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


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

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

“It’s a round moment for me,” Johnson told CBC News during the film’s premiere. The actor plays Michael, the son of a Jamaican immigrant single mother, whose experiences of 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 Achievement in Direction. Johnson is ready to act in a lead role, while his co-star, Pierre, is ready to act in a supporting role.

Two black men sit on top of a picnic table
Johnson and his co-star Aaron Pierre can be seen in a scene from Brother. Brother leads this year’s Canadian Screen Awards, with 14 film nominations. Both Johnson and Pierre have been nominated for their performances. (Guy Godfree/Elevation Pictures/Courtesy FIN-AIFF)

Reflecting on his younger self — “the seed that was planted in me when I watched a commercial and I saw a little black boy” — Johnson said it was important for black Canadian kids to see themselves on screen.

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

Except I grew up in the community where Brother is set, 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 reading part of myself and part of my experience growing up,” he said. “Obviously it’s not, you know, I think, dramatic. Michael goes through a lot and he deals with a lot of trauma. But I was able to relate to him because of where he came from and what drives him and what drives him.”

Clement Virgo, the Jamaican-born Canadian filmmaker who has adapted Brother from David Chariandy’s 2017 novel of the same name, plainly stated, “Lamar is a star.”

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

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

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

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

although Brother Honoring his roots in the community where he was born, Johnson is already known to audiences around the world for appearing as Henry, one of the survivors of a fungal pandemic on HBO’s popular video game-adapted television series The last of us.

“I’m just so happy with the reception of both Brother And The last of usJohnson said of the projects. ‘It’s been a nice journey. I’m so happy with the opportunities I’m getting, to just show myself and just be as honest as I can be in these roles, and just try to step up.”

A man talks to another man.
Johnson speaks with CBC’s Eli Glasner during the premiere of Brother on the red carpet in Scarborough, Ontario, on Monday. (George Pimentel/Elevation)