Day two of the annual PaleyFest LA, the country’s premiere television festival (virtual for 2021) dropped a new batch of panels featuring the hottest series of the past year including HBO's genre-bending hit, Lovecraft Country. While the panel didn't provide any concrete updates about HBO picking up a second season of the series, executive producer/showrunner Misha Green assembled her cast together to discuss the impact that Season 1 had, both personally and culturally.
Inspired by the works and mythology of H.P. Lovecraft, Lovecraft Country (also executive produced by Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams) was Green's opportunity to take all genres, from horror to adventure, and reframe them around the Black experience, as Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) returns home to his family and friends after serving in the Korean War.
During the Zoom panel, castmembers Jurnee Smollett ("Letitia ‘Leti’ Lewis"), Michael Kenneth Williams ("Montrose Freeman"), Wunmi Mosaku ("Ruby Baptiste"), Aunjanue Ellis ("Hippolyta Freeman"), Jamie Chung ("Ji-Ah"), and Abbey Lee ("Christina Braithwhite") spoke at length about the unabashedly authentic arcs for their characters, and why episodes like "I Am," "Sundown," and "Jig-a-Bobo" were received so well.
"What I think is so revolutionary about Lovecraft Country is the name itself," Ellis said. "How we start revolutions within, how we use language, and how we name ourselves. The idea that H.P. Lovecraft was this virulent racist and his writing was rooted in paranoia about African-Americans and Asians and Jewish people in Brooklyn, and we are taking his name and transforming it into a space that is self-liberating for Black folks. To me, the entire series in that sense is an act of transformation and revolution."
Transformation was a primary topic explored by the panel, as the cast all admitted that they were constantly surprised when getting new scripts from Green, especially ones that featured characters changing into different races and genders. Mosaku shared that she was shocked about Ruby's fate: "I was told by Misha in the second audition, 'You're going to turn into a white woman!'"
The cast was equally candid about how collaborative Green was when it came to weaving in their personal experiences. Williams said she let him be "wild and free" in developing Atticus' complicated father, Montrose. For example, in "I Am," during Montrose's explanation of what happened in Tulsa, Williams asked Green to change the word "riot" to "more like a massacre," because of his research about those two words. "I had recently found out the difference about something being called a riot is about reparations. That whole event was built on a lie, and for Black Wall Street, there were no riots. I brought that to Misha and she let me bring that to the table."
Green also shared that the inclusion of Confederate soldiers in "I Am" came from Ellis asking for that specific detail be included because of her own experiences living in Mississippi. "Everyone brought something that enhanced [the series] and took it to the next level," Green said of her cast. "All of us asked how do we push it forward and make it more resonant, yet still have fun but respect the story? It was all about bringing in the Black person of color perspective, not just casting an African-American."
To find out everyone's favorite Season 1 moments, how Lee struggled playing the often villainous Christina Braithwhite, and if Green had to leave any stories on the cutting room floor, watch the entire Lovecraft Country panel on the Paley Center’s dedicated channel on Verizon Media’s Yahoo Entertainment page.