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HBO has evolved into one of the most coveted destinations for creators to tell big budget, serialized genre storytelling. From Game of Thrones to Watchmen, they’ve showed up with the wallet and resources to make seamless cinematic stories. Next up on August 16 is Lovecraft Country, executive producer Misha Green’s adaptation of author Matt Ruff’s novel about monsters both real and revealed, in Jim Crow-era America.
At the Warner Media CTAM summer press day today, Green and stars Jurnee Smollett (Leti Lewis) and Jonathan Majors (Atticus Freeman) told reporters that the size, scale and ambition of their series was possible because the of prior successes of genre titles like Get Out and Lost.
"Lovecraft Country would have been incredibly hard to get on air if Get Out hadn’t come out,” Green said. “It opened up more black people into genre.”
“And Lost paved the way to bigger TV-making,” she continues. “This show is an epic journey and it would not be possible to make in TV if there was no Lost.”
It’s no surprise that the creators of those titles are also Green’s fellow executive producers on Lovecraft Country. Jordan Peele, directed and wrote Get Out, and J.J. Abrams co-created Lost. She says it took their cumulative track records and their ability to leverage cinematic scale into their shows to assuage HBO executives nerves about the budget needed to bring this series to life.
“When I pitched [Lovercraft] to HBO, it was big and epic and crazy,” Green explained. “I said, ‘There’s no turning back!’ They were very excited. But doing this at such a high budget also scares them. So, every step of the way, it was us saying, ‘We’re ok. But we’ll go a bit further.’ And that wasn’t about the aspects of sci-fi [in the episodes], but how huge we were going, how different episodes would be, and then navigating that. But it’s been incredibly exciting and fun.”
In the first sequence of the pilot, Green got to take her childhood love of monsters and make them real with a huge establishing set piece that utilizes Lovecraftian creatures, 50s pulp iconography and CGI. “Our big pulp monster dream is that I wanted to come in big,” she said. “The series goes for it across 10 episodes, and we want you to not know what’s going to happen in this world. [The opening scene] is thematic to the show on a whole and I just always want to start big.”
"At the end of our [production], our production designer said we built 162 sets, which is bananas,” Green laughed. “The amount of VFX houses we worked with and KNB Effects for practical work…there was no limit to my imagination.”
Green said she is also thrilled that Lovecraft Country presents a variety of genre storytelling which expands the inclusion of people of color as the heroes in the story, which hasn’t been seen much before. She teased, “We went for everything in that space so every episode had a syllabus for us to watch things from The Shining to The Amityville Horror. Big genre fans will see homages and Easter eggs throughout.”
Lovecraft Country premieres Sunday, August 16 on HBO.