My friend, Lance


I have a complicated relationship with public displays of grief. There are times when it can feel real and visceral and healing, and there are times when it can feel performative, especially when dealing with the loss of a well known public figure. While taking a couple of days to process my own sorrow about the untimely death of my friend Lance, I’ve thought a lot about collective grief and the ways that it manifests in online spaces. I know that Lance was an incredibly talented human whose work and life entertained and inspired people all over the world, and I also know how strange it feels to have real grief for someone you didn’t know personally. All that light that a star like Lance has, it doesn’t get stuck in the film it was captured on, it seeps into the lives of the audiences who watched him, who played his video games, who listened to his gorgeous, resonant voice. I know that others who didn’t have the pleasure of knowing him personally are hurting, too, and it feels selfish not to help paint a more nuanced picture of him, to breathe a little more life into the man we’ve admired on tv and film for decades. I think this is how we heal, together, after such a great loss.

I watched Lance on “Oz” with my mom when I was a teenager, admittedly missing most of what was going on in the intense drama, but being intrigued by the story anyways. Lance was certainly a stand out, but I became a huge fan of his when I watched him on “The Wire”, marveling at his ability to play such fundamentally different characters with such breadth and power. Getting to work with him on “Fringe” was such a win for me- just my proximity to him made me feel like I had accomplished something big. But never in a million years would I have imagined that we would become such good friends over the years. Of all the people I worked with on the show, he was my closest confidante, never judging me or questioning my feelings or experiences. just listening thoughtfully, and sharing in turn. This was one of my favorite things about Lance- he played all these rigid, tough, hard-nosed characters because that was what his physical appearance communicated, but in real life he was sensitive, thoughtful, compassionate, sincere. He wasn’t a people pleaser, and he didn’t hesitate to let you know how he was feeling, even if it made you uncomfortable. But if you were in his circle, if he trusted you, he would invite you into his world with warmth and kindness.

Lance is the only person from our show that I remained good friends with after we wrapped, and once we were away from the toxic dynamics of that production, our friendship blossomed even more. He was a huge old movie buff, carrying an encyclopedic knowledge about black and white films that me and my partner had never even heard of. I got really good at imitating him when he would slowly turn his head to me, his brow furrowed in disbelief and earnestly ask “You mean to tell me…that you’ve never seen ___insert obscure 1920’s film title here___??” To which I would scream with laughter, exclaiming “of course I haven’t, who do you think I am, YOU??!” As intense as he could be, on and off screen, we had such an easy connection and he was always someone I felt at home with. We confided in each other about our dreams, our legacies, our complaints about the industry and the work we still wanted to do. We fantasized about being able to play father and daughter in a project one day. His career was focused on dramas, but his comedic talents were unmatched, and making him laugh hard is still one of my most prized accomplishments.

Losing him has been an absolute shock, and I have tried so hard not to focus on all the things I did wrong (I didn’t visit with him enough since the pandemic, I didn’t text him enough to say “hi, thinking about you”, I didn’t congratulate him enough on all the incredible work he had been doing in his career). Instead, I am trying to make space for every single good memory I have of him over the years, of which there are plenty; late nights joking around on set, gossiping about people in the industry, lazy dinner parties that lasteed for hours, movie nights, his beautiful wedding and marriage to a woman who became just as good a friend as he was. I keep telling myself that wherever he is right now, he knows exactly how much all of us adored him, not just for his amazing work, but for the intelligent, capable, strong black man he was. I have to cling to this hope, because without it, my sadness could fill up this whole city with tears.

I am so glad we all got to be on this earth at the same time as him.
I am so glad that when I go online, I see his beautiful face everywhere, and read the sweet sentiments that so many are sharing.
I am so glad that his light transcended the screen and touched so many people in small and big ways.
I am so glad that he is being remembered so lovingly by a whole world of mourners right now.

Yesterday I found a picture of us in my keepsake box, an actual picture that I could hold, taken of us at a Comic Con many years ago. We are both smiling, bright eyed and happy. I framed it and set it on a little shelf in our living room, lit some candles around it. I have felt so desperate to be able to do something, anything, with this pain. But in the wake of a loss as unexpected as this, there is nothing to do, there is only to feel. Every time I walk by his picture, I whisper to him how much I love him, how much I miss him.
RIP, Lance. we will remember you forever.


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19 responses to “My friend, Lance”

  1. Kyle Avatar
    Kyle

    Gunalchéesh, thank you for sharing these reflections. What a beautiful light that graced our world. May he light many more with his legacy & memories ️❤️‍

  2. Lisa Teal Avatar
    Lisa Teal

    Wonderful, heartfelt post for a man (actor) that I have followed in Fringe and Bosch. I was saddened to hear about his passing. I love to hear about your personal relationship with him during and after filming Fringe, which is still one of my Top 5 favorite shows. I hope your love and good memories sustain you!

  3. Grace Avatar

    Oh, Jasika, I am so so sorry for your loss. I didn’t realize you were friends. Thank you for sharing a little bit about him and about what he meant to you. Bigs hugs.

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Thanks so very much for reading, Grace. He was so special and I feel really lucky to have known him.

  4. Angelspeed_ Avatar
    Angelspeed_

    I am so sorry for your loss Jasika, I’m bawling at your beautiful words. Thank you for sharing your friendship with us. I am going to miss his goofy instagram posts. Such an incredible talented black man. ❤️ I lost a friend a few weeks ago to cancer so I understand your grief. This world really isn’t very fair sometimes and it’s always the good ones who leave first. I wish you healing for your grief and a big squeeze from me sleep tight Lance. You are loved xx

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      I’m so sorry you lost a dear person, I wish you comfort and peace, and so many good memories that you cherish forever.

  5. Lissanne Avatar
    Lissanne

    Thank you so much for allowing us to know a little more about Lance, Jasika. I’m a long time Fringe fan and Lance had a way of elevating every project he was in just by being in it. Although I’d never met him, I’m mourning his loss. He was an excellent actor and by all accounts, an even better man. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend; he’ll never be truly gone, because he’ll live in your heart and memories forever. I hope all the good times you had together bring you comfort in the weeks and months ahead ❤️

  6. Joan Avatar
    Joan

    I messaged you years ago on Instagram, and you were so kind to reply and have a conversation with me about your time on Fringe. When I read of Lance’s passing, I was in complete shock. Thank you so much for opening up to all of us and sharing your thoughts and memories of your good friend. I am truly sorry for your loss, but you were blessed that he was a part of your life.

  7. Asun Avatar
    Asun

    Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful words about Lance, Jasika. I loved reading about your friendship and to know you became even closer after Fringe. Lance was truly one of a kind and the world is a little better having had someone like him in it. I am sending you so much love to help you through your grief <3

  8. Kiera Avatar
    Kiera

    I’m so sorry you lost your friend. He was so talented, I was always excited to catch in in something I’d never seen before. We’ll miss him.

  9. Ana Avatar
    Ana

    Hi Jasika, if this really is your page and this really is your post, then I’m very glad!
    I’m very sorry for your loss and everyone’s loss in particular, because Lance was the greatest actor and person ever.
    I was just a little surprised that none of the Fringe Cast members wrote anything about Lance’s passing… Maybe I didn’t find it and they published it somewhere on the internet. But I really couldn’t find anything. Neither Joshua Jackson, nor Anna Torv, nor even John Noble had written anywhere about it, and that hurt my feelings a little bit. You’ve been doing “Fringe” scenes for about 5 or 6 years, and you could have been like family….. I just remembered Kirk Acevedo tweeting…. That was nice <3 I hope I'm wrong about the other stars of the show

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Your comment has perfectly demonstrated why displays of public grief are so complicated for me and many others. Thank you for your condolences, but just because you are fans of people on television doesn’t mean you know anything about their real lives or their relationships with each other, and they certainly don’t owe you any of that information. The fact that there hasn’t been a response to someone’s death by a public figure doesn’t mean that person isn’t grieving, doesn’t mean they haven’t connected with the family privately, doesn’t mean anything other than the information was not meant for you to have. Celebrities are real people with real lives that exist outside of the work they do. But that real life, the life where they have friendships and rivalries and conflicts and connections, isn’t something you have a right to know. Sharing my feelings about Lance here on my blog was one I deliberated over for days. I didn’t want it to come across as attention-seeking, or to share too much about someone who tended to be very private. But I also didn’t want to do it out of obligation, or because people on the internet might expect it of me. Ultimately I wrote this post for me, because it felt healing to share my thoughts, and I did it despite how others might feel about it. I understand that grief is uncomfortable, but that doesn’t give you the right to pass judgment on strangers whose intimate lives you know nothing about, or make assumptions about the relationships between people you didn’t know personally.

      1. Christina Buck Avatar
        Christina Buck

        I am deeply appreciative you chose to share this.

  10. Ana Avatar
    Ana

    Hello Jasika,
    I agree with you on everything you wrote, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings or anyone else’s, but it looks like I did it unintentionally and I’m very sorry about that 🙁 I looked on the bright side, I was acting like one of the fans who recklessly records their opinions in the media and it could have been offensive. Again, sorry about that. It’s just that the news about Reddick was so touching… Yes, I love the show, Fringe, and I just wanted to see or read about the grief from people I know. I know actors are real people with their real lives, and we fans have no right to judge someone for not expressing their thoughts on social media. But, again, I didn’t mean to judge anyone and I won’t in the future. I am so grateful to you for showing me, letting me know how things really are. Thank you, Jasika, and sorry again for my earlier post.
    I hope you are doing well. I wish you all the best <3

    1. Jasika Nicole Avatar

      Thank you for taking the time to understand where I am coming from. My best to you <3

  11. mar1steph Avatar
    mar1steph

    Thank you for the lovely tribute! I understand what you are saying about making a statement about your grief publicly. I lost a close family member at a young age and even after all the years of grieving I am still dealing with relatives questioning my grief (for example, in my wedding I didn’t honor them enough). I think for some of us grief is not performative, but incredibly private. I can only imagine what it would like to experience this on a public stage. I wish you healing in your loss and I thank you for sharing a little of what your relationship with Lance meant to you. He was such a wonderfully talented actor and he will never be forgotten.

  12. Shannon Trimble Avatar
    Shannon Trimble

    Jasika
    I adore/adored you on Fringe. I loved your chemistry and dynamics with Walter. I am so sorry for your loss. I lost my cheerleader friend to breast cancer that spread to her brain. I called her that because she was always cheering me on! It’s been 3 years but it feels like yesterday on certain days when something happens that I want to share with her. I’m not close to my mom or sister and she was my go to. I watched the series finale of Firefly Lane and cried like a baby curled up on the couch because it hit so close to home. The way you described your friendship. I am also so grateful that I was on Earth in the same place as her at the same time. Keep creating and keep loving!

  13. Panya Avatar
    Panya

    Again, I’m so sorry for your loss. May his memory be a blessing.

  14. Skip Avatar
    Skip

    My heart goes out to you, Jasika.
    After re-watching episodes of Fringe, I stumbled upon the scene with you where Broyles was accidentally affected by LSD. You know what the script read. It is eerie listening to it now.

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