Trevor Jackson Talks About His Role in 'Burning Sands'

Trevor Jackson Talks About His Role in 'Burning Sands'

And the disturbing reality of group-think.

And the disturbing reality of group-think.

Photography: Sharif Hamza

Styling: Ellie Grace Cumming

Text: Priya Rao

Given the brighter spotlight shone on college hazings, not to mention sexual assault, artistically capturing the mammoth that is the Greek system is no easy task. But in Gerard McMurray’s Burning Sands, which is currently out on Netflix, newcomer Trevor Jackson does just that. Having stretched his dramatic limits on television shows like American Crime, the 20-year-old takes on the role of Zurich, a conscientious pledge in all-African-American fraternity torn between silence and solidarity during “Hell Week.”

“The part was a history lesson to me because everything that these fraternities are based off of have legendary black leaders that created these groups for specific purposes for the betterment of black lives,” says Jackson. “Obviously at the time they were created they weren’t really respected, but I love what it stands for. I learned a lot more about what the basis of it is: the brotherhood, the friendship, the leadership.”

Though Jackson himself didn’t attend college—he has been acting since he was eight years old—he did plenty of research through YouTube and traveling to schools to speak to members. “The one thing I really wanted to make sure came across on screen was the lack of sleep. Everyone I met just really didn’t sleep, so I tried not to,” he explains. “We would have long, long, long work days, and then I would stay up. I was trying to make myself feel like a college student like I could be asleep and somebody would say ‘Hey, I want a sandwich right now’ at five in the morning and you’d have to say ‘Okay’ and do it.”

Showcasing one’s physicality was another facet to the young Jackson’s method acting (anyone who has rushed can speak to the often-seen brutality of the system). “You’re with a bunch of guys so you get up in the morning and everyone says, ‘Do 50 push-ups’ and you do it,” he remembers. Still, Jackson often broke up his workouts with savory grilled cheese sandwiches.

As for if the film and in a larger sense, Greek life, go too far, Jackson certainly understands the questions of morality of group-think. “I feel like so many people ground themselves getting into friend groups, whether it is in fraternities or Hollywood and I feel like you should never be a part of something to the point that you lose who you are and what you believe,” he says. “I don’t think that’s ever, ever right. All we have at the end of the day is our own beliefs. That is what we have to rely on.”

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