London Brown was used to being the antagonist on “Ballers.”
His breakout HBO role introduced him to viewers as Fat Reggie, an arrogant rebel with questionable motives who stepped in the way of Vernon Littlefield’s (Donovan W. Carter) NFL career. He was the star’s childhood friend, one who rode his coattails to the big leagues.
As the man in charge of Vernon’s financials, Reggie spent much of his screen time in the series’ early seasons clashing with lead Spencer Strasmore, a retired NFL linebacker turned financial manager, portrayed by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
“After season 1, I got lots of threats. People walked up to me and wanted to fight,” Brown, 38, says of fans who failed to separate the character from the actor. But he was hardly surprised by their reactions.
Reggie caused damage, from offering horrible financial advice to leading Vernon toward professional decisions that hindered his career. Just refer to season 3’s cannabis company investment, which got the athlete ostracized by the NFL, at least temporarily.
“A lot of my scenes were with Dwayne, so even if you didn’t want to look at me, you had to,” Brown recalls. “Being the antagonist definitely worked in my favor.”
Reggie was initially intended as a supporting character, not expected to appear past the premiere season in 2015. Now, five seasons into the series that’s reminiscent of “Entourage,” Brown has found himself in a recurring role that’s proving to be a path to redemption.
Brown teases that the upcoming fifth season, airing Sunday at 10:30 p.m., will introduce viewers to a side of Reggie they may enjoy.
“He had to develop and grow and take some losses so that he’d understand how to navigate through a career he’s serious about. In season 5, we’ll see Reggie taking his role seriously.”
Brown says his character has learned from past transgressions and the fifth-season plot will show him making efforts to learn the ins and outs of financial management.
He won’t be a completely changed character, however.
“Reggie has that [same] attitude, but it actually makes sense now because he knows the numbers. He knows more about the advice he’s giving. He’s matured.”
Keeping tight-lipped on the main season 5 plotline, the actor says the series will not shy away from tackling social and cultural issues in the NFL. “They really touched on stuff. We go there.”
The season picks up with Spencer’s ongoing legal battle with the NCAA, and includes several celebrity cameos, like Odell Beckham Jr. and Migos.
The drama may even leave fans with a cliffhanger: “There might be a possible death in there.”
TV: "Ballers" returns Sunday at 10:30 p.m. on HBO.