The phrase “big shoes to fill” seems appropriate in the most literal sense for breakout actor Sarunas J. Jackson, who stands at 6-foot-8. Arguably one of the most buzzed-about characters from HBO’s original comedy series “Insecure,” created by Issa Rae, Alejandro “Dro” Pena is played by Jackson. The former pro basketball player turned actor is already grabbing gigs with people he has dreamt of working with, including in this role.
“It’s funny because I’ve already crossed a couple of names off my list. I’ve worked with Spike Lee and Issa. Issa was on my list before I joined [the cast],” said Jackson. Playing the part of the controversial character Dro — he’s in a yet-to-be-verified open marriage — is cementing Jackson as a household name with each episode. Despite the more frequent red carpet appearances and special events, the Inland Empire, Calif., native remains firmly grounded in his “casual fly” style.
“I’m always pretty consistent with what I like. I wouldn’t say [acting] changed my shoe style, but it brought out my taste a little bit. But I’ve always been a little different [with my style], even when I was playing basketball,” explained Jackson.
While his aesthetic has always incorporated his own flair, his taste in fashion is led by a widely relatable mentality that’s both humble and genuine. Jackson counts some of the most attainable yet trendiest fast-fashion shops and brands as his go-tos.
“Defend Brooklyn has some dope stuff. Aldo is dope. I like Topman a lot. When it comes to size, I’m a tall guy, but I’m slim, and Topman has a lot of stuff that fits me pretty well. It kind of always depends on style and size, and how it fits to my body,” he said.
But Jackson tells his tale best, as he spoke to Footwear News about his style and role on”Insecure.” He shares what it’s like working with his wardrobe on set, how he’s inspired by Pharrell and what he loves to see the ladies wearing.
How did you transition from pro basketball to acting?
“I always wanted to act ever since I was a kid. I was just always an athlete as well. But as I got older, I got a little more serious with basketball and football because you start getting recruited and you have colleges looking at you. Then, once you make it up there, you have professional scouts looking at you, so you’re thinking that’s what you’re supposed to do. But I always knew my end game was to be in the film business. My big brother, Marcus Jackson, is also in the film business, but he’s more behind the camera. He edits and directs and stuff like that, so I always knew that’s where I wanted to be. And when I was a kid, I saw Ray Allen play Jesus Shuttlesworth [in “He Got Game”] ,so I was like, OK, you can hoop and act as well, so I [will] just do that.'”
Would you consider yourself a sneakerhead or someone who likes style and shoes?
“I’m more in the general ‘I like style’ [category]. I wouldn’t say I’m a sneakerhead because they know the dates of releases and what kind. I’m not like that unless it’s something I’ve always had my eye on when I was a kid.”
How many pairs of shoes do you have?
“I would say probably around 50 or so. Something healthy like that.”
What were your favorite shoes as a kid?
“When it came to Jordans, the 13s and the 11s were my favorites. Penny Hardaway’s and Scottie Pippen’s [shoes] were also always the ones for me.”
How would you describe your personal style now?
“Versatile. I’m in a phase where I like wearing my Nike Huaraches whether I’m stepping out or running errands. I’m a guy who likes simple but still likes to look good. Anything you can dress up and down at the same time is where I’m at right now.”
Where do you gain style inspiration?
“Pharrell, GQ magazine spreads. When it comes to suits, in recent years, Michael B. Jordan has had an influence [on me]. He knows how to clean up.”
A cameo in Pharrell’s “Happy” video was one of your first gigs as you transitioned from sports to acting. How has Pharrell impacted your style?
“Anything he does I’m a fan of, to be honest. He was actually one of the inspirations for me wearing clothes that actually fit when I was younger. Because you know we went through that wave of wearing stuff way too big for ourselves? So he was dressing like a skater, and I remember I started dressing like that. I got made fun of at first, but now that’s what it is — wearing shirts that fit you and not going to your knees.”
Are there any shoes on your wish list?
“It doesn’t matter what line, but loafers right now are really clean to me. I’ve seen these velvet burgundy ones — something like that because when I hit these [red] carpets, I need something fly on my feet and a dope suit or tux.”
How do you dress for a date night?
“Something similar to how I was dressed for the ‘Kiss & Grind’ episode where Dro and Molly [are] dancing. A button-up, nice pants and the shoe game depends on if I want to dress it up or down. Would I put some dope sneaks on or loafers and dress it up a bit?”
What’s your favorite look on a lady?
“There’s a few different ones. It obviously depends on when. Sundresses are super-sexy. I like the little crop tops and tight jeans look, showing the belly. You know that does something to a brotha’. As for shoes, I like a girl who can do it all — nice sneakers, nice boots or heeled boots. If you care and have your feet done, I definitely like to see sandals — the kind that wrap up and go up your leg a little bit, gladiator sandals.”
Is there something in your closet that you can’t part with?
“Bomber jackets and dad hats are just something that I’m always going to hold on to. They make everything cool. They’re my favorite.”
What would be your dream shoe collaboration?
“I was about to joke around and say the Big Baller Brand, but I’m just kidding. But probably Nike — that would be a dope collab. I hate to be so obvious with them. I would just really love to discover a smaller brand that’s of quality and good taste, but more niche in a way.”
What are the similarities and differences in your personal style versus your character Dro?
“The main difference is that he’s more put together more often than myself. The similarities would be [that] he knows how to dress nice but also casual, so it’s not over the top. [Dro] knows how to work the casual-fly vibe, and that’s where I thrive myself.”
Do you have a say in your show wardrobe?
“Ayanna James — our head costume designer — is amazing, and we were on the same page from the first fitting. She spoke my language, and there’s probably never a time where we disagreed on wardrobe. There are times where we would fight for an outfit, but production wanted something else. But we [said], ‘This isn’t working,’ and they’d give in. At the end of the day, you want to make the actor comfortable [with] what they think about the character.”
Which on-screen look has been your favorite?
“In Episode 7 [at] that dinner scene, the suit — I fell in love with it. I ended up buying basically the same thing.”
Which co-workers have the best style?
“If anything, I’m at the helm of that. But I will say Y’lan Noel, who plays Daniel, knows how to put himself together well. I like anybody who has a style [that’s] simple but stands out at the same time. Jay Ellis, too, has that nice, simple style but very put-together.”
What are you most excited about for the next season of “Insecure”?
“The main thing I’m excited about is that I have no idea what will happen next season because they haven’t even written anything yet. Obviously Issa has an idea, but I have no idea where it’s going to go. So as an actor, that makes me excited because you trust the writing and the show so much because it’s good quality. It’s kind of like a guessing game coming up with your own theories. You’re a fan of it yourself. So I’m really excited about the uncertainty in a way and to see where it goes. I just love following these characters. I was a fan before joining the cast.”
#TeamIssa or #TeamLawrence?
“Very strong Lawrence hive.”