Toronto actor Lamar Johnson says ‘Your Honor’ is his ‘most vulnerable’ onscreen role

Toronto actor Lamar Johnson says ‘Your Honor’ is his ‘most vulnerable’ onscreen role

TORONTO — Lamar Johnson grew up in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Ont., down the road from a couple of other fellow screen stars who are also making waves in Hollywood.

Johnson says he’s known actor-brothers Stephan James and Shamier Anderson since they were young, and was even convinced by the latter to study drama and musical theatre at Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts in the city’s east end.

Anderson persuading Johnson to shift from basketball “hoop dreams” to Hollywood dreams changed his life, he says.

And so it seems fitting that the under-30 trio are celebrating career milestones within days of each other.

Just a week and a half after Anderson and James launched The Black Academy to celebrate Black talent across Canada, Johnson will make his debut in the hit new legal drama “Your Honor,” which screens Sundays on Showtime and Crave.

“I’ve known Shamier and Stephan since I was in PJs,” Johnson said this week in an interview, noting he grew up a few intersections away from the two, along Sheppard Avenue.

“All of our ambition lies in the same place: we know that it’s bigger than us. We know that in order for us to truly create impact, we have to go the distance. So we understand that we don’t create ceilings around us, there’s no bubble. The sky is truly the limit for us.”

The 10-episode “Your Honor” premiered last week and stars Bryan Cranston as a respected New Orleans judge and widower who tries to cover up his teenage son’s involvement in a hit-and-run accident.

Johnson plays a key role as Kofi Jones, a pawn of sorts in the high-stakes cat-and-mouse game that ensues between the judge and the head of a powerful crime family head, played by Michael Stuhlbarg.

“This is the most vulnerable that I’ve been on camera really ever,” said Johnson, whose previous credits include the films “The Hate U Give” and HBO’s “Native Son.”

“Stepping into it, it was a little nerve-racking, because I haven’t had a lot of personal experiences that mirror what Kofi goes through in his arc. So it was more so about me doing my homework.”

Johnson recalled one particularly tough day on set in New Orleans, shooting a harrowing scene in a car.

“I remember doing that scene and completely blacking out,” he said.

“It was the furthest that I’ve had to dive and dig in as an actor.”

Johnson’s character lives in the city’s Lower Ninth Ward, which was the poorest and hardest hit during Hurricane Katrina. He makes sacrifices in order to ensure the safety of his family, often showing remarkable strength despite his situation, said the actor.

The juxtaposition of the lives of those in that community with the power and privilege of Cranston’s character speaks to issues of class, race and corruption.

“I think that the topics on the show are very timely, and it’s just something that is just very poignant,” Johnson said, noting showrunner Peter Moffat didn’t shy away from the heavier themes.

“In New Orleans, the judicial system is quite corrupt,” he added. “They call it a conveyor belt system, where there are Black people that are just being pumped through the system constantly. And I think the show highlights that, too.”

Johnson was living in Los Angeles for work until the pandemic hit. He’s now back on home soil in Whitby, Ont., with a screen project he’s “really excited about” on the horizon. He’s also a renaissance man of sorts, creating his own production company and his own jewelry line, with ambitions to also write a book and make furniture and other household items.

For himself, Anderson and James, “it’s really just the beginning,” he said, noting the three hope to collaborate “when the time is right.”

“We have a lot of things that we want to do and say and use as expressions,” Johnson said. “So I think what’s happening now are just little seeds that are being planted to get to a place where we can truly harvest.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 11, 2020.

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

film

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Canadian drivers may not be as courteous as they thing, says a new survey.
Black Press file photo
83% of Alberta drivers admit to speeding: survey

97% of drivers admit to aggressive or road rage-like behaviour

Council approved a $3 million grant and a $19 million loan Tuesday to help keep Westerner Park sustainable. (Advocate file photo)
Red Deer city council approves $22M to keep Westerner Park viable after emotional debate

It’s vital ensure future success for the huge economic generator, says mayor

Red Deer Rebels goalie Chase Coward tries to find a loose puck during WHL action at the Centrium earlier this season. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Changes on the horizon for Red Deer Rebels next season

New coach, roster adjustments among top priorities for Sutter this offseason

Renovations and construction have begun at Red Deer Dream Centre. (Photo contributed)
Renovations underway at Red Deer Dream Centre

Christian-based addictions treatment centre

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Here is a list of latest COVID-19 restrictions in effect in Alberta

New mandatory health restrictions are now in effect in Alberta. Additional restrictions… Continue reading

An Empire Day/Victoria Day gathering of school children on Ross Street by the Cenotaph in the 1920s. On the right hand side, are members of the Red Deer Citizens Band (forerunner of the Red Deer Royals). (Photo via Red Deer Archives)
Victoria Day event helped after war

One hundred years ago, on May 24, 1921, a major community event… Continue reading

Gwynne Dyer
Gwynne Dyer: Independence is a one-way gate

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland declared in 2014 that the referendum… Continue reading

Boston Bruins left wing Nick Ritchie (21) and Washington Capitals defenseman Brenden Dillon (4) battle for the puck during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Raffl’s late goal pushes Capitals past Bruins, 2-1

Raffl’s late goal pushes Capitals past Bruins, 2-1

Chicago Blackhawks left wing Alex DeBrincat (12) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the Florida Panthers in Chicago, Saturday, May 1, 2021. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Toews’ question chases Chicago Blackhawks into offseason

Wheeler has two goals, two assists as Winnipeg Jets clinch third in North Division

Wheeler has two goals, two assists as Winnipeg Jets clinch third in North Division

Depleted Raptors drop a 115-96 decision to Leonard and Clippers

Depleted Raptors drop a 115-96 decision to Leonard and Clippers

Denis Shapovalov, of Canada, tosses the ball for a serve to Ilya Ivashka, of Belarus, during the Miami Open tennis tournament Saturday, March 27, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Wilfredo Lee
Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime upsets Diego Schwartzman at Italian Open

Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime upsets Diego Schwartzman at Italian Open

Philadelphia Flyers' James van Riemsdyk (25) and Sean Couturier (14) celebrate past New Jersey Devils' Yegor Sharangovich (17) after a goal by van Riemsdyk during the third period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, May 10, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Flyers drop from trendy East favorite to another lost season

Flyers drop from trendy East favorite to another lost season

Most Read