. No matter how rich or how poor, if they’re gay, straight, trans, it doesn’t matter. Our lives are all at stake. And it’s time for our colleagues, our neighbors, our friends, our lawmakers, and our politicians to step up.”
BuzzFeed: We’ve heard of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and unfortunately countless others. But, I also wish everyone knew and said the names of the endless amount of Black trans women who are killed every year with no justice. What are your thoughts on the erasure of Black trans people and how can the movement be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community going forward?
BKG: “It’s devastating. I think it’s tragic. I think it’s part of the problem. I live in LA and [I have been] protesting. At rallies, I’ve been very grateful and thankful that the names of trans women have been said and the names of Black women have been said, because I think so often we either separate Black women or we don’t talk about Black women and Black trans women in this conversation. I think that there’s a larger problem in our society in which we disregard women, period.”
BKG: “To me, it’s about social conditioning. And people needing to unlearn this idea that certain lives are of value and other lives aren’t. And that is a conscious choice that we all have to make. I’m really excited about this All Black Lives Matter solidarity march happening in LA, and more of our Black leaders and Black voices saying the names of our trans brothers and sisters. I think that is so vital and so important, and I’m grateful that’s beginning to happen, but it is not enough. We definitely need to not leave people behind in this fight. For this fight to be successful, it’s about all of us. We all have to come together for it to actually be true justice and true Black Lives Matter.”
BuzzFeed: As you know, on top of everything else, this is also an election year. What do you say to people, specifically in the Black community, who feel like their vote doesn’t count, or Black people who are just not happy with either of the two presidential candidates?
BKG: “One, I would say I understand, but two, it’s not an excuse. Too much is at stake. Our lives are at stake. We are legally being murdered. We have been legally murdered in the street, and that has to change. And the current leadership isn’t going to do that. I encourage people to realize that you’re not by yourself. So maybe you think that your vote doesn’t matter, but your vote plus my vote plus those 10,000 other votes, that matters. That 1,000% matters. To dismantle the system, I keep saying it is not going to happen overnight. This thing isn’t going to get fixed by the end of the summer. This is going to be a long-term [process], and how we operate in this country is going to have to shift majorly. This upcoming election is one step in that shift. It’s not the final step.”
BuzzFeed: There have been calls from some people in the movement to defund the police, and even calls to abolish it. What would you like to see happen in regards to police reform?
BKG: “Well, I think police reform has already happened and it was trash. It doesn’t work. We’re still being killed. It hasn’t worked. If it did work, we wouldn’t be having this moment in history, where people are protesting in every single state across the country. I do think the next step is defunding police. I believe that [the NYPD] has a $6 billion police budget as opposed to investing that money and making sure that our kids have full-time nurses in their middle schools. Or that our communities have mental health and social services. That doesn’t make sense to me.”
“How we police has to shift.”
We’re talking about actually doing something that will better a community, that will help a community thrive, that will give a community the resources that they so desperately need. And quite honestly, that white counterparts get and we don’t. I think it’s absurd that there are schools that don’t have full-time counselors, with all of the trauma, all of the pain, and all the things that Black people have to wade through.
Defunding the police is not saying get rid of police altogether. It’s not saying all cops are bad, but it is saying that a lot of y’all are, and the ones that aren’t doing their job right are dangerous enough to the entire community. And that has to shift. How we police has to shift.”
BuzzFeed: Shifting gears a bit, let’s talk about some of the projects you have going on. You’re one of the newbie writers on Big Mouth, which is major. Having a Black queer voice in the room is always important. How have you pushed for inclusive storytelling in the writers room?
BKG: “I just finished up my second season of the show on Monday. And I have to say that when I walked into the room last year for Season 4, my bosses were already starting to have this conversation, trying to figure out how do we start telling stories that aren’t just [centered] around cisgender, white heterosexual characters?”
BKG: “[They were asking] how do we push and tell stories about our queer characters and our characters of color without it being oppressive narratives? So they were already having those conversations.
For me, stepping into the room, it was just about adding my voice to it. Speaking up when it’s like, ‘Oh, that doesn’t sound right.’ Or giving kind of a new lens to talk about something different. If this is starting to feel like yet another coming out story, which those are important, but also, I always say ‘Yes, I’m gay. Yes, I’m Black, but I also have seven plants and I have a dog. And I watch Real Housewives.’
I have other things going on in my life besides coming out or fighting against police brutality. There are other things that I do as well. And it’s important that we start to see that in the stories that we’re telling.”
BKG: “What I will say, and this is a problem that Hollywood has to work on but I imagine this happens in all kinds of fields, is that you can’t hire a Black person, a queer person, or a queer POC and not listen to them. And what I will say is that Big Mouth listens. They listen to us, they value our voices. And that’s how we continue to push the needle, as opposed to what I do think happens a lot of times. People will be told, ‘You need to diversify your room.’ So they hire somebody who becomes their token, and they don’t listen to that person. And on the flip side, that person then has all of the pressure because they’re the only one.”
BuzzFeed: Are there any storylines in particular that we can look forward to in the upcoming season that showcases how they’ve been willing to listen to the diverse voices in the writers room?
BKG: “I don’t know how much I can tell you, but I will say that in Season 4, there are a couple of episodes that I’m very proud of. I co-wrote one of the upcoming episodes [which] is about Matthew, our queer character, and an experience that he’s having in terms of realizing, not his sexuality, but his sexual-ness. Like, you know, that part in puberty where it’s time to touch people and kind of recognize what that means. I’m really proud of the work that we’re able to do on on that episode, telling that specific story about Matthew.”
BKG: “And then there’s another episode that Jak Knight wrote about our character Missy, who is the biracial character, and she’s also going on this journey. I always say, for Black people race is a part of puberty. That moment where you realize that you are a color, especially within white spaces. There’s a beautiful journey for Missy to kind of discover that, explore that, and reckon with that [next season]. Among other episodes, those will be really, really special, especially given everything going on right now.”
You’re starring in the new Netflix film Feel the Beat, where you play Deco, who is a gay man who lives out loud. What drew you to the role, and what do you hope viewers will take away from the character?
BKG: “What drew me to the role was my director, Elissa Down. We were talking about [my character] beforehand. Deco is so funny. I didn’t want him to be a trope. I didn’t want — because he’s not the main character — I didn’t want him to feel like he just came in, was fabulous [and] glammed people up and then left. Which is so often what happens with especially Black queer characters, where we play the part of the glam squad [in films] and then we peace out.
We had some really long, beautiful conversations [and] what we discovered about Deco is how fearless and brave he is. One of the first things that I shot is a scene where I’m wearing a leather kilt that Deco made and some Gucci boots. He gets out of a pickup truck in the middle of this small country town and he says, ‘I’m here,’ and no one flinches. Everyone in the town goes, ‘Oh, he’s great.'”
BKG: “When I watched it, I was like, ‘Oh, this is so important.’ His queerness nor his blackness was talked about. That wasn’t part of the storyline. What people saw was a human. And I’m not saying that we need the validation of straight people to know that we’re fabulous. But I am saying for, especially for young people, and this being a family film, there is an importance in seeing yourself in spaces and knowing that you’re not there just because you’re the Black guy. You’re not there just because you’re a queer person, but knowing that you are there because you’re special and that you deserve to be there. Knowing that you’re worthy of being there and that you bring something exceptional to the table.”There is an importance in seeing yourself in spaces.”
And so Deco’s fearlessness and his fullness of himself is something that I really took with me when we were done and ran with it because I realized I hadn’t fully stepped into myself. I felt like in my life maybe I was quieting myself or code-switching myself or trying to make myself palatable in white spaces, and Deco does not care about being palatable in your straight, heteronormative space. And that is, that is my wish for every queer person, every queer person of color. My wish is that you do not feel like you need to make yourself palatable for the hetero gaze, or for the white gaze; that you can really authentically be yourself.”
Feel the Beat, starring Brandon Kyle Goodman, is now streaming on Netflix.
Original article was published here.