Ahead of its panel for the virtual San Diego Comic-Con yesterday, HBO released a new teaser for its upcoming series, Lovecraft Country, a Jim Crow-era story of otherworldly horror and racism that looks enormously timely. At the panel for the series, they discussed what the series means in the summer of 2020.
The series is based on Matt Ruff’s 2016 novel by the same name, about Atticus (Jonathan Majors), a black veteran of the Korean War who returns home only to discover that his father Montrose (played by Michael Kenneth Williams) has gone missing, and sets off to find him.
In this new trailer, we see Atticus describe a book that he’s been reading, juxtaposed against scenes from the Korean War and a traffic stop that looks as though it’s about to go sideways.”It’s about heroes who get to go on adventures, defeat monsters, and save the day,” he says. “Lil’ boy from the South Side of Chicago, and it’s only tourists who get to do that.” From there, Atticus, his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance), and his friend Leti (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) embark on a road trip across the country to track down his father and look into a family birthright that has some deeply horrific elements to it.
Prior trailers for the series have shown off both the horrors that African-Americans face from their white neighbors and police officers, and otherworldly monsters. This trailer shows off both, but we get a better look here at some of the supernatural elements to expect in the upcoming series, from cults, potions, creepy paintings, and a handful of monsters, including one of Lovecraft’s Ancient Ones in its full tentacled glory.
HBO’s panel for the series featured the cast and crew from the show, including Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Jonathan Majors, Michael Kenneth Williams, Aunjanue Ellis, Wunmi Mosaku, Abbey Lee, and Courtney B. Vance, with Entertainment Weekly‘s Sarah Rodman moderating.
Smollett-Bell described the series as a family drama. “It taps into so many themes, that we get to explore who we were as a nation, who we are now, who we were in Jim Crow America in 1955, it’s a show about family in search of family.”
“And how they’re the things of what happened back then are still going on today,” Vance interjected.
The cast ran down some of the elements of the show: The Green Book (which George is responsible for writing), was a real book that African-Americans used when they wanted to travel—it identified safe places for them to visit, eat, or stay in the midst of Jim Crow America.
Rodman points out that there’s a mix of human and supernatural monsters in the show, and she noted that “there’s humor and there’s something … in this that does involve Black pain that there is also Black joy ,which is not always something we see in a story like this.”
Majors said that those two opposite things are a human condition, but it’s also part of the African-American experience. “We wouldn’t be here now if we couldn’t find levity, in the humor in humanity. We’re full human beings, and where there’s sorrow, there’s joy. It felt extremely natural, like we were at home.”
The conversation later shifts to the relevancy of the series, and Major noted that he grew up in Texas, and wrote on the top of his script “worst day in Texas”:
“This is the worst thing that could possibly happen to you as a young Black man in Texas. You’re in the car with your girl, and your dad, or your girl and your uncle, you’re driving around, and the cops pull you over. Now, the interesting thing is when I was growing up, couldn’t nobody watch that, could nobody see that, so the white folks would drive on by—even the brothers and sisters would drive on by and say hey, I hope you yes sir / no sir your way out of it. And so to take this story, to take that moment, it is something that is ancient, that systematic racism, that bullying, but now it’s on TV. And you notice in that scene, it’s just people. The demonic spirit that’s entering in is racism. That’s what we’re talking about and showing in technicolor. So many people folks don’t see that, so many people keep driving by, so they connect to these three characters in this moment, they now understand to a certain degree what it feels like, the unfairness of it.”
At the end of the panel, HBO gave audiences another taste of the series: a clip following our heroes as they explore a very creepy subterranean location, complete with ancient runes and a sense of dread.
The series is due out on August 16th on HBO and HBO Max.