Grand Army’s Maliq Johnson on the Importance of Playing Jayson


Grand Army’s Maliq Johnson talks about his role in the Netflix show and the importance of nuanced representation of young Black men. 

There are a lot of shows that try to keep us [minorities] in a box or under a certain description of what we do, how we act, and what we look like. Visual representation and inclusion are important because it’s about perspectives, challenging norms, and pushing boundaries. I can play a musician, I can play a doctor, I can play a lawyer … we can be other things than a thug or a rapper on screen. 

I watch people on TV or in films and think “that’s not how I would say it” or “that’s not how it would go,” because I know my culture, I know how we would act [in certain scenes], or how things would turn out in [real-life] situations. This makes me want to go for the roles that are not typically shown. It’s about the craft, about making it believable. It’s about how well you can tell the story.

Maliq is wearing an Alexandro Fratelli jacket, Cedric Haughton shirt, and Mascavii sneakers.

MICHAEL CREAGH

When I was cast in the role of Jayson Jackson, I was excited for Grand Army because it plays out multiple perspectives while still being authentic. I hope this show gives the audience some new perspectives and hopefully sparks some new ideas on how to make a change in the industry and around the world.

I went to a high school with limited resources [i.e. a lot of our extra programs were cut], you had to pay for everything, and there were metal detectors. I grew up in a community where you already don’t have much to begin with, and there are all kinds of hurdles before you get into the actual classroom. It’s hard to keep your grades up when you’ve got to worry about external factors. If you have a lot going on at home and then go to school, you’re still expected to learn, focus, and be present. Whereas someone from a different community, who is more fortunate does not have to worry about those issues. They only have to deal with what goes on at school, so of course, their grades might be better which ultimately may lead to better opportunities.

It’s not so cut-and-dry all the time. For example, I have friends that have been suspended for small things; ie. for not wearing their uniform a certain way. Some schools want you to wear a uniform but don’t supply the uniform that you’re supposed to wear. But sadly, not every student has that much money, to begin with, so they can’t afford to buy a uniform for every day of the week. As a result, a kid comes to school a certain amount of times without that proper uniform and violates the regulations, which leads to suspension.



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