“Lovecraft Country” Spotlights Racial Issues

The new HBO version of “Lovecraft Country” puts fresh spin on a ‘50s novel and story.

By Tribune Staff

NASHVILLE, TN — Though the original version of “Lovecraft Country” was set in the ‘50s and had a different sensibility and perspective, the upcoming HBO version is going to explore some of the same territory, but in an updated manner. At last weekend’s Comic-Con at Home panel for the show, some of its stars took to the podium, explaining what it was about and how it will differ from the similarly titled Matt Ruff novel. The HBO production debuts Aug. 16 and stars Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, and Michael Kenneth Williams. Its creator is Misha Green, with Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams serving as co-producers.

Majors, Smollett, and Williams, as well as additional cast members Aunjanue Ellis, Wunmi Mosaku, Abbey Lee and Courtney B. Vance discussed the program during the presentation. “There are themes in this show that resonate with us being Black Americans in 2020,”  Smollett said. She described it as “a show about family in search of family.” 

“Lovecraft Country” centers on Army vet and avid sci-fi reader Atticus Black (Majors), his friend Letitia Dandridge (Smollett), Uncle George (Vance) and Aunt Hippolyta (Ellis) as they search for Atticus’ father Montrose (Williams) in the Jim Crow South of 1955. The cast also discussed the importance of Black leads within a genre where so many become early victims, and how Atticus, Letitia and George, as fans of sci-fi and horror, are a little better prepared from the monstrosities they face on their road trip.

Majors noted that when he was first given the script for “Lovecraft Country,” he was surprised by the fact that it was even written. Not only did he find it remarkable that the lead of a genre show was a Black man, but that he wasn’t the kind of character he’d seen before.

“You get to explore not just the archetypical ideas of what we tend to play,” he said. “He’s not just this soldier; that’s pretty common. He’s also a bibliophile. He gets to travel, he’s an adventurer … all of that was very apparent to me in the reading of the script.” 

This idea of familial place also extends to Letitia, who has a very tense relationship with her older sister, Ruby (Mosaku). Letitia, or “Leti” she’s more known, is part of the budding Civil Rights movement, but she hasn’t quite found her place yet. Because of her reputation as an instigator, something viewers get a sense of in the latest trailer (watch below), she’s found herself estranged from her family and in search of a “tribe.”

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