“That Requires You To Sit in the Pain”: Golden Brooks on Leaning Into Uncertainty and Starring in Disney’s ‘Saturdays’

“That Requires You To Sit in the Pain”: Golden Brooks on Leaning Into Uncertainty and Starring in Disney’s ‘Saturdays’

Black girl magic and Black boy joy are in full effect on Disney Channel’s new coming-of-age comedy, Saturdays. Executive-produced by 18-year-old powerhouse Marsai Martin, the show stars one of our favorite leading ladies, Golden Brooks. Her onscreen portrayal of Deb Johnson fuses her comedic skills, charismatic nature, and nurturing spirit.

With an extensive resume dating back to the early ’90s (The Adventures of Pete & PetePromised LandLinc’s, and The Jamie Foxx Show), it was her role as Maya Wilkes on Girlfriends that stole audiences’ hearts. Regardless of the part, one of the characteristics that resonate most with viewers is the San Francisco native’s relatability, allowing fans to feel connected as her quick wit, light-heartedness, and genuineness project through the screen. 

BLACK ENTERPRISE chatted with the award-winning actress about navigating the peaks and valleys of her career, leaning into the power of no, the importance of mentorship, and why Saturdays is the perfect backdrop for showcasing and celebrating the diversity of the Black family.  

BLACK ENTERPRISE: Why do you believe you were the right fit to portray Deb Johnson on Saturdays?

Golden Brooks: I take on that family structure very well. I’ve played a lot of moms, some single moms, moms with troubled teens, and all of that. I’m bringing a bit of comedic ability mixed in with that anchor Deb has regarding her family. I tried hard to find a balance to make her likable and fun-loving, but she also puts her foot down in her family life. 

I watched with my 8-year-old niece and asked her how she liked the series. She responded, “It shows us that we’re so cool, and it’s so much Black Girl Magic. I love this.”

I love that! When I hear the girls talking about Peyton [Basnight], Daria [Johns], and Danielle [Jalade], what I love is that this is a show about these three girls and their sisterhood. It is Black Girl Magic, and it’s girl magic in general. Because they’re at the forefront of this story, they’re not peripheral characters, and they’re not those characters that come in every fourth and fifth episode. These are intentional characters.

Your niece saying that at 8 years old, she’s feeling empowered. She’s thinking, “Wow, those girls remind me of me. The way they look, act, skate, dress, or talk.” That’s where that empowerment comes in and where you start to form a movement. Saturdays will do that for young people, not just young girls, but also young men. 

What are a few key boundaries you’re working on for yourself right now?

Boundaries, that’s a huge one. The boundary in the power of saying “No.” I’ve been so scared to say no because there are very few yeses. There are very few moments where I felt I could say, “Yes.” I found that trickled into many pieces of my life where I felt I was overextending myself. Whether that’s emotionally, physically, trying to do a little bit of everything in one day, or just trying to please many different people in my life.

I realize boundaries and the self-protective mode of no, speak volumes, and learning when I need to stop and do a little self-care, whatever that looks like. But just knowing I need to replenish myself and this vessel because I use it for work, I use it to be a mother. We put out so much, and it’s important for me to learn when I need to pull back.

You said there were very few yeses. What’s the biggest “No” you heard in your career, and what did you learn from it?

There was a great job I wanted many years ago, and I was so hurt that I didn’t get it. I thought, “I’m never going to work again.” When you’re in the middle of it, you feel that that is your end-all, be-all. You don’t think there will ever be another role or job that will give you that.

I remember Tracee Ellis Ross told me when we were shooting Girlfriends, “You don’t become successful by getting everything you audition for, by saying yes to everything you get.” I always remembered that, and I took that to mean that sometimes this journey detours you. There’s a lot of self-deprecation of “Why is this happening to me?” What’s happening to you is you’re gaining a story for yourself and achieving depth for yourself.

Your pain and nos are meant to make that one yes so monumental that you’ve put all that into it. You’ve put all those nos, all that pain, and all of that work into that moment where you can finally “shine.” But you wouldn’t be able to have that moment if you weren’t able to dig deep and do that self-work. That requires you to sit in the pain.

Who are some of your mentors in your personal and professional life who have guided you throughout your trajectory?

I love my community of friends. Regina Hall, one of my closest friends, has been a huge rock in my career and personal journey. We need that person that’s going to pray for us and make us laugh when all we want to do is cry. She’s that for me. My girlfriend, Jill Marie Jones, we connect on a level where we keep each other going. I love that because we know each other’s world, and we’ve been in each other’s world for many years.

In terms of mentors of people, I look up to, I’ve never worked with Viola Davis, but I love her outlook on her self-worth and life. At this point in my life as a mother, an actor, a woman who’s finding peace and just being comfortable with where I am in my world, you need people who match where you are and who are going to take you to a higher psychological hemisphere in terms of how you’re looking at yourself and the world around you. 

Michelle Obama, she’s also someone who I love. I love strong women. Strength comes in putting your flaws out there where there’s wiggle room for growth, and that’s where you see someone’s truth. Michelle Obama is very transparent when talking about who she is as a mother, who she is as a wife, and who she is as a woman in this world. 

I had a conversation yesterday, and we discussed showcasing vulnerability as true strength.

That’s exactly it. As Black women, sometimes it might be hard for us to showcase that because of all the hats we must wear. Vulnerability, to me, is the most beautiful accessory. I even tell my 13-year-old daughter, “You don’t always have to have it all figured out. You don’t always have to walk around like it doesn’t hurt if something is painful and if something hits deeper than you expected it to. It’s OK to talk about what that feels like.” You are never too young to learn that lesson.

Girlfriends was such a pivotal moment in your career. Looking back and knowing what you know now, what words of wisdom would you tell yourself during that time?

Just listen, Golden, because everyone has a little piece of something you can learn and gain from. You can’t hear it when you’re always enveloped in your own noise. When you’re super young, you have this thing where you think you know everything. I’m a perfectionist. A part of being a perfectionist is you want it done yesterday. I put a lot on myself, and I’m hard on myself. That’s something that I work on constantly.

I love when I pass a certain point, and I can say, “Wow, I would’ve handled that differently two weeks ago or two years ago.” I’ve seen growth in different pieces of my life where I can check that box. I love that I’m a constant work in progress. As we said, the vulnerability and the knowing that you still have a long way to go for where you’re trying to go keeps you evolving, even as an artist.