Jurnee Smollett is starring in quite a timely upcoming project on HBO—the much-anticipated Lovecraft Country. The series, which is a period piece, is especially relevant since we’re following its protagonists on the “quest to disrupt white supremacy,” which is both intriguing and frustrating. We’re still fighting this damn fight. Still.
The series synopsis, via HBO’s press release:
Based on the novel of the same name by Matt Ruff, the ten-episode series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he journeys with his childhood friend Letitia (Smollett) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) on a road trip from Chicago across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams).
In a recent profile with The Hollywood Reporter, Smollett talked about the importance of “building our own motherfucking table” instead of asking for a seat in an industry that still has a lot more work to do, despite its showboating about diversity and inclusion.
Whether it’s racial microaggressions involving natural hair—such as her experience with an executive on the set of Underground (who asked her what she was going to “do” with her hair), or the ongoing fight toward pay equity (as THR noted, Smollett is now being paid the same as her male co-star for the first time in her career), Smollett acknowledges the hypocrisy of Hollywood’s progressive portrayal. After all, Hollywood is known to provide a performance. The term “performative activism” has come up recently in response to the industry’s sudden mass call for Black representation and inclusion.
“This business can be maddening,” Smollett told THR. “For all its liberalism, I’ve been in these spaces where these very powerful people do the fundraisers and write the checks for the Black or brown kids’ scholarships, and then I know for a fact they go back into their staff meetings and they’re all white.” She pauses, letting her words hang there momentarily, and then she continues: “And if you do that, you’re a hypocrite, and you’re not actually anti-racist.”
“There are just so many ways in which this industry will try, subliminally or overtly, to erase your Blackness,” Smollett noted, in reference to the aforementioned incident involving the executive. However, Smollett refuses to be erased.
“Jurnee’s truly a fighter for the people,” Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement said about her friend. “She’s unapologetic, loving and full of righteous fire.”
Smollett also opened up publicly for the first time about her brother Jussie Smollett, who is facing new criminal charges in connection with an alleged hate crime in January 2019. Jussie was initially accused of staging the crime. The initial case was dismissed, but a grand jury revived the case 11 months later, charging him for allegedly lying to police.
“It’s been fucking painful,” she said of the traumatic ordeal, “one of the most painful things my family’s ever experienced—to love someone as much as we love my brother and to watch someone who you love that much go through something like this, that is so public, has been devastating. I was already in a very dark space for a number of reasons, and I’ve tried to not let it make me pessimistic. But everyone who knows me knows that I love my brother and I believe my brother.”
Lovecraft Country premieres Aug. 16 on HBO at 9 p.m. ET.
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