Lawrence H. Robinson On ‘Sistas’, Resilience & Why He Prefers To Do The Catering In Relationships
Lawrence H. Robinson is having a moment. Like, a really good moment.
And I'm not just saying that because he recently made his well-received debut on the new BET hit seriesSistas. Nor am I saying that because he's got a new movie slated to come out around Christmas time that promises to be equal parts feel-good and funny. No, the moment Lawrence is having is one of those rare moments, where your dream slowly but surely starts turning into your reality. It's a little after 5pm when our call connects and the Philly native is in good spirits. He's inviting and easy during our conversation. (Easy on the eyes too, am I right ladies?) But as he begins to recount his journey to me in our half-hour chat, one thing becomes abundantly clear: Lawrence is a man full of persistence and perseverance. He doesn't believe in giving up. And while humble beginnings working at the airport and going to community college may have been enough to deter any other person from pursuing their heart's desire, for Lawrence, it only fanned the flame for him to keep going. And that's exactly what he did. "I've always known I wanted to do something in entertainment, ever since I was a kid," he tells xoNecole. "I just didn't know what my path was going to be."
"I didn't have a bunch of money growing up. I wasn't the smartest kid growing up but I've always been super hardworking. And if I could look back, I would just say my drive is the same. That never changed."
So how did he go from handling bags to securing bags with BET & Tyler Perry? xoNecole recently got the chance to chat with the Sistas star to find out.
xoNecole: Describe your character Chris [in ‘Sistas’].
Lawrence H. Robinson: Chris is in his early thirties and had a rough childhood growing up. He was raised by his aunt, but she passed away when he was 16. So from 16 on, he got caught up in the streets and eventually went to jail for attempted murder. After he got out, he opened his own business doing construction and now he has a million dollars in his bank account. He's a solid, good brother dating an older woman who's being played by the legend, Shari Belafonte. And he's basically getting introduced to Zach, who's played by Devale Ellis, to try to get him on the right track.
Did you always know acting and modeling was going to be in your future or was this something you kind of stumbled upon?
You know, I was actually like Zach [in the show], Devale Ellis' character--I worked at the airport for six years. I was just a hard-working dude from Philly who was just a baggage handler, but I always wanted more. So in the midst of that, I took acting as an elective because I really wanted to do it. Then I took Tasha Smith's workshop in 2011, moved to New York in 2012, and then I booked my first commercial with Diddy for Macy's. I made a lot of money and I thought that was going to be my way in. I ended up getting fired from my job on purpose so I could pursue acting full-time and I went on that. So I've always been into acting but modeling and acting go hand in hand for me.
I was still modeling like for Macy's and Pepsi, a lot of the commercial stuff. I wanted to be an editorial model but I guess I had a more commercial look. But fast forward to now, I'm in LA and still chasing it, doing the modeling and the social media stuff--that's always going to be there but my passion was always TV and film. I'm just grateful for Tyler Perry for giving me my first character.
What have you learned about yourself thus far throughout your journey?
I've definitely learned that I'm resilient. And that I don't believe in the word 'no'. The word 'no' doesnt doesnt scare me, I'm not afraid of it. It makes me want to keep going until I get [a] 'yes'. Some people are really intimidated by that word. And I love when people underestimate me, I love that. I've always been one of those people that you may see me on social media flexing and working that market but I've always [been] in the background taking acting classes. So I knew when it was time for me to hop on-screen, I knew that I was going to be invested and my character was going to make an impression because I've always been willing to do the work.
Let’s switch it up a bit and talk relationships now. How are you handling dating during quarantine? Are you doing the whole Zoom dates and...
I actually haven't been on Zoom but I've had a couple Facetime calls. It was random though! I've just been watching shows and I'll go through my DMs sometimes and if I see something that catches my attention-- then we'll have a conversation. So it's just been a lot of casual conversations and a few 'Facetime dates', but for the most part I've just been dating myself. And really trying to figure out what I want for my life. Now that I'm entering my dream world and my dream is becoming my work--I have to figure out what's next? You know: do I want to get married? Do I want to have another kid? Do I want another serious relationship? I've just been questioning myself and having some conversations internally.
Courtesy of Lawrence H. Robinson
"Now that I'm entering my dream world and my dream is becoming my work--I have to figure out what's next? You know: do I want to get married? Do I want to have another kid? Do I want another serious relationship? I've just been questioning myself and having some conversations internally."
Gotcha. So when it comes to red flags, what are some major ones you look for when it comes to dating?
It's definitely a red flag if you're not a kid person. Another one is if you don't believe in God. Everything I do is based on my faith. I respect everybody but I can't imagine having a conversation and going back to my faith and you don't believe in God. That's uncomfortable to me. Another one would also be lack of drive. You have to be clear about what you want in life and actively go towards it. You don't have to be an actress or in Hollywood--I would love to date somebody who's not doing exactly what I do. But you definitely need to be trying to work towards something and know who you are.
Understood. I know you have a little one, your son Aiden. Has fatherhood affected what you look for or what you’re attracted to when it comes to dating?
Absolutely. You have to be into kids and like kids. And you have to ask about my kid. You can't check on me and not check on Aiden. My son is the number 1 thing that makes me happy. So you need to know that my son is the highlight of my life and if you're not invested in that--you may as well go the other way.
Courtesy of Lawrence H. Robinson
"My son is the number 1 thing that makes me happy. So you need to know that my son is the highlight of my life and if you're not invested in that--you may as well go the other way."
Do you know your love language(s)?
I don't know for sure but I'm big on affirmations, for me and for her. I need to tell you I love you and I need her to tell me she loves me. I need all the compassionate words, the compliments, I need all that.
So when you’re in a relationship, how would you best like to be catered for by your partner?
I don't like to be catered to. I prefer to do all the catering. That's what I do. Besides the affirmations, that's all I need.
OK, well let’s flip it. How do you best cater to your partner?
By being there for her to provide whatever she needs so she knows 'I got you.' Any kind of support. No matter what. And that's honestly why when I was struggling as an actor, I wouldn't date. I won't date if I'm broke. Because if we're going to dinner or to the movies--I'm paying for it. I really don't like dating if I'm not financially stable. Luckily, I'm not in that position anymore, but I like to provide, be supportive. I like to encourage. I don't want her to have to look nowhere else.
Courtesy of Lawrence H. Robinson
"I won't date if I'm broke. Because if we're going to dinner or to the movies--I'm paying for it. I really don't like dating if I'm not financially stable. Luckily, I'm not in that position anymore, but I like to provide, be supportive. I like to encourage. I don't want her to have to look nowhere else."
Last thing before we wrap and this is a two-part question: What frustrates you the most and surprises you the most when it comes to finding love or about love in general?
Mmm. That's good. What frustrates me the most is not knowing when the right time for it is. I'm so focused right now and locked into my career and I feel like love can either help you or knock you off your track. And what surprises me the most is how it feels like fate. The perfect situation can really come your way out of nowhere one day and you weren't even looking for it. That's what I would say.
Season 1 of Sistas is available to stream on the BET Now app. And for more of Lawrence, connect with him on Instagram: @lawrencehrobinson.
Featured image courtesy of Lawrence H. Robinson
Writer. Empath. Escapist. Young, gifted, and Black. Shanelle Genai is a proud Southern girl in a serious relationship with celebrity interviews, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and long walks down Sephora aisles. Keep up with her on IG @shanellegenai.
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30 Years Later: Here's Why I Think 'Living Single' Had The Healthiest Couples On TV
I don’t know about (some of) y’all but every time that I see a 90s movie or television program turn the Big 30 (or hell, even 20, for that matter), it definitely makes me feel some type of way. Lawd, where does the time go? Truly. And I definitely don’t feel any differently about Living Single — the show that, for starters, we all know Friends should attribute at least 75 percent of its success to since it basically gypped its entire concept from it. (Don’t get me started! Just know that you can read more about that very thing here, here, here, here, and here).
Anyway, there is so much to adore about the sitcom, even as it (rightfully so) plays in heavy rerun rotation to this day. There are the solid friendships between four Black women who remind me, interestingly enough, of the four hilarious seniors fromThe Golden Girls: Khadijah could easily be Dorothy; Synclaire would be Rose; Max would be Sophia, and Regine would be Blanche (wild, right?). There’s the beautiful friendship between their male sidekick neighbors, Kyle and Overton (Black male bonds are also a very precious and necessary thing). There are the relevant storylines, quick wit, and the kind of entertainment that most television shows today can’t even begin to touch (le sigh). Yeah, Living Single deserves all of the flowers to the point where I’m still pissed that it was canceled in the middle of its fifth season (although, thankfully, many questions were actually answered in the last episode).
Yet, even with all of this said, if I had to name my absolute favorite thing about the show, hands down, it’s the fact that when I stop and think of all of the shows that I’ve watched over the years (and it’s been a lot of them), Living Single is one where I think that every main love connection was pretty damn healthy. Not only that, but there is one couple, in particular, who I think a lot of folks could stand to learn how to love well and right from (heads up, it’s probably not the one you think).
So, in honor of the show being 30, humor me as I take just a few minutes to formally and officially shout out a few reasons why, when it comes to displaying Black love and hell, love in general, Living Single set the bar, raised it and then added tax — thirty years ago and present day.
Khadijah and ScooterGiphy
I like getting t-shirts made with pics of some of my favorite Black love couples. For instance, I recently got one done with Jesse and Angie on it (the real ones know who they are); folks always compliment me when I wear it.
There’s one couple, in particular, though, who’s been triggering the mess outta me for the past several months. It’s because, although I crown them as the healthiest fictional couple in television history (Black or otherwise), it’s hard as hell to find any good shots of them. Yep, that would be Khadijah (Queen Latifah) and Scooter (Cress Williams).
They were childhood friends who stayed friends. They always wanted what was best for each other. They didn’t let really good sex (remember their first time when Khadijah said, “We started kissing, and my clothes fell off!”) infect their friendship. Even when they got engaged, they broke it off because they knew that, even though the love was there, they were doing it (at the time) for the wrong reasons. They supported each other’s careers. Scooter was not threatened by Khadijah’s ambition (or other boyfriends; remember when she was about to move in with ole’ boy and Scooter was basically like, “I mean, I did pop in unannounced. My bad.”) Yet, he was also confident enough to tell her about herself sometimes (because if there’s one thing she hated, it was receiving correction and giving apologies).
On the flip side, when Scooter had to travel away for long periods of time, she didn’t put unrealistic restrictions on him. They both just kind of let each other be and allowed their love for one another to exist — even if it had to change different forms in different seasons of their lives. Their love was so full, real, and special that I truly believe that if Fox hadn’t “foxed” the show (SMDH), they would’ve gotten married — and had a really solid and drama-less union. Because the relationship was about freedom, respect, and friendship. And that is healthy as hell, y’all.
Yeah, HANDS DOWN, they are the cream of the crop when it comes to relationships to me. Who gives AF about Rachel and Ross (from Friends)? Khadijah and Scooter have always run crop circles around them in my eyes, chile.
Synclaire and OvertonGiphy
I already know that most of y’all probably think that I should’ve led with Synclaire (Kim Coles) and Overton (John Henton) since they were definitely the most popular couple on the show (again, I had to go with my personal favorite, though) — and with just cause.
All of the “day ones” remember that the first episode of Living Single featured Overton seeing Synclaire for the first time and instantly being drawn to her and her quirkiness (like that big ass troll doll that she rolled up to the brownstone with). He pined away silently for what seemed like forever as he was low-key courting her in the process (like when he faked being an accounting expert just to spend time with her). When they finally did get together, Synclaire and Overton took their time before having sex and yet were super affectionate and doting on one another in the meantime; this serves as a great reminder that intimacy doesn’t have to require copulation. They openly communicated their needs and expectations. They shared a liking for some of the strangest stuff around.
Overton had a way of being protective yet supportive of Synclaire (like when she was naked in that play), while Synclaire had his back when it came to things like resolving matters with his ex (remember when he kissed his ex and realized he was really over her? Classic). Something else that was cool about Synclaire and Overton is you saw dating go to courting, courting go to engagement, and engagement go to a traditional church wedding. They were sweet. They were old-fashioned (without being super critical of the other couples). They were adorable. They had a not-perfect-yet-very-uncomplicated kind of love. And isn’t it grand to be reminded that Black love can be just that way?
Synclaire and Overton are the kind of relationship that a lot of us probably imagine our great-grandparents had back in the day. And if anyone on this list is probably still together with some grandkids who also have troll dolls and tool belts for toys, it would be them. No question.
Maxine and KyleGiphy
These two right here, boy. Definitely, the couple who was the most fun and entertaining to watch consisted of Maxine (Erika Alexander) and Kyle (TC Carson). And can we take a moment to shout out the trendsetting hairstyles Maxine had and how intentional Kyle was about tailoring his outfits? Salute. Anyway, if any two people are an example that constant banter can indeed be foreplay, they would be it.
The clap backs were top-tier (and daily), and yet, there was a brilliance in their timing and delivery that makes them ending up together (eventually) make a ton of sense. Come to think of it, that’s what I liked the most about them — the way they let life mature some things in them both. When they had sex for the first time, they went on a date and realized (I think it was more Max’s fear than anything at the time) that good chemistry and great sex do not automatically make a solid relationship (which is mature as hell).
When they tried having just a sexual relationship (because the sex was so good), they were careful not to let it ruin their, I’m not sure if it was exactly a friendship (LOL), yet they were definitely solid advocates of one another. Even when tinges of jealousy would rear their ugly head (like when Kyle brought a woman, played by Kenya Moore, on a date), they were self-aware enough to reel it in, and when it came time for Kyle to leave for London (check out the backstory on why TC Carson actually left the show early here), even though he wanted Max to come with him, they didn’t “fairy tale” their journey. Kyle went on with his life, and Max went on with hers. Hey, it happens. Even with great sex and chemistry…to some, it happens.
Yet the best part about these two is how the universe has a way of making sure people who are meant to be have ample opportunities to accept that fact. And while it is a little wild to spin the story to where Max goes to a sperm bank and the sperm she gets is Kyle’s — I do adore that she ended up pregnant at a time when both of them appeared to be ready for a baby and a relationship together. Finally, there was full-circle peace — still loads of banter-foreplay but also a ton of peace. Well played.
Regine and Darryl
Okay. If y’all are true fans of the show, then you know that a fun fact is Regine (played by Kim Fields, who also left the show early; read why here) and Kyle dated briefly — which makes them another healthy couple when you stop to think about it because going from dating to a very sweet brother and sister dynamic? That doesn’t happen every day. And while some of you might be surprised that I didn’t go with fine ass Keith (Khalil Kain), Dexter (Don Franklin), who she ended up getting engaged to, or even the Jamaican writer Russell (Shaun Baker), who always got her to shimmy and who she said was a great kisser…I think there is another romantic connection she had who topped them all: Darryl, who was played by the late and great Heavy D — the ONLY celebrity who, to this day, I can personally say that I haven’t heard one negative thing about whether it was during his life or it was after his death.
Clearly, their relationship wasn’t super long-lasting because I couldn’t even find a GIF for it like I did for the others. Doesn’t matter, though. Darryl was a blue-collar brotha with a heart of gold, a strong sense of spirituality, a profound way of looking at life, and a comfortableness in his skin that actually got Regine out of a lot of her superficialness and materialism — and that deserves a lot of props all on its own. And because he taught Regine to look past the surface, even when they did break up, they continued having a deep respect for one another. So much, in fact, that when Regine found out that Darryl’s bride-to-be, Tina (Vivica A. Fox) was screwing around, she made sure to tell him because that’s how much she still cared for him. Beautiful.
Regine and Darryl are reminders that sometimes people come along to “refine our rough edges” so that we’ll be ready for who our “forever” is actually supposed to be. And yes, that deserves its own round of applause.
Can you tell that I watched Living Single more than a lil’ bit? Indeed and with no regrets, especially these days. Because sometimes, as I’m flipping through channels and I can hear my own self say, “TV really does hate my people” (which is another message for another time), it’s nice to see throwbacks that are full of integrity, humor and yes, healthy Black love. And as you can see, one that was in excellence is Living Single, for sure.
So, from the very bottom of my heart and with oodles of appreciation — Happy 30th, Khadijah and Scooter, Synclaire and Overton, Max and Kyle, Regine and Darryl. You will always be necessary…because healthy Black love always is.
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Featured image by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images