Interview by JANA LETONJA

Emmy winning writer, actor and host Branden Wellington is known for his role on BET’s comedy drama series ‘Sistas’, which is in its seventh season. He also brought his talent to the critically acclaimed ‘Orange is the New Black’ and HBO’s short film ‘When It All Falls Down’. Wellington won an Emmy for his writing of the spoken-word themed broadcast open ‘TV Dreams In A World of Sports’ in collaboration with Miami Heat.

Branden, we’ve recently been able to watch you in the seventh season of BET’s series ‘Sistas’. How would you sum up the season so far and the midseason finale?

If I had to sum up the season thus far, I could do it in one word, answers. Coming out of season 6, there are a lot of storylines and relationships that were in question. Our heroes had their personal lives upended and some of them lost their business or job. As the theme song for ‘Sistas’ reminds us, our heroes are looking for love. In the beginning of season 7 some had to say goodbye to relationships that had been a cornerstone of the series so far, and hello to new ones. Navigating new waters isn’t promised to be smooth sailing and the mid-season finale rocked the boat in a few of these relationships.

You joined the cast in season 6 in a recurring role, before becoming a series regular in season 7. What do you love the most about this series and its story?

What I love the most about ‘Sistas’ is that it tackles complex conversations and scenarios centered around love and friendships. Some episodes left me reflecting on my own personal life and made me question if I was having the tough conversations in my interpersonal relationships. Through the different relationships on the show, ‘Sistas’ offers a window into various types of relationships upon which viewers can learn and be entertained.

What got you into acting in the first place? How did you develop a passion for it?

I enjoyed entertaining my family and the joy I got from making them laugh or tugging on their heartstrings. That made me want to do this. I have had a variety of interest growing up and couldn’t settle on one thing that I wanted to be because I was fascinated by so much. Acting is the one avenue that I can travel down for a lifetime and be various things along the way through the characters I play. 

sweater PAISLEY & GRAY

How do you look back on your career so far, which moment stands out to you the most?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a multifaceted career ranging from writing, entertainment hosting, stand-up comedy, sports reporting, and even becoming a professional poet. Through all of those things, what I desired most was to do what I’m doing right now, acting. When I was at the height of a lot of opportunities, internally I still felt unfound because all I wanted to be was an actor, but along the way I became so much more. 

I gave the opening rally speech to game 4 of the 2015 World Series in front of 45.000 people and even sideline reported for the NBA G-League Finals on ESPN. The moment that stood out for me was when I got my first recurring role on ‘Orange is The New Black’ and decided to leave a budding career in sports behind to focus on acting. To that point, my hosting and sports resume overshadowed what I was building as an actor, so I decided to leave that all behind so it could no longer be the case.

What challenges you creatively the most as an actor?

As an actor your job isn’t when you book, it’s all the things that lead up to it. The challenge is to stay grounded and in a good workflow of taking classes, reading scripts, studying film and TV, and fine tuning your auditions. Yes, we all want to eventually be on screen or stage, but the real challenge is working like you’re booked when you aren’t and finding inspiration through that journey. Imagine starting a marathon race with no set goal line. That’s acting. You can do 99 auditions with no promises that your 100th will lead to your goal of a job. No matter what, you must keep running. 

You’re also an Emmy-winner for your work on the broadcast ‘TV Dreams in a World of Sports’ for Fox Sports and in collaboration with Miami Heat. Tell us more about this important moment in your career and what inspired this piece.

The title of that piece was meant to be a microcosm of my professional life up to that point, which I touched base on in a previous question. This project was somehow a parallel reality to me because Miami Heat was using their platform and resources to bring kids into the industry of entertainment sports broadcast through an event called Kids Day.

At that time in my life, I was trying to segue into acting, but was doing sports entertainment, thus the title ‘TV Dreams in a World of Sports’. Had I known it’d get printed on an Emmy, I might’ve chosen a different title. But the parallel helped me see my life and this opportunity through a different lens, one of gratitude and inspiration as we used our collective talents to pour into the next generation.

When contracted to write a piece, I always do my best to weave my artistic process into the client’s overall vision for themselves in hopes to create a tapestry that we can all be proud of presenting to an audience. ‘TV Dreams in a World of Sports’ did that and the client submitted it to the Suncoast Emmy Chapter for consideration. I received two nominations, one for performing and one for writing. And I captured the Emmy for the writing.

Besides this broadcast, you’ve also served as an in-game host for the New York Mets and as host and sideline reporter for the NBA G-League. What excites you the most about this line of work?

I grew up as a three-sport athlete playing baseball, football and basketball, so I always had a love and passion for the game. What I enjoyed most was being on hand for others at the height of their accomplishments and finding a way to capture that energy in an interview so that fans can experience it too. 


You’re obviously a huge NBA and basketball fan. Who is the biggest NBA star this season in your opinion?

The biggest star for the last 15 – 20 years has always been LeBron James, but I do think that the star of this particular year is Jayson Tatum. The Celtics have the number one record in the NBA and they’re two years removed from their last NBA finals appearance. The Celtics are no longer the young upcoming team, these guys are at the start of their prime and they’re playing like it. It’s also been fascinating to watch what Luka Dončić has been able to do this year. If he was able to enter the NBA at 18 years old, there’s a good chance that he’d have a shot at LeBron James’ scoring record if health was never an issue. Also, the rookie to watch is obviously Victor Wembanyama. He’s already putting up once in a generation stat lines and only going to get better as he continues to learn the NBA game.

What are the things that fulfill you in life the most, excluding your work?

In my down time, I find fulfillment in studying apologetics, trying to understand why we believe what we believe. It’s very fascinating to study ancient history and religious theory in hopes to find and make sense of the world we live in today. There’s a saying that goes “The two most important days in your life is the day that you’re born and the day you figure out why”. I believe apologetics helps us find those answers, rationally and justifiably. 

What projects do you have coming up next and what can you share with us about them?

I am one of the leads in an independent feature film titled ‘Post Truth’, that is on track to release later this year. It is a film that covers the polarization of social media and how all of our lives intersect through it. I believe it will be showcased through film festivals first and the goal from there is to find major distribution. It’s a project that I can’t wait to share with everyone because I believe that it was one that challenged me emotionally. I’m excited to see how it all comes together.


photographer DAVID KATZINGER
stylist SKY JT NAVAL
groomer MR. SARAH
editorial director & interview JANA LETONJA