Marque Richardson on how "Dear White People" cast is honoring teen killed by police

Marque Richardson on "Dear White People."

Adam Rose/Netflix

During a house party scene in Season 1 of Netflix's "Dear White People," Reggie Green, played by Marque Richardson, has a gun pulled on him by a campus security officer. It's one of many instances throughout the show in which a scene echoes real-life incidents.

Following a successful first season, it's clear that "Dear White People" has made quite an impact on audiences as well as its cast. This year, Richardson and Brandon Bell, who plays Troy Fairbanks on the show, and their fellow cast members helped create the Jordan Edwards Memorial Scholarship Fund at the University of Alabama, to honor the memory of the teenager who was shot and killed by a police officer in Balch Springs, Texas in April last year. Richardson spoke with CBS News about the scholarship, the issue of police brutality, and his role on "Dear White People," which just finished filming its second season in December.

Q: How did you and your cast mates become involved in establishing the Jordan Edwards Memorial Scholarship Fund?

A: Jordan was murdered on April 29th last year, and that was the same weekend as the world premiere of "Dear White People." [Editor's note: The police officer who shot Edwards was indicted on a murder charge. He faces trial in June.] My good friend Brandon Bell called me after he heard the news, and we were both in a state of like, "What the f**k?" Also, we know how this pans out. We've seen it so many times. And I don't what we can do, but we have to do something. So we reached out to the Edwards family and we said, "We're here. We want to help in any way we can. How can we help?" And that's when everyone got involved – cast, crew, our showrunners. We reached out to the University of Alabama to see how we could start a scholarship because that's the university where Jordan planned on going. He was a star athlete; he had good grades; his room was decorated with Alabama's colors. That was his dream. So for us it was a no-brainer. We put in the initial funds ourselves – on behalf of "Dear White People" – and then opened it up to the public, and the response has been amazing. And the family has been overwhelmed.

Q: There is that unforgettable scene in Season 1 where your character, Reggie, has a gun pulled on him at a party by a campus security officer. What was it like recreating a moment like that?

A: I almost feel fraudulent when I talk about it because the situation is so real. The emotions you see from Reggie on screen in that episode – that's Marque. Because we live with that possibility every day. Just for being black; just for being free; just for being young; just for being careless. Just for living the life that we want. That's why I say I feel fraudulent at times because it's so close to me. When I first read the script for that episode, I was quiet. But when I would really think about it, I would just cry. Without even having done the work yet. Because I knew the feelings from the writing.

Q: What do you think needs to change?

A: I know this type of act needs to stop. Time's Up on killing black boys, and men, and women. Not to take away at all from the Time's Up movement – I support that a thousand percent. I'm so glad to see that people have had enough of a lot of the stuff that's going on right now and are taking it to the streets. So in addition to that, Time's Up on all of this. And that's what the scholarship is for. These kids are bright. They are the future. Being able to help provide education to kids who reflect Jordan and will carry his legacy – even if a kid received one dollar, knowing the purpose behind it, that alters a life. And it's a way to navigate through all of this.

Q: What kind of statement does the success of television shows like "Dear White People" and movies like "Black Panther," that have predominantly black casts, make?

A: I think it's incredible what "Black Panther" and Ryan Coogler have done. That cast – I support them. I salute them. Wakanda forever. Because a win for them is a win for all of us. And I think it shows the thirst for diverse stories. They call it a "myth" that people-of-color stories don't do well. I call it a lie. It's just a lie! It's insane to me that that conversation is still happening.  But that's what it is. So I hope this "Black Panther" moment – this global phenomenon – wakes Hollywood up, and we can get support for these projects. Because the world is thirsting. 

Season 1 of "Dear White People" is on Netflix. Season 2 will air later this year.