Season Two of creator Justin Simien’s campus comedy covers so much ground it can be difficult to synopsize: the history of racism at elite universities, gay slang, respectability politics, abortion, social media, conservative talk radio, post-traumatic stress, “getting got by a hotep,” and much more. But it’s the details of Dear White People, from grits in the dining hall to drinks at the student lounge, that lend the series texture. After all, the students of Winchester University are just (impossibly attractive, stylishly dressed, absurdly clever) version of the real deal. In that spirit, Paste sat down with the main cast at Netflix’s Raleigh Studios in Los Angeles, Calif. to discuss their own college experiences, from perfecting Dance Dance Revolution routines to eating talc in geology class.
Paste: What was your procrastination activity of choice?
Antoinette Robertson [Coco Conners]: I loved Dance Dance Revolution. I would learn all the routines and pretend that I didn’t know them when I went to the arcade! I was like, “Oh my God, this is the first time!” I knew then I should be an actress.
Brandon P. Bell [Troy Fairbanks]: Video games. Madden, for sure.
DeRon Horton [Lionel Higgins]: Weed.
Logan Browning [Samantha White]: I watched Heroes. A guy that I dated for like 10 years after college, that’s how we met. We both liked Heroes, and so I would go to his room. We’d get C.T. West—it was like the only place at Vanderbilt that had cornbread—we’d get barbecue and then watch Heroes.
Marque Richardson [Reggie Green]: Facebook, and the Internet. When I was in college, that’s when they opened it up. Just cyberstalking.
Ashley Blaine Featherson [Joelle Brooks]: Who were you stalking, Marque?
Richardson: Just everybody. Everybody.
John Patrick Amedori [Gabe Mitchell]: I didn’t go to college. I was a working actor, so I was probably playing guitar.
Paste: What was your most awkward date?
Bell: Took a girl to a movie theatre, credit card got declined. It was sad. it was sad. The limit couldn’t have been more than $1,000. I’m pretty sure it was $500. I literally was like, “Well, if you don’t pay for it, I guess we’re going back.”
Robertson: I had a guy take me out on a date that said he was into music, and he was like, “The movie starts at 9, you should come through around 6.” And he was stuffing CD cases and wanted me to stuff them with him. He had the printouts of the front case, I swear to God. And I was like, “You know what? I’mma go.” It was nuts.
Amedori: Oh, I can answer this one. I didn’t know I was on a date… Years later, we ended up working together, and she told me, “Yeah, you were the worst date I had ever been on.” And I was like, “We went on date?” ... First of all, no girls liked me for like 9 years. I had no idea this was even a thing that was supposed to happen to me.
Richardson: I blacked ‘em all out.
Browning: I don’t go on a lot of dates.
Featherson: I don’t have an awkward one.
Amedori: Because you don’t let anything be awkward.
Featherson: Thank you. That’s exactly what it is. If it feels awkward, I’m shutting it down. Bye!
Paste: What would’ve been your #1 played song on Spotify?
Bell: Maybe a Kanye song, to be honest. College Dropout. Vintage Kanye. I liked The Black Album.
Robertson: I’ve always loved oldies, so I think it’d probably be a Diana Ross tune. Something really uptempo.
Bell: I’m gonna take Kanye out because—I’m gonna think of something else. I forgot he lost his mind.
Horton: A song I did play a lot in college was “Show Out” by Roscoe Dash. That shit was hard. But I also listened to fuckin’ Kem a lot. “Love Calls” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” That’s one of my favorite songs of all time.
Bell: You would like an artist with only one song.
Horton: That whole second album was hard. Bro, Kem. K. E. M.
Bell: I remember listening to a lot of Mos, actually. Black on Both Sides. I remember rocking to that heavy in college.
Browning: I was playing a lot of Li’l Wayne in college.
Featherson: Yeah, we all were. “Lollipop”!
Richardson: I had a playlist for sexy time. So some Bobby Valentino. It was very corny.
Featherson: Dare I say it? There would have been a lot of Kanye on my list.
Browning: No, there was! College Dropout.
Richardson: That was then.
Browning: He came to Vanderbilt and performed and he was three hours late.
Paste: What were your extracurriculars?
Robertson: I played tennis, and I swam.
Bell: Damn! No wonder you got that grip. That’s such a hard sport to play well. All wrist. I hooped, and video games, for sure.
Horton: I went to the gym a lot. Weed, again. And sex. Is that an extracurricular? I did that a lot.
Featherson: In college, I did everything. I was a musical theater major, so I did everything with theater. Then I was in the Howard gospel choir. Then I was also in a smaller show choir. I pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha. I was also in a music fraternity called Sigma Alpha Iota. I was also a Campus Pal, which is like the campus ambassadors. Literally, I don’t know how I went through four years and did all of that and still had a 3.7 GPA, it’s fine…
Richardson: C’mon, Joelle.
Featherson: Dean’s List every semester.
Browning: I should’ve probably had less extracurriculars, because I was on academic probation my first year.
Featherson: Ohhhhh, you went to school and you wilded out! Wow.
Btowning: Let me break it down for you. I was a child actor, so in order to do a film I did my senior year of high school, I had to graduate early. So I finished school a lot earlier than my friends. And my parents had put me into public school, which I loved, and then I had about a year’s time before I went to Vanderbilt with all of these students who were college prep. They knew how to study. I did not know how to study. Everything that I did know was gone. And when I was in school I was like homeschooling myself. It was not a good transition.
Featherson: Not the same type of structure.
Browning: I think that’s what makes Ivy leagues the Ivy Leagues, or a school like Vanderbilt whatever it is. For instance, I went to a few state schools as well. What I liked about that was, they give you the material, you learn it, you spit it back out. That’s it. They just want see if you know the material. At Vanderbilt, it was like, “I’m going to give you this material, you read it back to me in French.”
Richardson: A lot of drinking. A lot of partying.
Featherson: A lot of what Reggie’s doing in Season Two.
Richardson: Actually, I was in the NAACP. I was in the marching band. I was in KSA, the Korean Student Association.
Browning: What were you playing in the band?
Richardson: Trombone. I played trombone for the first year. Then I dropped out.
Featherson: Wait, what were you doing in the Korean…
Richardson: Because I wanted to be the first black president of the Korean Student Association. [Laughs] I had a really good friend who joined our Black Student Union. It was like, “You join mine, I’ll join yours.”
Paste: What was your favorite subject?
Robertson: I was a chemistry major, so anything that was outside of that was my favorite. Actually, my acting class was my favorite class, because it was the only class I really felt a sense of freedom in, and then I kind of went in that direction.
Bell: Now I feel like it’s clichéd to say an acting class because I was a theatre major, so nobody cares… I had a class about geology that was super interesting because I just didn’t care before that. They were talking about earthquakes and plate tectonics. I remember it impacting me because it was scary. He was saying one of the oldest fault lines in North America goes up Hoover, which is where USC is. He was like, “It’s right underneath us! When that baby shifts, it’s the big one!” That messed me up.
Browning: African American literature and film.
Featherson: I took a film class, like a film analysis class, that was one of my favorite classes I ever took.
Browning: Mine was specifically African American literature, which was fun because it was like, read The Color Purple and let’s go pick out the little things.
Featherson: I watched so many foreign films that I hadn’t been exposed to.
Amedori: I dropped out of school in the fifth grade and graduated high school by the time I was 15. I enjoyed history. Reading comprehension was my thing, so I always loved to read. I loved Reader Rabbit. I loved my computer class. I got reprimanded a lot for just being me.
Browning: I loved geology because in lab I would taste the talc to find out if it was talc. It tasted salty. It was great.
Season Two of Dear White People is now streaming on Netflix.
Matt Brennan is the TV editor of Paste Magazine. He tweets about what he’s watching @thefilmgoer.