Leland Martin Shatters Gender Expectations on BET’s 'Boomerang'
Leland B. Martin won’t let you define him. The hunky actor’s voice booms out confidently just a couple days after the seventh episode of Boomerang aired on BET. “Pride” gave fans a deeper insight into Martin’s character, Ari Thomas. Like Martin —Ari is smooth, confident and sexy. Though he’s the most carefree among his ragtag group of friends which includes Simone (Tetona Jackson), Bryson (Tequan Richmond), Tia (Lala Milan), Crystal (Brittany Inge) and David (RJ Walker), it became clear in “Pride” that Ari isn’t afraid to stand his ground.
Ari’s reliance was one of the reasons the character spoke to Martin. When the rest of us were scratching our heads trying to figure out how Lena Waithe and Halle Berry —who serve as executive producers on the series —were going to remix the iconic Eddie Murphy-led 1992 flick Boomerang into a modern -day TV series —Martin could already see the vision unfolding before his eyes.
“Halle Berry and Lena Waithe were already attached to it when I went in for my audition,” Martin explained. “That’s what really what drew me to it. Lena Waithe, in my opinion, is as a genius who’s really making her mark in the industry and Halle Berry is iconic. She’s someone who has a very, very, stamped resume. So, when it comes to these two particular individuals and then everybody that came along with it; it was a no-brainer for me.”
Set in present-day Atlanta, BET’s Boomerang follows Jacqueline Boyer’s (Robin Givens) son, Bryson, and Marcus and Angela Graham’s daughter, Simone and their tight-knit group of friends they attempt to step out of their parents’ shadows to create their own legacies. However, as all millennials know—careers, friendships, and love lives aren’t easily balanced. Young, fresh, and sensual the series has an aura of authenticity around it, which Martin credits to his close bond with his castmates.
“It’s very rare that you get a group of people like the six that we’ve got together,” the former financial advisor said. “Everybody gravitated toward each other from jump street. There were no egos. It was more of a family feel. We got together, and we started getting to know each other right off the bat. We made it a point to make sure that we got to know each other so that we could start to develop that chemistry. You see it on the screen because we’re really friends. We really hang out. We built that.”
Boomerang is a true ensemble show giving each character time in the spotlight. “Pride” centers around Ari as he struggles to find his footing in his career. In the episode, he also addresses a former lover who tries to shame him for his queer identity. From what Martin implies, there are many layers to Ari, and they are only just starting to be revealed. “I would love to see how Ari expands as a professional,” Martin said thoughtfully. “We saw a little bit of it in “Pride” when he saves the day as far as his directing is concerned and starts to move forward in that vein. I would love to see where he goes as far as his craft.”
When it came to stepping into his character and truly understanding what made Ari tick, the alaskaLand actor did not approach the task lightly. After all, Ari is one of the only modern depictions of a young, sexually fluid Black man on television. “There was a lot to talk about who the character was, how the character looked, how exactly was the character unapologetic, and in what ways and things like that,” Martin revealed. “Dime Davis was very instrumental when it came to crafting the pilot episode and the flow of the show from the beginning. All of us sat down with her and with Lena and discussed who these people were, and we started to craft the look of Ari. In the beginning, we were still making decisions. Does Ari have dreads? Does Ari have twists? What’s Ari’s style like? That type of thing. It was very much a collaborative effort as far as his identity.”
Continue reading on Violet Summer Zine.