Actress Jurnee Smollett, brother of hate crime hoaxer Jussie Smollett, says HBO’s latest racially charged drama, Lovecraft Country, is a fictional reflection of a segregation and Jim Crow-era America that black people “are still on that quest today in 2020” to overcome.
“[Racism] is sometimes even more of a threat because it’s unexpected,” Jurnee Smollett said on a Television Critics Association panel discussing the HBO series, which is set in 1950s. The J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele-produced drama sees black characters face racism while battling the fictional creatures and monsters of Marc Ruff’s famous fiction novel. “It affects your livelihood and it affects you on every single level.”
“Our heroes essentially are going on a quest to bring down White supremacy,” Smollett said. “We are still on that quest today in 2020 as Black Americans. Racism is such a demonic spirit — it’s something that we are still fighting off.”
Smollett defended her brother, Jussie, while promoting the series. Jussie Smollet’s claim that he was the victim of a racist and homophobic attack resulted in a grand jury in Chicago charging him on 16 counts of felony disorderly conduct for filing a false police report. A special prosecutor reinstated the charges after Cook County city attorney, Kim Foxx abruptly dropped them. It’s been “fucking painful,” Jurnee Smollett said. “To love someone as much as we love my brother, and to watch someone who you love that much go through something like this, that is so public, has been devastating.”
Jurnee Smollett plays Letitia Lewis, a woman who joins her friend, Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors), on a road trip to find his missing father (Michael K. Williams). They embark from Chicago and wind up in cities plagued by Lovecraft’s monsters. The Cthulhu from Call of Cthulhu and Shoggoth from At the Mountains of Madness make appearances.
Segregation and Jim Crow laws still are in effect in places Atticus and Letitia visit. On the road to Ardham, Mass., Letitia and Atticus pass signs warning Black people away, and face White people mocking them at rest stops. Smollett, born in 1986, said she researched the history of America in the ’50s to prepare for Lovecraft Country. She saw parallels between the struggle against racism then and the Black Lives Matter movement of today.
Writer and executive producer Misha Green adapted Matt Ruff’s book for HBO. Green said the Lovecraft monsters are symbolic to her of the racism still present in the world. “For me, genre works best when it is the metaphor on top of the real life emotions that you explore,” Green said.
She credited Jordan Peele’s Oscar-winning horror film Get Out with opening the doors to more Black-led horror content. Peele is an executive producer of Lovecraft Country, too. “I think that kind of paved the way for people to really open up to the idea of seeing more Black people in dominant spaces,” Green said.
Lovecraft Country premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.
UPI contributed to the article.
Jerome Hudson is Breitbart News Entertainment Editor and author of the forthcoming book 50 Things They Don’t Want You to Know About Trump. Order your copy today. Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter @jeromeehudson.