'Dear White People's Marque Richardson, Justin Simien and Jaclyn Moore Talk Reggie's Finale Reveal (Exclusive)

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Marque Richardson in Dear White People
Netflix

Amid the musical interludes, Afro-futuristic reveals, and emotional turmoil, there's one thread woven throughout the final season of Dear White People that serves as the biggest mystery of the series finale; what happened to Reggie?

Although Marque Richardson's uber-talented computer programmer is accounted for in the fourth season's present-day storyline, he's noticeably absent from the flash-forwards that feature Sam (Logan Browning), Lionel (DeRon Horton), Joelle (Ashley Blaine Featherson-Jenkins), Troy (Brandon P. Bell), Coco (Antoinette Robertson) and Gabe (John Patrick Amedori) as they come together to look back at the most formative year of their lives. As the 10-episode season progresses, Reggie's story takes him from choosing his pick of multiple job offers to building an app to protect sex workers on campus and becoming a gun owner battling PTSD until finally, we get to the finale. 

In the series finale's present-day storyline, Reggie thwarts a white supremacist terrorist who snuck onto campus to attack the Black students during the opening night of the Armstrong-Parker House's varsity show. Using an app he created to help Black people find safe spaces, Reggie shoots him before he gets the chance to hurt anyone but, although Reggie saved the day, he's forced into hiding because of all the harassment he gets. In the future, Reggie explains that he isolated himself from his friends in fear that they would suffer the same fate.

For Richardson, the progression of Reggie's journey was a tumultuous one, but still worthwhile. "Shout-out to the writers and [creator] Justin [Simien] because they kept it honest, they kept it true," he told ET over video chat. "Everything before episode five [of season 1], I felt like Reggie was this guy that was playing a character -- he would wear this jacket and would have this pseudo armor on like, 'Ah, f**k the man. We out here.' Then episode five happened, the incident with the college campus police, the gun, all that stuff. Then for Reggie, it was like, 'Oh, this is real.'"

It was then, Richardson explained, that Reggie was forced to contend with a crossroads: "Is he a man or is he a movement?"

Marque Richardson in Dear White People
Netflix

"I think he had to become less of a movement -- a pseudo movement -- and really just take care of himself," he shared. "So throughout the seasons, we've seen him deal with PTSD, seen him try to put self-care first and also, do things that were selfish, detrimental and not conducive to his relationship with Joelle and other people around him. He's had his heart broken many different times, but where he ends up is a space of peace and joy and contentment. And I feel like he feels complete up to that moment. Everything that happened prior to the end of the season made him who he is that day."

Simien and co-showrunner Jaclyn Moore echoed those sentiments, admitting that Reggie's journey has been a sticking point for other stories throughout the series.

"I feel like Reggie was the most emotionally difficult to go through. He has always been the heart of the show, whether or not we always designed it that way," Moore revealed. "I mean, there's a reason why that's the flashpoint in the middle of season 1 where the show sort of also leaves the movie behind. The first few episodes of season 1 are, in some ways, a bit of a retelling of the movie and resetting the stage. And then episode five, the show sort of opens up and it's like, 'OK, now this is the next thing.'"

It's Reggie's encounter with campus police during the breaking up of the Blackface Party -- when one officer points his gun in Reggie's face because he doesn't believe he's a student at the school -- that serves as the series' first step away from the film. The event kicks off the series of events that lead to him buying a firearm in season 4 and subsequently shooting the racist. But Moore explained that the show was also influenced by the real-life Black Lives Matter movement that resurged after a string of murders by law enforcement.

"Just the timing of when we were writing and producing it, obviously in the wake of George Floyd... the Reggie story felt like it was, in some ways, at the heart of everything," she added. "It's a tough needle to thread, wanting to both be honest about the tragedy and trauma while also not falling into the trope of just depicting tragedy."

Marque Richardson in Dear White People
Netflix

"Yeah, I would agree with that," Simien said. "And the way I go about the show is that each season is about one idea. Then we find a way to echo that in everybody else's storylines. And when we talk about Reggie's storyline, which I think is really at the heart, narratively, of this season, you're dealing with a Black kid who has endured something very traumatic. He has been reduced to a target in an instant. This brilliant Black boy has been reduced to nothing more than somebody in the face of a security guard, not even a cop. And because this is America, he has to figure out a way to turn that trauma into the very thing that makes him money. That's what we all have to do. Isn't it? We take our thing and we keep telling stories about our thing until we can figure out how to make it work for us in this space."

"But when does that start to become really re-traumatizing and how do I deal with all of that? Once I've made it, I still have this part of me that's dead inside because I've had to bury it in order to get on. That was the one thing, frankly, I was feeling in life when I entered the season," he added. "Everybody else's journey is sort of that, through their own prism, through their own kind of lens. And when you just do that, it turns out we can talk about all sorts of things that are going on. It turns out the Black struggle for liberation really is a universal thing that applies to everybody, no matter what area they're being marginalized in the system."

In the finale's final moments, despite learning that the funding for their TV project about the making of their senior year varsity show fell through, the group comes together for a heartfelt rendition of the season's sole original song, "Together All the Way," written by Siedah Garrett. It's a moment that defines the season's ultimate theme, according to Bell. 

"I think, ultimately, there's a sense of valuing relationships in your life, no matter the ups and downs that you may experience," he told ET. "I think at the end of the day [it's about] coming together and just respecting and valuing those who have been around you and in your corner, through the ups and downs, and kind of cherishing that. Yeah, I think that's it."

The final 10 episodes of Dear White People are now available on Netflix. 

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