At 4:00 pm PDT today, ComicCon@Home 2020 held its panel for HBO’s Lovecraft Country. A description of the panel from Comic-Con’s website is copied below along with an embedded recording of the live stream.
If you’re one of those folks who prefers to read things (or just wants the highlights), then scroll a little further for our commentary about the event.
From showrunner and executive producer Misha Green, the new drama series ‘Lovecraft Country’ follows the thrilling journeys of Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors), his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) across 1950s Jim Crow America as they overcome the racist terrors and terrifying monsters ripped from an H.P. Lovecraft novel. Join cast members, Jurnee Smollett, Jonathan Majors, Michael Kenneth Williams, Aunjanue Ellis, Wunmi Mosaku, Abbey Lee, and Courtney B. Vance in a conversation moderated by Sarah Rodman, executive editor of Entertainment Weekly.
The following is a very condensed summary of the 45-minute panel’s biggest highlights. As much as I appreciate you reading my summary, however, this one is definitely worth watching in full if you get a chance.
Moderator Sarah Rodman introduces the cast and asks for someone explain the premise of the admittedly hard-to-describe cosmic horror series.
Jurnee Smollett-Bell (Letitia “Leti” Dandridge): Without spoiling any of the supernatural elements: Leti is joining Atticus and his Uncle George on a quest to find Atticus’ father (Monstrose). At its core, Lovecraft Country is about who we were as a nation during the Jim Crowe era and family in search of family.
At the beginning of the series, Leti has just returned home from documenting civil rights protests as a photographer. She is also estranged from her family, including her older sister Ruby, he she’d always looked up to.
There’s a very tense scene in the pilot where she, Atticus, and George are trying to get out of a sundown town (a town where black people needed to leave before sundown or they would be in danger). It’s the type of scene that taps into the current civil rights movement along with the “blood memory” of police brutality that black people have experienced for years.
The monsters in Lovecraft Country required a lot of technical work behind the scenes. In one instance, there was a shot that required some sort of viscus material to be spit by a monster onto her and Atticus. Showrunner Mischa Green reworked the grueling/disgusting shot for an hour just to make sure they got it right.
Wunmi Mosaku (Ruby Dandridge): Leti and Ruby share a major connection through music. This allowed her and Jurnee Smollett to bond over the same thing during their many rehearsals together.
Jonathan Majors (Atticus Freeman): After receiving the script, he read the whole thing twice back-to-back. It was surprising (and really cool) to see a black man as the lead character in a lead sci-fi adventure role who was also a bibliophile.
When we first meet Atticus, he’s reading an Edgar Burroughs novel.
The series definitely has its share of sorrow and cosmic dread, but that’s balanced by moments of levity and joy, as well.
The cast of Lovecraft Country became extremely close during filming. Majors admitted that he still slips and calls them by their onscreen names sometimes.
On the topic of depicting racial injustice in television: Majors grew up in Texas. He wrote on top of his script “worst day in Texas” because getting pulled over with your girl and your uncle is the worst thing that could happen to you in in that state.
There was a time when that this sort of blatant racism was something people didn’t talk about. Now it’s on television. While it certainly isn’t the same as policy or societal change, it does show that this sort of behavior is known/recognized instead of dismissed/ignored by those who don’t experience it.
Aunjanue Ellis (Hippolyta Freeman): Gave a very good explanation of the Green Book (a manual black people used during the Jim Crowe era to know what places were safe to visit). Her husband (George) is creating a similar manual and she wants to go on the adventure with him.
The relationship between George and Hippolyta is very loving and was a joy to portray on screen.
Abbey Lee (Christina Braithwhite): Christina is the only daughter of a leader of a sacred order called Sons of Adam. She’s also an agent of chaos.
On a larger scale, Christina represents a repressed woman trying to liberate herself while also encompassing the racist/entitled Karen stereotype. Definitely an evil protagonist, but also very human. She’s looking for a family, love, liberation, justice, revenge — all the same thing the other characters are looking for, but in a much more harmful manner.
Michael K. Williams (Montrose Freeman): Williams was a huge fan of Twilight Zone, so he really enjoyed working within H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos.
He also told an infuriating story about a time last year when he, his brother, and a few friends went out to eat. Halfway through the meal, 4-5 police officers came into restaurant. A white woman had lost her phone there, pinged its location, and sent police to fetch it instead of going in herself. The police were initially hostile, but their behavior changed once they realize he was an actor on some shows they liked.
What would have happened if it had just been his brother or friends? Why did it take them enjoying his work to treat him and his family/friends with humanity?
The monsters in Lovecraft Country aren’t just cool supernatural threats — they also represent everything dark and vile in society.
Courtney B. Vance (George Freeman): Echoed Ellis’s thoughts on how beautiful George and Hippolyata’s relationship is.
He also told a heartbreaking story about a time when he walked outside his house at midnight and was forced on his knees by the police, all while his children were asleep inside.
One day, portrayals of that type of treatment in media (like what we are going to see in Lovecraft Country) need to become ridiculously outdated. Black people shouldn’t have to explain to their children why they might be treated unfairly or killed simply due to the color of their skin.
On a lighter note, Vance shared some funny stories about having to make sure everyone was looking the same direction for sequences where the monsters would have to be added later in post.
He also explained that part of what makes Lovecraft Country such an engaging show is how different it is from anything else on television.
The panel closed with a clip of Atticus, Leti, and Montrose exploring some type of shrine/chamber. Montrose notices something outside and tells the group to turn off their flashlights. Moonlight comes in reveals a switch that opens a secret doorway.
Lovecraft Country premieres Sunday, August 16 at 9:00 pm EDT on HBO. Make sure to check back here for weekly episode recaps/reviews!