âHistory has a way of repeating itselfâ
‘History has a way of repeating itself’
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - September 21, 2020 - 12:00am

That quote about history came from Misha Green, one of the executive producers of Lovecraft Country now airing on HBO Go until next month based on the novel of the same name by Matt Ruff. The 10-episode series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he journeys with his childhood friend (Leticia Jurnee Smollett) and his uncle George (Courtney Vance) on a road trip from Chicago across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams). Their search-and-rescue turns into a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and monstrous creatures that could be ripped from an H.P. Lovecraft paperback.

Here’s Green on how she believes that history has a way of repeating itself.

Misha Green, Lovecraft Country producer: History never goes away. That’s what I enjoy going back and looking at history.

What drew you to re-adapting the book Lovecraft Country into a TV series?

“Lovecraft Country was written by Matt Ruff and I think it was an amazing book. What he (Matt Ruff) was doing was kind of reclaiming this space that typically you don’t see a lot of Black people or people of color in — the sci-fi and pulp science fiction genre.”

What drew you to this genre of sci-fi and horror?

“I’ve been a horror fan all of my life. That genre is my bread and butter, I’ve loved horror since I was a kid. I’ve always loved that idea of having this extra layer on top of real emotion and I’ve felt that horror does that so well for so long and I’ve always been drawn to that.”

How does Lovecraft Country differ from your previous work, Underground?

“It’s a lot bigger! Underground was my first show, I co-created with Joe Pokaski and a lot of the things we explored in that show I was keen to carry to this project, Lovecraft Country. But it’s definitely on a more epic scale. I wanted to have the sci-fi episode, I wanted to do the adventure episode and I wanted to have a haunted house story. So the scope, I think just has grown bigger than any of the projects I’ve ever done before.”

Scenes from Lovecraft Country which airs exclusively on HBO Mondays at 9 a.m. and same day at 10 p.m. on HBO GO.

The show is centered in 1950s segregated America but often it feels current. Was that a conscious decision?

“I think that history has a way of repeating itself — history has a way of never going away. And that’s what I enjoy about going back and looking at history, seeing the pattern, seeing what happened and how we got to the place that we are today, and it was definitely one of the things we talked about in the writer’s room. I think, for me, even when you do something in the past, like Underground, it still has to feel relevant to today. And I think that was always the idea with Lovecraft Country as well, to take the parallels from the past and bring them here to the present. What do we learn there? What can we change there? What hasn’t changed? What needs to change? It’s all interconnected. With this genre of sci-fi, we are able to explore the idea that time is not real, so we are able to time travel and access multiverses, that’s really exciting in storytelling.”

What do you hope viewers at home will take away when they tune in?

“I never want to tell audiences what to take away because I feel like that kind of stifles them a little bit. But I feel like I just want them to take away the motion. I want them to feel something when they watch it. And if that feeling activates something in them, that’s even better. That’s what you want art to do, you want it to make audiences feel, re-think and want to learn about something new. And if that’s what comes from Lovecraft Country, then it’s going to be fantastic.”

On the show, we see Black love and lots of jubilant moments of Black joy. Why was that important for you to show that?

“We go to so many places in this show and I think it’s just the breath of Black life. It was important for us to always show this idea that the Chicago Southside was the safe haven. It was a place where Black people thrive. And I think that is also important to me to see Hippolyta as an older woman being loved. It’s important to me that you’re seeing even Ruby being loved. I feel like we don’t see enough of that — the full breaths of Black life. I understand when people say they’re like, ‘I’m so sick of seeing things about Black pain.’ And I’m like: I don’t know if Lovecraft is not that but I feel like if we had more of an entire scope (in TV/film) of the Black experience, we wouldn’t be so starved for Black joy. You can have art that is both.”

There are lots of monsters on the show like racism and the treatment from police — what do the real monsters symbolize?

“Yes! When I first initially read that book that was interesting to me. It’s like you’re almost relieved when the monsters show up. You’re like there’s so much tension from the human monsters in the story that like when the monsters come, you’re almost like, ‘Oh, God, thank you, now I get a little bit of a break.’ I definitely wanted to keep that feeling in the pilot, because that’s the thing about being Black in America, it’s not hard to step into the horror genre, because you’re in it every day.”

Lovecraft Country is different from how Black people are treated in horror — they are not the first to die, there are no lazy stereotypes, was that a conscious decision?

“I don’t censor myself around whiteness and telling Black stories is not a special thing for me. This just feels completely natural and completely in line with who I am in the world that I see. So it’s super fun in the context of the world that this is something special, but for me, it’s just normal.”

The show centers around a lot of family themes. Could you go into a few that it addresses?

“I think that every character goes into what it’s like to be a person of color and issues we’re struggling with right now in the world. The overall theme of the show is this idea of how do you speak your truth? Your shame?”

How do you bring out the things that have been oppressed inside of you to fight against what really is evil?

“I think that is universal for everyone, something that we’re all struggling with and it’s definitely something to connect with beyond just the genre in the show.”

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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