Modern Love actor and Big Mouth writer Brandon Kyle Goodman talks racist characterization, destigmatizing sex via animation, and his upcoming podcasts.
By Juno Kelly.
Brandon Kyle Goodman is one of those classically trained, versatile actors that, in an age of celeb/persona fueled Hollywood, are few and far between. After training at NYU’s prestigious TISCH school of the arts, the actor went on to tread the boards with a comedy troupe in the city, where he discovered a penchant for writing. Over a decade and a myriad of meaty roles later, the actor has become a seasoned entertainer, and a key voice in the Black Lives Matter movement.
Over the phone, one would imagine Goodman to be a wild gesticulator. His enthusiasm is palpable, and his use of superlatives generous. “I’m so excited to actually be having a conversation on the phone!” he gushes, reminding me that even Hollywood-settled stars aren’t immune to lockdown-induced boredom.
I, like many, recognize Goodman from Modern Love, Amazon Prime’s quirky, star-studded rom-com anthology based on a weekly column published in the New York Times. Goodman plays the eccentric, quirky Andy, married to Tobin, (portrayed by the world’s favorite ‘hot priest’ Andrew Scott) who adopt a baby from a nomadic young woman (who later has a fling with Ed Sheeran…don’t ask). The role is one the actor is immensely grateful for: not just because “Andrew is such a dreamy actor,” but because Goodman’s character Andy wasn’t embalmed in racial tropes. “I was excited because when I read the part of Andy, there was no mention of his race … (I had) the freedom to play something that isn’t race-based and isn’t an oppressive narrative-base, which oftentimes is what it’s like for queer characters, black characters,” he explains. Instead, Goodman “got to form him with my Blackness and my quirkiness and all that.” His advice to young performers battling career limitations? Write your own work. “To any creator or actor who has the skill to write, I always say, write.”
After growing frustrated with the fact that authentically written Black, queer, roles like Andy are few and far between, Brandon did what a plethora of frustrated female actors have done and dusted off his pen. He joined the writers’ room of one of Netflix’s most acclaimed modern animations, Big Mouth, a hilarious, stigma-busting, tongue-in-cheek take on the complexities and humiliations of puberty. “I think for all of us there’s something cathartic about being able to see these really happy, awkward experiences on-screen, and it’s helpful.” says Brandon of the show. Despite its initial target viewer base being older and well past the perils of puberty, (the show is rated 18, likely thanks to its incessant cursing), it has found a large viewer base in kids who can presently relate to it. Brandon insists that he would let his kids watch it: “when I watched season 1 … I was like this is literally explaining all of the things that I experienced in a really funny, thoughtful, emotional way. I never considered that somebody in their teens would have the same experience or guidance for that.”
Since the onset of the pandemic and the latest iteration of the Black Lives Matter movement, Goodman has segued towards activism, utilizing his platform to unpack varying facets of racism. Despite the promises made by Hollywood (and the corporate sphere at large), Goodman does not believe enough has been put into practice to dismantle racist practices, and is critical of Hollywood’s tendency towards virtue signalling, “There’s performative allyship and there’s performative representation … it’s not embedded in the system yet… You have to rebuild the whole thing. You have to take it all out and put it all back together. I don’t think that level of conversation or commitment has happened yet, because it would mean that a lot of people would have to lose their jobs, or they’d have to step down from their power in a way.”
Goodman’s resonant voice has led to the development of two podcasts, Black Folx, and Do The Work. The latter runs counter to everything cancel culture tends to foster, addressing awkward conversations by demystifying racist microaggressions and covert racism via therapy-like confrontation, almost like a woke Doctor Phil. “We basically handle awkward and racist moments in interpersonal relationships, usually something that has happened between friends, lovers, colleagues, family members, that we then bring them together to have a conversation about it on the show.” The first episode features work colleagues addressing their co-worker who took to Facebook to query his Black friends on white privilege, serving to demystify why this was a problematic attempt at self-education.
As “uncertain” as these times are, Brandon’s plan is a clear one. The multi-hyphenate will continue to feature on both podcasts, while writing for – and voicing a character on – Big Mouth‘s upcoming spin off, “Human Resources.” Oh, and post “woke” (hilarious) reminders of how to be anti-racist on his 129k follower strong Instagram account. The latest? “Be sure the make-up isn’t racist and the lewk is free of cultural appropriation. That’s all. Be blessed.”