Comic-Con@Home hosted a Lovecraft Country panel today for its upcoming HBO series. Moderated by Entertainment Weekly’s executive editor Sarah Rodman, the panel featured cast members Jurnee Smollett (Birds of Prey), Jonathan Majors, Michael K. Williams, Aunjanue Ellis, Wunmi Moasku, Abbey Lee, and Courtney B. Vance.
The panel opened with an official trailer for the series. Based on the novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, the series follows Atticus Freeman (Majors), a former soldier and fiction lover who sets out to find his missing father (Williams). Atticus is accompanied by his uncle George (Vance) and friend Letitia (Smollett). They soon discover that in addition to the specter of racism, there are monsters lurking in the dark.
Smollett opened the panel by briefly summing up Lovecraft Country. “It’s a show about a family in search of family,” she said. Talk then turned to Ellis and Vance’s love scene, which was shown in the trailer. Williams said that he discussed the scene with Smollett, saying the “grown black love was beautiful.”
Vance said that George is a “jack of all trades” who is writing a fictionalized version of the Green Book, a manual used by Black citizens to find safe places to eat and sleep during travel in segregation-era America. Smollett talked about her character, who is a photographer chronicling the budding civil rights movement. “Lettie is very much so this disruptor—this defiant woman,” she said, also referring to her character as a “F***-up.” Lettie also has an estranged relationship with her sister Ruby (Mosaku). Smollett said the two need each other to survive.
Mosaku and Smollett said that they connected over musical sessions, just as Lettie and Ruby connect with each other over music. “We needed those rehearsals to establish that kind of physical, vocal familiarity.” Talk then turned to the characters’ familiarity with the sci-fi genre, and if the cast had any affinity for the genre.
Williams said he was a huge fan of The Twilight Zone. Majors said he read the pilot script twice; he was stunned at the depth of his character. “He’s not just this soldier, he’s also a bibliophile. He also gets to travel. He’s an adventurer. He has all these ideas, you know? He has a strong body, a strong mind, a strong heart.” Williams also discussed the impact his character Montrose has on the series.
While Lee couldn’t discuss her character Christina Braithwhite due to spoilers, she gave out a few hints. Christina is the daughter of the leader of the Sons of Adam, a group of “natural alchemists” who serve as Lovecraft Country‘s antagonists. “She’s the ultimate provocateur. The agent of chaos, the white antagonist.” She also referred to Christina as the “Karen” of the series; however, the character does have layers that viewers will discover in future episodes.
“We wouldn’t be here now if we couldn’t find the levity and the humor in humanity. And Black folks, we just have a way of—we’re full human beings. Where there’s sorrow, there’s joy.” Majors said when asked how Lovecraft Country balances Black joy and pain. He also describes his close-knit relationship with the cast. Vance attributed this connection to showrunner Misha Green and the “organized chaos of the set.” Williams said that the first day on set was when he felt the connection with the cast, saying there was “emotional heavy lifting” between himself and Majors.
“Tapping into that energy…it’s a very dark place to go to. But it’s necessary,” Smollett said while discussing a scene featuring Atticus and Lettie escaping the police. She referred to it as a “blood memory” and discussed how the series lined up with current events. Majors discussed his experience growing up in Texas, and how the scene resonated with him as well as viewers. “They now understand to a certain degree, the unfairness of it.”
“We’ve seen these scenes…you hope you can “yes sir” or “yes ma’am” your way out of the situation,” Vance added. “The question is, at what point is that going to be enough? Enough of that, that kind of behavior, that kind of bullying is not appropriate anymore and we shouldn’t see it anymore.” He and Williams shared their own personal stories of being approached by the police, while in front of their families. “I don’t know what it is that makes people frightened of the color of our skin,” Williams said.
The panel wrapped up with a discussion of how the Lovecraftian monsters represent the deeper themes at hand, and the actors’ reactions to the green screen elements. Vance described it as “silly.” Williams said the monsters represented “everything that was dark and vile in society.”
Finally, viewers were treated to a sneak peek of the series. Atticus, Lettie, and George discover a mysterious statue; when they turn off their flashlights the moonlight shows them how to open a path to an underground network of caverns. The scene felt very reminiscent of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
You can watch the full Lovecraft Country panel here.
Born and raised in Texas, Collier “CJ” Jennings was introduced to geekdom at an early age by his father, who showed him Ultraman and Star Trek: The Next Generation. On his thirteenth birthday, he received a copy of Giant Size X-Men #1 and dove head first into the realm of pop culture, never looking back. His hobbies include: writing screenplays and essays, watching movies and television, card games/RPG’s, and cooking. He currently resides in Seattle.