The Last of Us actor Lamar Johnson grew up watching movies in this Canadian theater. Now he’s playing his movie

Lamar Johnson grew up watching movies at the Scarborough Cineplex; it was a Tuesday tradition for the 28-year-old actor. But he had the unusual experience of sitting in that same theater this week to watch himself onscreen in the coming-of-age drama Brotherwhich takes place in his hometown.

“It’s a looping moment for me,” Johnson told CBC News at the film’s premiere. The actor plays Michael, the son of a Jamaican immigrant single mother, whose experiences of navigating race and identity in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough parallel those of his older brother, Francis (Aaron Pierre).

Brother leads the pack at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards with 14 film nominations, including Best Picture and Directing. Johnson is set to star in a lead role, while his co-star, Pierre, is set to star in a supporting role.

It was a surreal evening this week for actor Lamar Johnson, as he attended the red carpet premiere of his film, Brother, at the same theater where he grew up watching movies. (George Pimentel/Elevation)

Thinking back to his youth – “the seed that was planted in me when I was watching an ad and saw a little black child” – Johnson said it was important for black Canadian children to see themselves represented in the screen.

“I think for little Lamar or little black kids growing up in Scarborough, [to] to see that representation on screen, to see their environment, to see their community on screen – I mean, it’s really special.”

In addition to growing up in the community where Brother is fixed, Johnson is also a first-generation Canadian raised by a single mother from Jamaica. That deep connection to the character resonated with the actor and made Michael’s life bounce off the page, he said.

“When I read the script, it was like I was kind of reading part of myself and part of my experience growing up,” he said. “Obviously it’s not as, you know, I guess, dramatic. Michael is going through a lot and he’s dealing with a lot of trauma. But I was able to relate to him because of where he comes from and of what motivates him and what motivates him.”

Clement Virgo, the Jamaican-Canadian filmmaker who adapted Brother from David Chariandy’s 2017 novel of the same name, make it clear: “Lamar is a star.”

Two black men are sitting on a picnic table
Johnson and his co-star Aaron Pierre are shown in a scene from Brother. Brother leads the pack at this year’s Canadian Screen Awards, with 14 film nominations. Johnson and Pierre are nominated for their performances. (Guy Godfree/Elevation Pictures/Courtesy FIN-AIFF)

“He was born and raised here in Scarborough, and there’s something about this young man that’s quite powerful,” Virgo told CBC News on Monday.

“When I was looking for my Michael for the movie, I loved his eyes and I loved his energy, and I needed someone the audience would sympathize with and love and follow in this movie. And Lamar has all those qualities. .…He has a very, very bright future ahead of him.”

It felt like I was kind of reading part of myself and part of my experience growing up.Actor Lamar Johnson

But Brother honors his roots in the community where he was born, Johnson is already known to audiences around the world for playing the role of Henry, one of the survivors of a fungal pandemic in the hit television series adapted for video games from HBO The last of us.

“I am so happy to welcome the two Brother And The last of us“, Johnson said of the projects. “It’s been a great trip. I’m so happy with the opportunities that I can have, to show myself and try to be as honest as possible with these roles, and try to show myself.”

Two men are pictured side by side.
Director Clement Virgo and Johnson are pictured at the red carpet premiere of their film Brother. Virgo, who adapted the film from David Chariandy’s 2017 novel, said Johnson had “a very, very bright future ahead of him”. (George Pimentel/Elevation)

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