Red Stewart chats with Into the Badlands star Sherman Augustus…
Sherman Augustus is an American actor who has been working in the film and television industries since the early-90s. He is best known for his roles in the TV serials Profit, The Young and the Restless, and Into the Badlands where he plays Nathaniel Moon.
Flickering Myth recently had the opportunity to interview him, and I in turn had the honor conduct it. Prior to becoming an actor, Mr. Augustus was a professional gridiron football player in the United States, having played with the San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings. As such, I began by taking this opportunity to ask him about the credibility problems the National Football League (NFL) has received as a result of suppressing information about chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), as well as their banning of kneeling during the anthem, which has caused a lawsuit to be issued by the National Football League Players Association.
With all these issues, my question was whether or not he thinks the NFL will ever hit a breaking point with football fans, or if it is too large a cornerstone of American culture to ever really bend. To my delight, Mr. Augustus was affirmative that things cannot continue the way that they are going: “Eventually it will [bend]. The whole thing is it always come down to money. No one likes getting their cash flow interrupted. And yes, it is a privilege to play that sport or any professional sport, especially if you’re getting paid very well. But with football, there’s an extra added element of danger and urgency because you can die playing it.”
Mr. Augustus went on to talk about how the real point of the kneeling is to address racism in the United States, and how his own personal family experiences have created his current mindset:
“So the whole thing of it is my dad was a cop and the movement started because of racism. And you have a platform to speak out. Folks should do so. You don’t have to be belligerent about it; everyone has an opinion, and I respect that opinion, negative or positive. But we just need to pull everything back and look at it through the lens of human beings. And sure these people get a lot of money to play this sport, but you can’t just tell them to shut up. I was raised a different way to respect, and I can see the problems going on today.
“You have your league representatives who are ex-football players, and they’re battling against the NFL. And there’s just a lot of money involved and it’s this big giant cash machine. Until we get someone who’s sensitive to the needs of everyone it’s going to be a problem. If I played these days, I would definitely express my views on the situation and get involved with organizations that are making noise about it, but not over-the-top. At least people can stand together as a common voice.”
Still, Mr. Augustus is adamant that simple protesting isn’t enough to change hearts in America- we need to start having conversations with each other, a notion that was advocated by President Obama back in September 2016:
“The good guys get smarter and find a strong way to express their beliefs about what is negative about society. And the league and society have to take care of their players; they should sit down and literally have a dialogue. Me personally, because of this issue, I’d like to see players get together and donate to an organization like Wounded Warriors and make it vocal. I know that when you do good you don’t have to show it to someone to make a point. But if folks can band together and do marches like Dr. King and John Lewis did….we owe it to them. Even if you’re going to be out of work, stand up.
“If everyone got together and said we’re not going to play Sunday, it would have an effect. There are good cops and bad cops. There were days when you had police officers who lived in communities, you had beat cops who knew everyone in the community and vice-versa. Now, you have people out of city who claim that they are scared for their lives, and they just shouldn’t be peace officers then. No one’s sitting down to have that dialogue. When a professional sports player speaks out about this they’re considered a trouble maker. We have to sit back and evaluate. It’s not about us being treated this way: it’s about Eric Garner and Tamir Rice and the list goes on and on. There needs to be a serious, honest, bona-fide dialogue about the situation.”
Mr. Augustus also notes that there is another solution to the matter, and that is getting more people of color in ownership roles in the NFL: “Once we get people of color to start owning these teams, it’ll change. It’s a cultural thing now; it’s embedded. And people basically have this idea embedded in their head about the zeitgeist or what they think people should be.”
This zeitgeist that Mr. Augustus speaks about extends past football and sports and into his secondary professional field of acting:
“It’s kind of a sore spot for me, but a lot of that bleeds into what I do. Back in the day, black people were on sitcoms and this gave an idea that African Americans had to be funny, which is why I only did one sitcom, The Nanny, and that was only because I was doing a favor for the casting director.
“I just had this conversation earlier, it relates into future projects that are coming out. Me and a couple of other actors I know were talking about the resurgence of slave movies and slave TV shows. Listen, I don’t need to be reminded of where my ancestors came from. We need to get projects greenlit that are of substance and portray racial situations in a different light. I don’t play characters that are in jail, and nothing against my fellow actors who do that, but putting on the dress and doing jail is something I can’t do. And that’s been a struggle. I think I have been with almost ever agent and manager in Hollywood. It’s like when I was playing ball: I wanted to prove I was different by not having someone judge me by my skin color.
“Daniel Wu [Sunny in Into the Badlands] and I had a similar conversation. We went to this place the executives had converted in order to train, and we only did one week of fight camp. I remember we were working out one day and talking about Black Panther. And yes, there were a lot of things that I dug, but there were also some stereotypical things that I disliked. Someone has to be brave enough to change the narrative, and we’re all working together to do so.”
In response to Mr. Augustus’s point about the resurgence in slave movies, I brought up a forgotten controversy from the 2014 Oscars where 12 Years a Slave was nominated for, and won, the Academy Award for Best Picture, while Fruitvale Station (released that same year) was completely ignored.
“Yeah, it’s disheartening when these things get greenlit. The guys from Game of Thrones were going to do a project about an alternate universe where the Confederacy won the Civil War and slavery still exists. And they wanted to have me running around stabbing white guys, and I said I wasn’t interested. There’s nothing appealing to me about that subject matter. I had a lot of friends on Underground, but I couldn’t watch it. And sure the show isn’t on anymore, and it had great actors, but I don’t need to be reminded of that subject matter.”
Mr. Augustus had one final point to make about the NFL situation: “For the NFL to get beyond this and the whole SOB comment, you know they have to let these guys play football and let them make some comments on the treatment of black folks and all people. I try not to speak about politics or religion, and I’m not going to push my beliefs on them. I just believe in what I believe in and I hope that all this stuff gets squared away and we can go back to normalcy.”
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