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SYFY WIRE witchy wednesday

Juju is the Black witch story that fans have been waiting for

By Tai Gooden
juju key art

Gather your coven and get ready to dive into a diverse new witch web series. Juju is counteracting the overwhelming whiteness of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teen Witch, Charmed, and Hocus Pocus with a story about Black millennial women who embark on a journey of sisterhood, ancestry, witchcraft, sex, and magic — all while maintaining day-to-day adulting tasks.

It’s a refreshing and needed concept in a genre that often features inauthentic and problematic portrayals of Black characters, subjects them to suffering and stereotypes, and places them on the periphery of the main narrative in favor of less interesting white protagonists. The tragic sacrificial death of Abbie Mills on Sleepy Hollow, the all-too-quick demise of Buffy's resident badass Kendra, the solid fact that Chilling Adventures of Sabrina character Ambrose is far more interesting than Sabrina, and Game of Thrones' character Missandei's shocking death are just a few examples in recent years that have left fans who crave solid representation feeling disappointed and frustrated about non-white characters' arcs in supernatural and fantasy content.

In fact, Juju’s creator/director and self-professed sci-fi/fantasy fan Moon Ferguson revealed to SYFY FANGRRLS that she was angry after watching The Vampire Diaries' Bonnie Bennett go through a cycle of selfless sacrifice and loss for the sake of her white counterparts. Ferguson's boyfriend encouraged her to create the series that she wanted to see, so she vowed to explore what life would be like for a Black witch in America.

Juju follows three friends whose lives change drastically after realizing that they are descendants from a trio of Yoruba witch sisters who were cursed centuries ago. Aleja “Ally” Delgado is a vibrant and outspoken Cuban-American descendant of santeras who is dealing with the anxiety and insecurities of being a millennial. Then there’s Angelique “Gigi” DeBlanc, who comes from powerful voodoo practitioners from Louisiana and Haiti and is a staunch feminist with a sultry and captivating aura. Rounding out the group is Ayana “Yaya” McGregor, a descendant of the Obeah women of Jamaica — a giver, healer, and empath who provides a solid centering source for this friendship circle.

The ladies discover their deeper connection on Ally’s 28th birthday when the curse is lifted and the truth comes to light. Now they are juggling careers and friendships along with exploring a dark realm, navigating life in America as Black women, and discovering the depths of their ancestral past.

The series will have spells, sexcapades with vampires, drama, laughs, and mystery, all wrapped up in a package that Ferguson describes as “Insecure meets Charmed.” “This series is all about sisterhood,” she affirms. “I want to show sisterhood between Black girls and how you can be different and how it’s okay to have a female best friend and lean on your sister and be vulnerable with your friend. And it’s about heritage — knowing where you came from. A lot of us don’t know where we are from.”

Moon Ferguson
The director adored how Charmed tied in ancestry with their magic, so she incorporated this element and infused it with her own cultural and spiritual background. The South Florida native is a first-generation American who learned about Santería and Novena from her Cuban-Jamaican mother. Ferguson was also exposed to voodoo culture from her city’s large Haitian population and decided to take her knowledge a step further, spending countless hours in the library researching information to incorporate an ancestral Nigerian tie into the Juju’s lore.

She used Grey’s Anatomy’s worldbuilding techniques as a template for creating multiple interweaving storylines that combine darkness with levity. “I just wanted to show Black witches having fun with their magic and not always shown as something evil.” Ferguson says. “Sabrina the Teenage Witch gets to have fun with it, the Charmed characters got to have fun with it, but Black characters were always used to either help the white people or they were the villains.”

Ferguson, who currently resides in New York, crafted a creative crew (whom she refers to as Alchemists) of majority Black, brown, and/or LGBTQ people to ensure that Juju was told from diverse perspectives.

“I just wanted them to be as passionate about the story as I was,” she states. “[The idea of Juju] was so much bigger than me that I was talking myself out of it, but I was like, you know what, let me just put myself out there and see if I can come up with a writing team. I didn’t want to write it myself. I’m not one of those filmmakers who have to sit down and write all her episodes of a web series. I’m not trying to shame or judge anybody, but a lot of times a web series will seem flat when it’s just one person writing it. I see Juju as a TV show, so I wanted to treat it like such, where I have a writers’ team. And my writers have to like supernatural shows, sci-fi, and fantasies.”

Ferguson had tried to shoot Juju last year but kept experiencing roadblocks from the universe because she needed to work on her own mental and spiritual wellness first — and that’s when she said the behind-the-scenes team and cast came together effortlessly, volunteered their expertise, and fully supported the vision and cultural significance of this series. It was a major relief to the creator considering that Juju is her full-time job with no financial payoff just yet.

Moon Ferguson on the Juju set
Right now, Ferguson is reaching out to fantasy and sci-fi fans who want to see a dope Black witch series for help. The team has shot the pilot episode, but a Juju Kickstarter is currently live through May 31 to complete Season 1 production and promotional costs. This isn’t the first Kickstarter venture for Ferguson, who previously completed a campaign for her film about mental health in the West Indian community. But she's still nervous about her latest crowdfunding effort.

“I was scared, because 20,000 is a lot of dollars and I’m like, 'Who the hell do you think you are?'" she says with a hearty laugh. “But this is the least amount of what I need to get the first season out of the way comfortably … I knew that Kickstarter would pick this as a 'projects we love,' and I like the urgency of the 'all or nothing' because it compels people to donate.” She believes that non-creatives who don’t have funds to spare can do their part by simply spreading the word so others know that it exists.

Ultimately, Ferguson hopes Juju will get picked up by a network or streaming service and open up doors for more inclusion and equity in Hollywood. For now, her goal is to get Juju out to the masses and change the game by making Black witches the heroines of their own lives.