‘Dear White People’ Creator Justin Simien Talks 'Bad Hair,' Reuniting With Lena Waithe (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
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Following the success of Dear White People, which just released season two on Netflix, creator Justin Simien is showing no signs of slowing down as he lines up a couple of major projects that will see his world expand beyond the streaming platform. Normally quite secretive about his work (“You won’t ever see me on the streets talking about what I’m about to do,” he says), Simien spills a few details to ET about what’s next.
First announced in August 2017, Bad Hair will mark Simien’s second feature film as writer and director (following 2014’s Dear White People). Described as a horror satire, the film will tell the story of an ambitious young woman working in the image-obsessed world of music television who gets a weave that may have a mind of its own. The idea was inspired by the discovery of Asian hair-possession horror movies, like the 2005 South Korean film The Wig. But in order to translate something like that for U.S. audiences, Simien knew he had to root it in the black, female experience.
“This is my way of writing a love letter about all of the B.S. that black women have to go through,” Simien says, explaining that he was raised by “a village of black women” in Houston, Texas, after his father died when Simien was younger. “So, I named all the women in this story after my mom and my aunts.”
The film, which he has been developing while writing and directing season two of Dear White People, will begin shooting this summer. “[It] requires a tremendous amount of effort to do alongside the show,” he admits.
Back on television, the 34-year-old is preparing to embark on his second series -- this time reuniting with Lena Waithe, who was a producer on the 2014 film version of Dear White People and has recently found her own success, winning an Emmy for writing an episode of Master of None and creating the Showtime original series The Chi. “Lena and I are actually going to be doing a show together hopefully this year with TBS,” he says. The network recently made a pilot order on Twenties, about a queer black girl named Hattie and her two straight best friends, Marie and Nia, which received a pilot order from TBS. (Simien previously directed a pilot presentation for the project.)
Of course, the two reunited on season two of Dear White People, with Waithe appearing on the show as rapper P. Ninny in multiple shows -- including parodies of Love & Hip Hop and Empire -- that the students watch in the lounge of the Armstrong-Parker House at Winchester University. “I don't think I need to say more for you to be excited about this,” Simien says. “Its our little commentary within the show's commentary.”
In addition to those two projects, Simien reveals that he has a few films in development including Make a Wish based on the Black List script by Zach Frankel and an untitled musical with Mudbound producer Charles D. King. But true to his word, he doesn’t offer up much else.
While Simien says he has tricks up his sleeve to accomplish everything, he jokingly admits he’s moving at a slower pace than his producing counterpart. “I'm lazier than Lena, so it's going to take me a little bit longer, OK?!”