Christopher B. Duncan is best known for his role on “The Jamie Foxx Show” but he has so much more depth as an actor to offer.
For five seasons, Duncan played Jamie Foxx’s bourgeois nemesis, Braxton P. Hartnabrig, at the King Hotel. The comedy-based sitcom quickly gained traction among its broad audience and cemented Duncan’s comedy chops for those who have endearingly seen him as “broham” Braxton ever since.
But for Duncan, that fan appreciation treads the thin line of love and hate. “I have a bittersweet relationship with that issue, that I deal with till this very day,” Duncan shared in an interview with Comedy Hype. “There are people who will always see me as Braxton.”
Duncan’s work from the syndicated show that aired from 1996 to 2001 is easily considered as some of his most recognizable. But he has done so much more in his career that dates back to 1989’s “Generations” and spans into roles coming up in the next year.
Still, the veteran actor has found that proving himself in action and drama have done little to show some fans — and industry decision-makers — that he is more than just the funny guy. “The reason I’ve been able to continue working is because [of] my range,” he said. While at the height of the show’s early success, Duncan took on the role of troubled gang member Spyro in 1996’s “Original Gangstas,” proving to audiences he was more than the pushover/by-the-book Braxton.
“Spyro was a — I can’t tell you how important it was. Because again it established, ‘Wait a minute this guy is an actor who can do comedy and do drama and action.’ I’m not Braxton; I played Braxton,” he explained.
Still, as years have passed and Duncan has had roles in scores of productions from “Soul Food” the television series to “The District” and “Black Lightning,” his frustrations of being pigeonholed in people’s minds as Braxton has grown. “I’m disappointed that sometimes there isn’t more flexibility in perception because if you see me in a different role, you see me doing the work if it’s a comedy, a drama, whatever it is. All I ask is for some openness to receive it,” he added. “Some people are able to do that and some people still have this response of ‘Oh come on that’s Braxton. That’s Braxton.’ ”
Despite the show transcending the barrier of being accepted only by audiences of color, Duncan said it’s his own community of Black creatives that have proven to be less receptive to his full range of acting.
“If I walk into a room full of let’s say brothers and sisters who are producing this project and I literally hear ‘What’s up Braxton! What’s up man?’ It’s like a wrench in my gut because it’s immediately saying to me ‘Even though you’re here and we’re seeing you for this dramatic role for this romantic lead, for this hard-hitting, heavy character; even though we’re seeing you for that we just made it clear to you how we see you.’ ”
But even with his frustrations of being cast in Braxton’s shadow, Duncan has zero regrets about accepting the role. He simply wishes his fans were as accepting of his other projects.
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