Harper is joined by Jessica Williams, Punkie Johnson and Chris 'Comedian CP' Powell as the new season follows Marcus' dating life.
Love Life, HBO Max’s romantic comedy anthology series created by Sam Boyd, is back with an all-new installment about the ups and downs of dating in New York City. This time, William Jackson Harper takes over for Anna Kendrick as Marcus Watkins, who just had the rug pulled out from under him after the unexpected end to a marriage with the woman he thought was the one and is forced to rebuild his life brick by brick. Ahead of Love Life’s return in October, ET has the first official look at season 2 and spoke with Harper, who also executive produces, and Boyd, who shares showrunner duties with Bridget Bedard and Rachelle Williams, about what’s to come in the new episodes.
For Harper, who previously earned an Emmy nomination for his role on The Good Place and most recently appeared in Barry Jenkins’ The Underground Railroad, the HBO Max series was a natural next step in his career. And it also proved to be an opportunity to tell a story within the romantic comedy genre from the perspective of a Black man in his 30s. Which is rare, Harper says, explaining that more often than not, guys are typically seen onscreen “jockeying for girls.”
Love Life, meanwhile, is a more nuanced, layered and complicated story about a man trying to figure out his place in the world while navigating the ups and downs of dating in New York City -- some of which were very loosely inspired by his own experiences. Since Harper is also an executive producer, the actor was able to work closely with the writers on telling Marcus’ story and find ways to relate to the character deeper than in past experiences onscreen.
Originally thought of as a love interest for season 1, Boyd says Harper was someone all three showrunners were a fan of for a long time. So when they got the chance to “build this new season around him, and for him to collaborate with us on beginning this character to life, was a complete and total dream.”
Of course, Harper isn’t the season’s only star, with Jessica Williams, Punkie Johnson and Chris “Comedian CP” Powell rounding out the main cast and creating something of a “dream team” on set. Boyd explains that they created characters who were less rigid, more secure and in touch with themselves versus Marcus, who is a very self-conscious person -- at least at first.
Johnson, who Harper immediately bonded with, plays Marcus’ outspoken sister, Ida, while Powell, who brought the laughs to set, appears as his gregarious best friend, Yogi, who is in a committed relationship and has two kids. Williams, meanwhile, plays Mia, the object of Marcus’ affection after they form a connection early in the season. When it comes to working with the 32-year-old star, Harper said she was “someone you always find yourself flirting with in order to make a good impression.”
The new season, which is narrated by Keith David and executive produced by Kendrick, Paul Feig and Dan Magnante, also features Arian Moayed, Leslie Bibb and John Earl Jelks in recurring roles, with guest stars Maya Kazan, Ego Nwodim, Kimberly Elise, Blair Underwood, Janet Hubert and Jordan Rock all making appearances throughout. Additionally, season 1 stars Zoë Chao, Peter Vack, Sasha Compére, Nick Thune as well as Kendrick will reprise their characters in the new episodes.
When Kendrick was on set, Harper recalls that she warned him how exhausting this experience would be, with the actor appearing in nearly every scene, and to make sure that he got plenty of rest. Heeding her advice, Harper says he spent most weekends “on my back.”
Their appearances, Boyd says, are purposeful, explaining that Love Life functions as a “shared universe” set in New York City, where there are “many stories happening at any given moment.” That said, Darby’s own story continues beyond season 1, with her life and story running parallel to what’s happening to Marcus.
“So the ways that she and other first season characters weave in and out of this second season story” is something they plan to replicate with each new season, Boyd says, “picking up with new people and exploring them just as thoroughly as we did with Darby and now Marcus.”
Love Life season 2 premieres in October on HBO Max.