'This Is Us' Star Lonnie Chavis Pens Emotional Essay About Racism
Penning an emotional essay, the actor known for playing the youngest version of Randall Pearson since the debut of This Is Us even notes experiences on set that have been difficult. Shared on People, the 12-year-old talent also divulges very personal and traumatizing stories in which his parents have been profiled by police in his company.
"My life matters, but does it? America paints a very clear picture of how I should view myself. America shows me that my Blackness is a threat, and I am treated as such. I actually didn't learn about being Black and what that would mean for me until I was 7 years old," the essay begins.
Chavis goes on to add, "Being a young Black boy in Hollywood made it even more fearful. I can recall the time when I realized there are not a lot of people that look like me on these Hollywood sets and asked my mom where all the Black people were."
The star then recalled an occasion on set, which could refer to the shooting of This Is Us' Season 2 episode "Still There," in which Rebecca's (Mandy Moore) mother, Janet (Elizabeth Perkins) drops by the Pearson household. In the episode, Janet is particularly blatant in her microaggressions and racist behaviors towards her Black grandson Randall.
"I can recall a time on set when I started crying listening to an actor portray a racist grandmother toward my character. The director and writers told me that they didn't need me to cry for the scene. However, it was hard for me not to cry as I witnessed what I had just learned was my reality," Chavis explained. "I wasn't acting, I was crying for me. Can you imagine having to explain to a room full of white people why I couldn't hold back my real tears while experiencing the pain of racism? I can."
Chavis also details occasions on red carpets when he's been questioned or treated rudely until a publicist has interceded. The young star also remembers being asked if he was the actor from Stranger Things or black-ish, referencing fellow actors Caleb McLaughlin and Miles Brown. "I guess we all look alike since we are all Black. Can you imagine being confused for any other Black kid just because you all share the same profession? I can."
He also recalls instances in which his parents have been pulled over by police and profiled by the nice cars they're driving. Chavis also details a scary instance on his 10th birthday when his father was dragged from his home by an officer for a traffic ticket. "My mother ran to my room and told me with fear in her eyes to go into my little brother's room and stay away from the windows ... I held my baby brother and cried as I could hear my mother yelling outside of our home. I thought my parents were for sure going to die going up against the police. By the grace of God, they are both still with me, and that racially motivated harassment against my father was dismissed."
He pleads for policy change and the need for understanding, "Change has got to happen for unarmed Black citizens to not live in fear of being murdered." The actor is expected to return as Randall in This Is Us' forthcoming fifth season — the adult version of Chavis' character is portrayed by Sterling K. Brown.
This Is Us, Returning Fall 2020, NBC