Brandon Hammond won audiences over in 1997 when he starred in Soul Food as Big Momma's bright-eyed and loving grandson, Ahmad, who only wanted to see his family get back together. Fast-forward 15 years: Now 28, the film school graduate is more comfortable behind the camera's lens, working behind the scenes on personal projects. ESSENCE.com caught up with Hammond to find out if he kept in touch with castmates, whether he felt pigeonholed after such a big role, and what else he's been up to since.
ESSENCE.com: Can you believe it's been 15 years since Soul Food premiered?
BRANDON HAMMOND: I can't. I have a Facebook page and a lot of people add me as a friend and say, "I just saw Soul Food the other day and my mom and I were watching it…" And these are people who are much younger than me watching it. You would think that it came out a year ago. I still have a pretty young face. A lot of people recognize me as Ahmad, Big Momma's favorite grandson.
ESSENCE.com: Being the youngest in the cast, who were you closet with on set?
HAMMOND: It's funny because I got really close to George Tillman, the director. But I definitely got close to Vivica A. Fox. We went to a Chicago Bulls game; we went out to eat. We spent a lot of time away from the set together. Mekhi Phifer, Michael Beach, they kind of took me under their wing. It was probably hard for them because I was really the only kid on set.
ESSENCE.com: Do you feel like your career has been pigeonholed because of how well you portrayed Ahmad?
HAMMOND: I would say obviously it's my most recognizable role. I do get recognized for other things I did. Whenever I see someone, that's the first thing they say. I think it's very flattering. They actually approached me to do Soul Food the TV show, but for whatever reason it didn't work out. I think that if I had done the show it would have made things a little worse in terms of being pigeonholed.
ESSENCE.com: Do you have a favorite memory?
HAMMOND: Wow, so many great memories from filming. I would say doing the table read. That was the first time I got to meet Vanessa, Vivica, Mekhi, Nia – everybody, and just have it all come together. And to say "Wow, I'm working with all these people." And to have such a significant role and be the storyteller of the film. It meant a lot to me.
ESSENCE.com: It's 15 years later. Where would Ahmad be today?
HAMMOND: Ahmad was 10 in the film and he would be 25 today… Ahmad played basketball and played sports. If he wasn't playing ball or something like that he would be honoring Big Momma or his mom in some way. He might be doing what I'm doing. He might be a writer or doing something creative. But if he wasn't playing basketball he would definitely have his degree and make his mom proud and Big Momma proud.
ESSENCE.com: What have you been working on since the film wrapped?
HAMMOND: I've done a lot things behind the scenes — writing and directing. I've done a few short films as a writer and director. Right now, my friends and I are creating this TV show idea that I've written the script for. We hope to present the idea as a webisode series as a 30-minute half-hour show called The Biz. That's been my focus now. It's a satire. I don't want to say it's like Entourage but it's similar in that it focuses on three actors. Where Entourage shows the glamorous side of the entertainment industry, this shows the other side.
ESSENCE.com: Lastly, for everyone wondering about your romantic life: Are you dating, do you have kids?
HAMMOND: No kids. I'm not dating. I'm single. I've had a couple of relationships here and there, but nothing serious. I'm very single!