Q&A with Christian Robinson of Burning Sands premiering March 10th on Netflix
“Burning Sands” a Netflix drama due to premiere March 10th delves into to the extreme acts of fraternity pledging most commonly known as hazing. Director Gerard McMurray and Executive Producer Common bring you a story of a don’t ask, don’t talk back and never tell dour and heavily jeopardous issue that has been made part of academic fellowships for many generations with a stellar cast led by acting heavy weights such as Alfre Woodard and Steve Harris. I had the pleasure of having a Q&A with one of the cast members Christian Robinson as to which Variety has labeled as portraying one of the few memorable characters “Big Country” in the drama. Though we randomly hit a bit of static throughout the interview we managed to have a great conversation.
Avian Emelle: Contributing Editor Avian Emelle here with Christian Robinson actor of Burning Sands. Hello Christian!
Christian Robinson: Hey, hi, what’s going on?
Avian Emelle: You will be my first submission!!!
Christian Robinson: I am super excited. I’m honored.
Avian Emelle: Well, I read that you’re Panamanian too.
Christian Robinson: Yes, my dad is from Panama. I’m half Panamanian.
Avian Emelle: ¿Hablas español o no?
Christian Robinson: Muy pocito, muy pocito. Asi, asi. (he laughs)
Avian Emelle: I don’t speak it as well as one would think. I just know that line very well.
Christian Robinson: You know what’s very interesting? When I was a child, I was almost fluent. But as I grew older it just faded away from me. I’m sure I can get it back if I just dedicated the time to it.
Avian Emelle: Oh yeah. I was the same as a child. I just lost it.
Christian Robinson: Yeah, it gets lost in life.
Avian Emelle: With a life as busy as yours, it’s understandable. I read that you’ve done stage as well?
Christian Robinson: My theatre career was very brief. I fell in love with film and television. I fell in love with acting doing theatre but fell in love with film and television. The process and all of it. It just became my life.
Avian Emelle: So you prefer film. What was it about film that you prefer?
Christian Robinson: I do. I 100% do prefer film and television. I’ll still do theatre, absolutely, it’s just that film and television it’s my baby now. It’s just the process of it. To live in it. to really take your time and you can do both with theatre and film but I feel like film is way more intimate. Film is intimate, it’s just you and me. I’m talking to you like I’m having a regular conversation. It’s that eye contact, that poise. That living breathing dynamic of it.
Avian Emelle: I know you’re from Brooklyn…
Christian Robinson: Brooklyn!!!
Avian Emelle: Are you there now or settled in Hollywood?
Christian Robinson: I’m actually back and forth between Atlanta and L.A.
Avian Emelle: Oh, Atlanta and L.A., so why Atlanta? Is there something there that keeps you going back?
Christian Robinson: Atlanta is where I started my film an television career actually. Before I moved, I did a lot of research and it was like Atlanta is the emerging new city. It’s like a smaller Hollywood. A lot of films are being shot here. So I was like, you know I’m new to this, so I was very honest with myself. Going to Los Angeles is an option, yes, but I honestly feel I have a better shot here in Atlanta. I spoke to some people that gave me some advice and I won’t mention their names, but it was told to me that someone that is from where I’m from, Brooklyn in Atlanta in the acting field will stick out, will stand out, will be something rare. Something they’ve probably have never seen before. And I just felt a vibe, it’s all about the vibe, that energy, that pull. Where do you feel like you belong and I felt like Atlanta was where I belonged and I promise you it was the best decision I ever made.
Avian Emelle: Sounded like some great advice you were given.
Christian Robinson: 100%! It was definitely one of those fork in the road moments in life where you have to make that life defining decision and I went south and it worked. I was predominantly based and Atlanta but when I booked Burning Sands and had all of these eyes on me was when my feet started hitting that Los Angeles pavement.
Avian Emelle: Was Burning Sands filmed in Los Angeles?
Christian Robinson: Burning Sands was filmed in Virginia actually.
Avian Emelle: Virginia, oh wow. You’re on the constant move. Burning Sands is due to debut on March 10th on Netflix. Did you film at an actual university?
Christian Robinson: Yes, we filmed at Virginia State University. Right on campus.
Avian Emelle: Wow. Well portraying a character by the name of Big Country a bad mofo from what I’ve read
Christian Robinson: Yes, I can’t wait for everyone to see it man.
Avian Emelle: I know the film touches on a very dour issue and isn’t really an open topic of discussion; but were you able to work with any of the fraternities to get as much information as possible and that they would allow?
Christian Robinson: Everyone definitely had to do their own research before auditioning for the role. As far as working directly with a Virginia State Fraternity, I mean I can’t speak for anyone else but I know personally, myself, I did not. As far as the research I did myself for the role I definitely reached out to some friends of mine who have been pledges and are now fraternity members and like you said it’s like “I don’t know what you’re talking about. So after begging, pleading, prying, saying this is a very great opportunity; I got very general and vague answers. And what I had to do myself, was put myself in that situation. Because I wasn’t auditioning to be a pledge. Actually, I was auditioning to be one of the pledges but I actually got a much bigger role because of the performance in my audition. What I did was create a moment for that character. How would I be as this character, if I was going to this dark place. And that’s what I did. I went to that dark place that we have been taught all our lives to stay away from. Acting teaches you that you have to go to that primal place in order to produce the most exciting choice. You have to produce that most dangerous choice. The choice no one else will make. So I just went to a very very dark place in order to bring forth the role of the meanest frat brother as Variety stated. Thank you Variety. Guess I made an impression.
Avian Emelle: You must’ve because they mentioned even though the movie had heavy hitters such as Alfre Woodard and Steve Harris there were three people that stood out and you were one of them. If they are mentioning the supporting cast like that you know this movie is more than the star studded names linked to it. Were you able to have scenes with either of them?
Christian Robinson: Well we shot the film in 18 days. I wasn’t able to have any scenes with Alfre Woodard but being that we all became like family on the set, I was able to meet with, speak with her and observe her and she’s amazing. I did have a scene with Steve Harris you’ll see it in the film, it’s very brief. We didn’t exchange any dialogue but we were in the same scene and you will get to see it in the film.
Avian Emelle: I think the static is trying to tell me it’s time for this interview wrap up. But I have to say that not having any scenes with Alfre Woodard or Steve Harris and Variety calling you out says a lot. I would like to ask two more questions, if that is okay with you?
Christian Robinson: Yes.
Avian Emelle: You were given great career advice. What would you say is your top three advice points you could give aspiring actors?
Christian Robinson: That is an amazing question. 1. Stay true to yourself. 2. Always make the strongest choice. 3. and most importantly and genuinely mean most importantly, take risks. Playing it safe will get you safe results. Taking a risk will get you the result you want.
Avian Emelle: Last question, I promise, who would your top 3 favorite actors be? Living or dead, the ones who have either made the most impact on you or you just love all around.
Christian Robinson: That is another amazing question. 1. Denzel Washington 2. Wood Harris and 3. Jim Carrey
Avian Emelle: All great choices! I apologize for all the static.
Christian Robinson: Thank you for your time and taking the time out to speak with me.
Avian Emelle: Anytime and thank you.
Be sure to check out Christian Robinson and the star studded cast of Burning Sands on Netflix March 10th. Also follow him on instagram @Christian_Robinson