Buzz Knight [00:00:01] Welcome to the Taking a Walk podcast. This is Buzz Knight. Follow us at Apple Podcasts, Spotify. Tune in, the podcast Playground or wherever you get your podcast and leave us a review, just like David Meyers did on Apple podcast. He said, Great podcast, easy to listen to. The host is having a good time. You will too. I love it. David. Thank you. Today our guest is Brooklyn Sudano, an actress and director. She’s been in TV shows like Cruel Summer, Taken and Ballers. She’s the daughter of Donna Summer and she’s just directed a new documentary called Love to You. Donna Summer on HBO will join Brooklyn Sudano next on Taking a Walk. Hello, Brooklyn.
Brooklyn Sudano [00:00:48] Hi, Buzz. How are you?
Buzz Knight [00:00:50] I’m excellent. Thank you for being on taking a walk, albeit virtually, but thank you for being here now.
Brooklyn Sudano [00:00:57] Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Buzz Knight [00:00:59] Congratulations on the documentary. Tell us about the process that led to the creation of it.
Brooklyn Sudano [00:01:06] Well, you know, it started about seven years ago from the very beginning. And, you know, I I went to my father was like, you know, there’s so much I think that people don’t really know about. My mom and I had just become a mother and was processing her not being there and, you know, having people come up and share their stories. And I just felt like there was a really great opportunity to have a film that really was reflective of her in all of her facets, not just the persona that people, you know, the icon, the, you know, the buzz words that people kind of gravitate towards. But she really was an artist and a really complex woman. And I felt like it was really important for the world to be able to see that.
Buzz Knight [00:01:51] Well, your mother was a trailblazer, really, in the music industry. What’s her legacy? And, you know, how do you hope to continue to showcase her work?
Brooklyn Sudano [00:02:03] Well, I think this film is one of the ways we are able to really move her legacy forward and allow people to really in knowing who she really was as an artist. I think there is a deeper level of understanding of respect for what’s her contribution to music, to culture. I mean, electronic dance music was created with her people, Lady and Giorgio Moroder with I Feel Love. Electronic dance music is pop music these days. And so I think that her legacy continues to move forward through the music formats and, you know, style and fashion. And I think this film is just kind of bringing awareness to all of that.
Buzz Knight [00:02:47] Well, you come from a, you know, a family with a rich musical legacy. How was it growing up around music and how did it influence your your career and your artistic purpose?
Brooklyn Sudano [00:03:02] Well, my sister Amanda says in the film it was like living in a musical. You know, everything in our family was about creation. My dad, Bruce Sudano, was a songwriter and a singer, an artist itself. And my mother would paint. And so, you know, everything was a creative endeavor. And so that’s how my sisters and I, we all live our lives in some kind of creative way. And so I think it’s for us being very rich and and just felt normal that we would try to always be in this mode of creativity and see the world, even in the small minutia of it, as something wonderful and to be expressed. And so, you know, I think I count it as a great blessing to have had that and to be able to use that foundation in my own life. I mean, we’re just in the family business, basically.
Buzz Knight [00:03:56] Well, your mom’s music, it was a bit of a paradox in that, you know, she was kind of the first lady of love, but yet, you know, her religious beliefs as well were in conflict with her. Can you talk about that?
Brooklyn Sudano [00:04:16] Yes. You know, I think my mom had this very strong calling. I mean, she even she would speak about it often that she felt that she heard the audible voice of God tell her, you’re going to you have a gift. Use it. Well, you know, you’re going to be famous. So from a very early age, she felt this very strong spiritual calling. And I think the way that it happened wasn’t how she anticipated. And so but she also realized that this was her door in and so she was going to take it. So I do think that there was always kind of this rub of how to, you know, make these things work together. At her core, she was always, you know, spiritually connect. To God. But, you know, she she was living out in the world and doing all of these different things. And so, you know, but that that was a bit of a rub, you know. I mean, it was definitely sometimes hard for her family to go to church or, you know, to reconcile this kind of how sexual and secular the music was to what she was kind of coming out of.
Buzz Knight [00:05:22] What was it like for you poring through her archives?
Brooklyn Sudano [00:05:26] It was like finding a treasure chest. It was such a blessing to be able to you know, my mom was an early adopter on technology, so she had a video camera out on the road and doing these backstage skits with her band mates in the 1970s. And that wasn’t typical, you know, for an artist. So a lot of the film is really her behind the camera. So in many ways she is she’s the cinematographer and sometimes the director of the film. And so it was just finding like a gold box of treasure to be able to go through and see all of these things as they were happening in the moment. It was really a blessing to be able to do that.
Buzz Knight [00:06:11] During that period. I think it’s fair to say Boston and the area was, you know, there was a lot of racism. Can you talk about that perspective and how I think your mom looked at that?
Brooklyn Sudano [00:06:32] You know, I think my mother viewed it as it was something that, yes, everybody was having to kind of navigate at that time. But my mom was also a risk taker or a box breaker. You know, she was in a band called The Crow, which was a psychedelic rock band at the age of like 16 or 17. And it was an all white them. And she was the lead singer of the Crow as a black woman. So it was something that she was pushing, you know, willing to push the boundaries on. But I do think that her moving out of Boston at that time was because of some of the dynamics and things that were going on. And she moved to New York, which is where she was able to, you know, get into the scene there and the art scene and the singer songwriter hippie kind of vibe that was going on there, which launched her then into Hair, which brought her to Germany. So, you know, I think her way to deal with it was to just push through and to not let that stop her. And, you know, that that was her her nature was to just break beyond the boundaries.
Buzz Knight [00:07:40] Does it blow your mind thinking that she really kicked off the disco era?
Brooklyn Sudano [00:07:46] You know, I think that’s one of the things that I most appreciate about her after having done this project, was really understanding all that she did, all that she recorded and performed and did the press for during that time. It’s incredible that I’m amazed at how much she was able to do it accomplished as well as juggling being a mother at that time. You know, it is. It is. She said she did what she said she was going to do. And that’s really amazing to be able to be a part of that legacy.
Buzz Knight [00:08:19] You’ve had success as an actress and a singer. How do you balance those two careers? And and do you find that one sort of informs the other in a certain way?
Brooklyn Sudano [00:08:32] You know, for me, I, I feel like they’re all even with directing this film, it’s all storytelling and it’s just different. It’s just a different way of telling a story. It’s a different way of owning a character or a persona, and it’s using this storytelling to communicate with people some emotion or feeling or event. And so for me, it’s really just about storytelling. And are you are you connecting with the audience and how you do that? You know, for me, my singing has really happened through being an actress. You know, that’s really where I’ve been able to perform as a singer, mostly in my career. And so to be able to kind of connect all of those things has always been a fun thing to do. I always, you know, raise my hand when somebody is asking like, I’ll do it because it’s such a natural part of my life music. And so to be able to weave that in, I always jump at that chance.
Buzz Knight [00:09:32] What philanthropic causes were important to your mom and which ones are important to you?
Brooklyn Sudano [00:09:40] Oh, wow. You know, my mom always gave to the Salvation Army and would do things for the Salvation Army because when she was growing up, she would go to their camps and things in Boston, you know, the gay men’s health crisis. She was. You know, the many shows for them. The Elton John’s AIDS Foundation, you know, she she really my mother was a giver by nature. So whether it was a nonprofit or the person on the side of the street that needed a hand, she would be the one to do it, no questions asked. And so my mom’s legacy of giving is something that I think is very important to me and my family. And so, you know, I again, we we try to to partake and do all of those things in our in our daily lives. But there’s a lot I mean, there’s a lot of charities that I, I am a part of and tried to give to mostly. For me it’s like mother and children. There’s like Alexandra House in Los Angeles and and you know, different things like that. So I try to to follow my mom’s footsteps when it comes to those kind of things.
Buzz Knight [00:11:01] You’ve been around the entertainment business for a long time. How has the industry evolved? What changes do you sort of notice?
Brooklyn Sudano [00:11:11] You know, I unfortunately, what I’ve noticed is that it’s much harder and harder to make a living for most artists. And I think that, you know, there’s a lot of there’s a lot of people that are able to create, but sometimes it is harder to, you know, you can get it out there. There’s just so much content. But it also is also harder to make a living creating that content these days. And so that’s been a little bit tricky. Obviously, there’s a writer’s strike going on in Hollywood and the DGA and the SAG after also have their conversations. I mean, this is very much a talking shop. But, you know, I do think that it is becoming a little too unequal and that we have to we have to reset we have to reset the system because artists are not going to be able to live off their art. And so we’re going to miss out on some great art as a result of that because people are not going to be able to sustain themselves doing it anymore.
Buzz Knight [00:12:15] What does it feel like when you hear your mom’s music on the radio to this day? Can you describe that feeling?
Brooklyn Sudano [00:12:23] Well, for me, it’s always a little bit of a wink, like, Hi, I’m here. You know, I was getting on a plane recently and as I was boarding the plane, hot stuff came on and I was just like, okay, Hi, Mom. So for me, it’s just an acknowledgment that she’s still with me.
Buzz Knight [00:12:39] That’s so sweet. What would your mom think of this project?
Brooklyn Sudano [00:12:47] You know, I think she would be really proud. I growing up, my mom would always tease me and call me the reporter and which I didn’t like that title because I would come home and I would share everything that happened in the day. And, you know, it was my little bit of a journalistic streak in me. So I think she would just get a kick out of the fact that my first big film report basically would be on her. And so, you know, I, I definitely feel like I’ve been able to move her story forward in a way that she wasn’t able to. And so I think she would be proud about that.
Buzz Knight [00:13:23] Is there one thing you learned with this project that you didn’t know about your mom?
Brooklyn Sudano [00:13:31] You know, I think it just enhanced what I knew about her. And like what I said earlier, I think, you know, I have a deep appreciation for the sacrifices she made to be successful. And, you know, and there was sometimes ramifications for that. You know, my older sister maybe had to live with my grandparents and was away from my mom. And and, you know, that affected her life in a different way than it affected my sister, Amanda and I life because we had more of my mom because she was at a different point of her career at that point. So I think I have a deeper appreciation for the sacrifice and the sacrifices I should say, that she had to make in order to live out her calling and live out her dream.
Buzz Knight [00:14:16] Well, you have a glow about you about this project, obviously. And I want to congratulate you on the documentary Love to Love You. Donna Summer, Brooklyn. Thank you for being on.
Brooklyn Sudano [00:14:28] Thank you. Thank you. Have a great day.
Buzz Knight [00:14:31] Taking a Walk with Buzz Night is available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.