The Last O.G., the number one show on TBS, is heartening, sly and oh-so-real. It portrays in popular culture the collateral damage of mass incarceration—the lost time, the regrets, the broken ties, yet, the thing that makes The Last O.G. so compelling, so irresistible, is that it wraps that heavy, weighty reality in levity and grace. Plus headliner Tracy Morgan is hilarious.
To kick off its second season, which premieres Tuesday night on TBS (the series is executive produced by Jordan Peele and co-stars Tiffany Haddish), Morgan and his family trekked back to Medina—his home town in the planet of Brooklyn, where the show is shot—to the Hattie Carthan Community Garden in Bed-Stuy.
Morgan dug into a little earth, mixed and mingled with fans and community members who got to check out grassroots organizations like environmental city outfit, GrownNYC; Drive Change, which hires formerly incarcerated youth and trains them to work in New York City’s top restaurants for a living wage (their gumbo that day was divine); and City Harvest, a food rescue organization, which encouraged visitors to the garden to volunteer for families in need.
On that brisk, sunny day, Morgan was at his best, making quips in his distinctive voice, cracking black ass jokes and truly showing the people and community love, saying things like: “This is a pebble in the middle of a pond” and telling his daughter “Ain’t no worm over there, that’s a stick.” Also: “In a last life, this was a family gathering with sweet pie and potato salad, but Stevie and Michael fighting again. Stevie and Michael always start fighting.”
When Morgan addressed the crowd, he touched on his near death experience which, he said, made him a better man. He had a gaggle of young teens come up to take photos with him and told the crowd again and again that he loved them.
“I promise you I’m not going to ever leave you. Be good. I love you, and you heard that from me,” Morgan said to the kids. “When we see each other in the streets, let’s act like we know each other, alright? That’s the problem with my community, we became strangers. Look at all of us in here right now. I cried last year when we did that in Marcy. We haven’t done that in a long time. We have food here, music. The DJ, he ready to spin. Let’s do this. I ain’t going nowhere. Let’s have a good time,” Morgan said, with much sincerity.
The premise of The Last O.G. is the story of so many millions of black men coming home and not only navigating their rapidly gentrifying communities, but relationships with their children and families, and even technology, after spending a significant amount of time “away.” It has to resonate for the estimated 25 percent of African American children in this country who have a parent who is currently or formerly incarcerated.
And what was evident on Thursday was that not only was Morgan all about second chances, but first ones as well.
Several young actors on the set that day — including Jeremiah Craft, who plays teen Tray, and young Joshua Rivera — are in their first break out roles in the series.
“It’s a blessing, it’s’ a blessing,” says 24-year-old Craft, who also had a role on Luke Cage. “It just feels awesome to be part of this black Renaissance now where we’re allowed more space to take up the airwaves. I love it. I get to play young Tracy, and it’s a blast on set. I haven’t seen it yet, but I have full faith that it’s going to be hilarious.”
“It is so surreal, I can’t even explain the feeling, but it’s like bliss,” says old Joshua Rivera, who is in the halfway house with Morgan in his first role on a major network. “It’s very inspirational because you see these guys at work and you see the man behind the machine and how this all comes into play.”
Another first timer who got a shot is a young woman from Brooklyn who created the mural for the community garden, Tiffany B Chanel, 31, who says that the mural is her biggest work to date.
“This mural is my first project,” says Chanel, who notes that her mother, who is also a self-taught artist from Brooklyn (both her parents are), helped her with the piece. She said that she had 10 days to do it, and did it in her home on four panels. “It was great, and a big learning experience.”
First chance, second chance — it’s all about the humanity of so many of those who are behind the proverbial eight ball.
“You just can’t throw people away because they’re incarcerated, especially off a nonviolent crime,” said Morgan to The Root. “Listen — it’s all in one sentence in The last O.G. — a second chance is a beautiful thing!”
The Last O.G. premieres Season 2 tonight, Tuesday, April 2, 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.