Brandon T. Jackson
Not everybody who leaves their hometown to become a star in a big city like Los Angeles makes it: the dreamer whose broken dreams send them back to their momma’s house is as old as time. Yet comic and actor Brandon T. Jackson is one of the few who defied the odds, quickly finding success in Hollywood after leaving Detroit when he finished high school—with memorable performances in hits like Ali, 8 Mile, and an outrageously hilarious turn in Tropic Thunder, Jackson, by all accounts, made enough of a name for himself to call LA home and never look back. Yet for him, home is where his heart remains, so he’s dedicating his new comedy tour and special “Still Detroit,” to the city that made him.
“I'm going back to my roots, where it all started,” Jackson tells BET. “People know me as Bow Wow’s best friend [from Lottery Ticket], from [playing along] Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder, the ‘goat dude’ from
Percy Jackson. And that's great. I love it. But they don't know Brandon. So this is giving my backstory and showing, ‘I'm still Detroit.’”
Jackson shaped “Still Detroit” as a deeply autobiographical set, one that mines his family story and memories growing up in the church (both his parents are ministers). “I grew up with two praying grandmamas, eight brothers and sisters, a father that was a drug dealer turned pastor. The quintessential Detroit American story.” He goes home often, he says and still feels that push-pull between faith and fornication that he and many other Detroit natives know well. “I do a joke about how Detroit can be the most ratchet city that loves God. I was at church every Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I’ve been to the gospel strip club. It’s making fun of the absurdity.”
As much as “Still Detroit” exhumes Jackson’s personal story, the special highlights what makes Detroit so singular. It’s a take that’s perhaps long overdue. When we think of cities that contribute the most to modern-day Black culture, hubs like LA, New York, Atlanta, Miami, and even Houston tend to pop to mind quicker than Detroit, even though Detroit birthed Motown, techno, and, as of late, an increasingly influential crop of Tubi movie makers dazzling audiences with their uh, unique style. “Detroit is almost like the beginning of everything that happens [in Black culture],” he says, “but we get no credit for it.”
Whether those who see “Still Detroit” agree and wanna hail The D as hottest or not, it’ll no doubt be relatable––especially to those of a certain generation. Just shy of 40, Jackson can remember growing up in the pre-phone, ‘be-home-before-the-streetlights-come-on’ era, being dragged to church by his momma and ‘nem, watching the music and club culture of the ‘90s and early 2000s give way to TikTok dances and viral hits. Seven years in the making, “Still Detroit” is as much a love letter to his home city as it is all our home cities and remembrances of time gone by.
“Especially now, with all the things going on in the world, we can appreciate what we had, and see how blessed we are. I want to talk nostalgia, bring us back to where we used to be so we can understand where we need to go.”
Brandon T. Jackson’s “Still Detroit” is currently touring the country.
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