'Lovecraft Country' Creator: The Show’s Monsters Are a Metaphor for Racism in America
By Stacy Lambe
“I think the monsters are a metaphor for the racism that’s always been running through America and globally,” Lovecraft Country creator and showrunner Misha Green said Wednesday during WarnerMedia’s virtual Television Critics Association press tour about the upcoming HBO sci-fi series.
Adapted from Matt Ruff's bestselling 2016 novel, Lovecraft Country follows the adventures of Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors), his friend Letitia Lewis (Jurnee Smollett) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) as they travel across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of Atticus’ missing father (Michael K. Williams).
What starts off as a haunting look at the terrors of racism of white America slowly becomes more twisted when the three heroes are being hunted by terrifying monsters and ghosts that could be taken straight from an H.P. Lovecraft novel.
“In my opinion, a monster is a monster. It’s something that is driven by an inside system and that system is either to terrorize or destroy,” Majors went on to say, when discussing how the mythical creators correlated with the real-life horrors associated with systemic racism in the country.
“It’s quite different when that monster is disguised in the same body as you and the only thing that’s different is skin color. That then makes it more for me a mental and psychological f**k,” he continued. “All of a sudden, you’re in a horror film.”
He added, “White racists, or racists in general, are that much more terrifying than a shoggoth.”
Speaking of horror films, Green credited executive producer Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning Get Out for helping pave the way for a series like Lovecraft Country to get made on TV today. “This would have been incredibly hard to get on air if Get Out hadn’t come out,” she said.
Green added that shows like Lost and “every genre move imaginable” helped create an appetite for world-building that’s seen in the series. “Later you’ll see we use Nightmare on Elm Street and Freddy Krueger to tell what it’s like to be a young Black girl in America,” she teased.
For Smollett, who is known for her activism off the screen, said preparing for her role “was quite sobering,” especially when it came to the parallels between the Jim Crow era the series takes place in and the Black Lives Matter movement of today -- and “the fact that the systemic racism this country was built upon has yet to be dismantled.”
She added, “I could relate to so many instances in the text,” which she described as an ancestral story to bring down the white supremacy.
The former Underground star also revealed that she turned to writings by the likes of James Baldwin and Gwendolyn Brooks. “There’s so much wisdom that we can gain for now,” she said. “It’s humbling.”
To help further bridge the gap between the past and present is the music used in the series, which includes everything from The Jeffersons theme song to Cardi B.
“[We've used] modern music to bridge time to take this period piece off the wall,” Green said. “It’s so fun to place some Cardi B in the 1950s and have it resonate as much as it does today.”