According to data from Parrot Analytics obtained by The Root, viewership for Netflix’s series When They See Us and Dear White People jumped 329 percent during the recent uptick in Black Lives Matter protests. Justin Simien, the creator of Dear White People, says that although he’s thrilled to see interest in his work, he has mixed feelings about its growing popularity.
“[Dear White People] has its fans and it always has a fervor when it was released, and our social media buzz is crazy,” Simien said in a recent interview with The Playlist. The show is based on the 2014 film of the same name, also created by Simien. “But it just doesn’t always seem to sort of [become] the center of popular culture, the way other shows with white casts, at our same level of [acclaim]. So, it’s nice that it’s happening. It’s devastating that it’s happening on the heels of yet another series of murders, by the state, of Black people.”
Nevertheless, he acknowledges the importance of creating something that is “[moving] the needle” and “meeting the cultural moment right now.”
“That does feel like, ‘O.K., I don’t know, I’ve done something meaningful. So, it’s complicated,’” Simien says. “I think people are just sort of finally giving it a chance and realizing that there’s something there that they really enjoy, and that they didn’t expect, and are spreading through word of mouth, just talking to friends about like, ‘Wow, you should really watch this show.’”
Elsewhere in the interview, Simien discusses the fourth and final season of the show. With COVID-19 putting production on the back burner for much of the television industry, he’s had ample time to fine-tune some ideas. He’s looking at both sides of the coin in terms of optimism and pessimism, as he’s unsure of when his cast and crew will be able to get back on set.
“I’m always working on the showdown to the final hour,” he says. “I mean, we’re always working that script and working the jokes, and punching things up, and dialing things up, and dialing things down, and all that stuff. So, I think if anything, we might dial some things up, but really the heart of it, the thesis of this season is incredibly relevant and of the moment, I have to say, to my surprise and, I don’t know, dismay? But I think it’ll make for a really good season.”