♪ (SOUNDWAVE) ♪ (RADIO STATIC) ♪ (SOFT MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ NARRATOR: You’re tuning in to Lovecraft Country Radio There’s some strong language and spoilers ahead Buckle up ♪ (MUSIC FADES) ♪ ♪ (INTRO MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ ASHLEY C. FORD: Hello! My name is Ashley C. Ford I am a writer, podcaster, and horror-enthusiast SHANNON HOUSTON: And I am Shannon Houston I’m one of the writers for HBO’s new series, Lovecraft Country I’m also a film and TV critic at Paste magazine A parent of three free Black children ASHLEY: Amen. Amen SHANNON: And a person who watches at least one episode of Buffy season three every week So, we are here to welcome you to Lovecraft Country Radio; the official HBO companion podcast As we start to dive into this, I just wanna start by saying -Ashley, I’m fucking scared -(ASHLEY LAUGHS) SHANNON: I am literally scared of the show that I worked on I watched this episode, especially the ending, when the monsters came out, I was literally watching it through my fingers, like a total scaredy cat Um, please, you– you have to help me get through this, -this is part of your job -ASHLEY: I’m here for you I’m here for you. Listen, I’m going to be your horror doula -(SHANNON SIGHS WITH RELIEF) -ASHLEY: I am going to hold your hand -SHANNON: Yes! -ASHLEY: …and walk you through a beautiful, terrifying experience with life! -SHANNON: (LAUGHS) Yes! -ASHLEY: And it’s going to be amazing. We’re gonna have so much fun And you are going to be, I feel like, -my horror sommelier -SHANNON: Ooh, I like this I like this. I’m gonna– You know, Lovecraft Country, we like to remix things on this show I’m gonna remix that, and I’m gonna claim Lovecraft sommelier, right? -ASHLEY: Mmm -SHANNON: Yes! I’m here to connect you and our audience to the writers’ room and the writers’ experience And to kind of, like, give you guys all the references and the themes and the conversations that we had, the arguments that we had about scenes, -that we’ll get into -ASHLEY: Oh, yeah SHANNON: And I’m also really excited for this to be interactive, right? Like, I’m excited to talk to you every week from here on out, until the series finale But I’m also excited for our listeners to, like, -bug us on Twitter -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: …and follow us and then unfollow us, because they disagreed with that one thing we said -ASHLEY: Yes -SHANNON: Like, all of those things -I am so excited for -ASHLEY: Yes. Let’s get heated Let’s get passionate -SHANNON: Can we please? -ASHLEY: Let’s have fun -Yes. Absolutely -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: So, each week, rather than take you through the episode, plot-point by plot-point, we’re gonna break it down by themes The pilot got us thinking about family, history, Black joy, and, of course, monsters! So we’ll do all that, and then we’ll call out specific references Those Easter eggs you may have missed Are you ready? Because it’s time to talk about episode one -“Sundown.” -SHANNON: Let’s do it ♪ (INTRO MUSIC FADES) ♪ WOMAN: Tell me, what’s that book you’ve been reading about? -ATTICUS FREEMAN: A Princess of Mars? -WOMAN: Mm-hmm ATTICUS: It’s about this man named John Carter, who goes from being a captain in the army of Northern Virginia, -to becoming a Martian warlord -WOMAN: Huh ATTICUS: Starts with him running from the Apaches and hiding in this massive cave, which transports him to the red planet That’s when it starts to get good WOMAN: Hold on You said the hero was a confederate officer? ATTICUS: Ex-confederate WOMAN: He fought for slavery You don’t get to put an ‘ex’ in front of that ATTICUS: Stories are like people Loving him doesn’t make him perfect, you just tryna cherish ’em Overlook their flaws WOMAN: Yeah, but the flaws are still there ATTICUS: Yeah, they are SHANNON: Okay, Ashley, so, later on we’re gonna talk more about the use of James Baldwin’s words in this episode, and this question that’s haunting the episode: “What is reality?” But I kept thinking about it in this opening scene too What the fuck is happening? And what is reality? What did you think about that scene? ASHLEY: I really loved this scene And I loved it mostly because of that moment of relating and feeling– Like, it is very clear to me that Atticus does not usually talk to people -about what he’s reading -SHANNON: Mm ASHLEY: But he thinks about what he’s reading And he thinks about what it means And that– It is inescapable because of who his father is, and how his father would have treated him, regarding his books and his inclinations towards sci-fi But another thing that I really love about this scene, and sort of like further into the scene is that there’s this moment when you realize
how much of an observer Atticus is -SHANNON: Mm -ASHLEY: Atticus sees everything He sees everything, and he prepares for everything And, to be perfectly honest, he really is, like, the perfect person you’d want on an adventure -SHANNON: Yeah -ASHLEY: If you’ve gotta go be a fugitive, or you’ve gotta go on some adventure and try to disappear a little bit, you want somebody who knows how to see what’s coming And I think Atticus is really, really good at seeing what’s coming And I think this is just the beginning of noticing how well-prepared he is If a little reckless and emotional at times SHANNON: Yeah, I think it’s like, you know, that double-edged sword, right? Of a person who feels like they’re in control and feels like they can handle almost any situation And, you know, we’re gonna see over the course of the show, there’s a whole bunch of situations that he has not been prepared for, and we’re gonna watch him struggle with that And, I mean, look at this We just spent two minutes talking about this little, tiny scene at the beginning of the pilot because there was so much there And there is so much more to unpack in this episode So many layers ASHLEY: I really think it’s important for the listeners, especially people who are coming to this podcast right after they watch the episode, to sort of understand the world of Lovecraft, and specifically, how that comes out in episode one SHANNON: So, something that we did a lot in the writers’ room was discuss different ways that we could use audio instead of music to play out over a scene Um, obviously music is really important to the show, but the audio is really important as well Because we were interested in how the power of words and voices from the past can speak directly to a fictional character And also to our audience So, before we get into our major themes, I wanna talk more about this Baldwin quote ASHLEY: Mm. Yes SHANNON: This fucking incredible quote plays out over the Leti, Atticus, and George road trip scene, right? Um, we’re making our way from the Midwest to the East Coast, and we’re hearing Baldwin talk about, like, how answering any question about America or Black America really requires us to give context to the question Baldwin says, “It depends on your reality Where you find yourself in this world.” This feels so true to our show -ASHLEY: Yes -SHANNON: Because I think part of what we’re grappling with is, like, reality being this fixed thing, right? And we’re saying, “No Reality isn’t this fixed, factual thing.” Think about the cop thing and the cabin “There’s no such thing as monsters!” Even though they all were just staring at monsters And this whole show is about, on the one hand reality shifting in a massive way for one group of people in Chicago, who learn that magic and monsters exist, but it’s also about this idea that what we call reality is so dependent on what white supremacy tells us is right, true, and possible And I think this show is here to say, among many other things, “Fuck the reality you’ve previously been presented with as truth. Fuck it.” The show does this, not just through Baldwin, it does this through some really amazing characters ASHLEY: You know, it’s so interesting to me when you talked about the cop saying, “There’s no such thing as monsters.” Which, in the show, is extra ridiculous, given what the cop has just gone through -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: …and seen with his own eyes But it’s so reflective of the real-life horrors that people face in the reality that we share That there’s always something happening that we see. (LAUGHS) -There’s video! -SHANNON: Yes! ASHLEY: And somebody is still claiming it does not exist It is not a problem Don’t believe your own eyes Don’t believe your own ears Believe me, trust me, because I’ll take better care of you than reality -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: I’ll give you the fantasy SHANNON: Ugh. Absolutely, yes! And that question, “What is reality?” It is a question that is haunting -all of our characters -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm SHANNON: So, let’s dive in to, like, these people and these family dynamics, and really get into, like, what reality for our– our Lovecraft characters ASHLEY: I feel like, at its core, when you strip back the monsters and some of the more compelling, visual elements of the show, what you really have is a story about family And not just any family, but, like, Black family And given family. Chosen family Biological family Whatever it is, there’s a lot of story here
about the way we relate to one another when we feel like we are in real community -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: …with another person SHANNON: Yeah. I love that you said that, because in the writers’ room we would talk about this all of the time. Like, “This show is gonna be amazing The monsters are gonna be amazing The effects are gonna be crazy HBO gave us five billion dollars -an episode!” -(ASHLEY LAUGHS) SHANNON: Unheard of! And then we would go, “Forget about all that, and just imagine we have no monsters, no budget, and we’re just trying to tell a family story.” Like, what is that story? And how can we make that as compelling, if not more compelling, than the monsters who are going to show up at the end of the episode? So it was really important that we got the audience invested in this family immediately And so that– that, and of course, when the monsters come out, it’s all the more fun, and it’s all the more scary, but there’s already drama happening -ASHLEY: Yes. Absolutely -(SHANNON LAUGHS) ASHLEY: I mean, way before you see a monster in this episode, you see monstrosity SHANNON: And the drama, right, it start with a dynamic between Atticus and his father We meet Atticus coming back home from being away for a long time, living in Florida for a while, having been in a war Coming back, looking for this father that he has a fucked up relationship with Montrose has made his son feel like sort of a failure -ASHLEY: Yes -SHANNON: Partly due to like his love of Pulp in genre This particular art form that he loves This particular style of story-telling that he loves And also because of him enrolling in the army -ASHLEY: Right -SHANNON: So, I love that we’re establishing this dynamic between the two of them Because, on a personal level, I like really need to unpack my mommy issues. And I’m like, oh, yeah, I know what its like to have a parent whose like, “That thing you love isn’t Black enough, isn’t militant enough Uh, you’re reading poetry, but you need to read this poetry You’re reading The Baby-Sitters Club, but you need to read…” You know, “Open this book from my library.” Mom, I’m eight years old -Like, I don’t necessarily -ASHLEY: Right SHANNON: …wanna sit here and watch Eyes On The Prize with you -(ASHLEY LAUGHS) -SHANNON: …followed by Rosewood I’m ten years old, going to school very angry now -Um -ASHLEY: Very upset SHANNON: And I feel like I feel really connected to Atticus in that way of like, “Can you please just let me love the thing I love and I will fight white supremacy later.” And your parents are like, “No, you’re gonna do both.” -(ASHLEY SCOFFS) -SHANNON: So we have that problematic setup, and there’s layers to that relationship And then we see this other, like, incredible relationship that Atticus has with his uncle, George And this is really important to us too because, again, in thinking about family dynamics, it’s not always as simple as absentee dad, or shitty dad, or mom who makes you watch Rosewood when you’re nine -Right? -(ASHLEY LAUGHS) SHANNON: It’s also like I love you Mom, but seriously (ASHLEY LAUGHS) It’s like, we also have other people, that’s what they call the village, right? It really shouldn’t just fall on the parents You have to have a village around you, and so, Atticus has that village and he’s like, walking back into the drama with his father, but also this uncle, who loves the same kind of things that he loves -ASHLEY: Yes -SHANNON: …who also wants to go on this adventure with him What else did you see? ASHLEY: Let’s start here I’m an older sister, with a… gorgeous younger sister Like… maybe too pretty for her own good, -whatever that mea– like -SHANNON: Yeah ASHLEY: …just gorg– and she always has been And… I know what it’s like to stand beside your sister and then people will tell “You’re beautiful, you’re–” -you know, whatever, but -SHANNON: (LAGUHS) ASHLEY: …you know, that if you took a picture of the two of you standing next to each other, and you ask someone who’s more beautiful, -that they are indoctrinated -SHANNON: Mm -ASHLEY: …to choose the, uh– -SHANNON: Indoctrinated -ASHLEY: Indoctrinated -SHANNON: I love that ASHLEY: And I felt that immediately between Ruby and Leti There is this hesitation (GROANS) This actress plays this role so well There’s this hesitation in her interactions with Leti Ruby really wants to let Leti in, -but she does not trust Leti -SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: And Leti really wants to be trusted -(SHANNON LAUGHS) -ASHLEY: …but has not proven herself trustworthy to her siblings SHANNON: I love that we’re talking about this, because when we talked in the room about this particular relationship, we always talked about the trust issue. Like, what it’s like to be the older, basically for all intents and purposes, more responsible, sibling
And what it’s like to have somebody like Leti, flitting round, traveling the country popping in and popping out of your life Not going to her fucking mom’s funeral, like, what it’s like to be in a house with somebody like that But, as you’re saying, when that scene starts, and I think because of so many important conversations that we’re having about colorism right now, particularly colorism in Hollywood, and the fact that we still have, like, colorism deniers, or whatever you wanna call them But it’s like that scene now has extra levels to it -ASHLEY: It does -SNANNON:…that you’re seeing and experiencing in a particular way And then I’m seeing and, uh, and experiencing in a particular way, too ASHLEY: And then you go and set that story -in 1954? Girl! -SHANNON: Yeah ASHLEY: It’s like It’s the idea of value SHANNON: Yeah, and we talked about this heavily in the room, especially because, I’m not gonna lie, I came in and I was like, “I don’t want a light-skinned woman in the lead, we can’t do it! Like, no! I love Jurnee, I love Underground, I love everything that she does, but this is problematic.” And we got into this huge, huge discussion. Like, 45 minutes to two hour long discussion about colorism And a lot that we talked about was, like, it’s not really how Black people see each other -ASHLEY: Right -SHANNON: Right -It’s about the white gaze -ASHELY: Yes SHANNON: That we are then interpreting our own skin-tones, because you’re describing a light-skinned sister I’m laughing because my older sister is dark-skinned and I’m the light-skinned little sister in that story And I’m like, but I never fucking think about that when I’m on the phone with my sister -ASHLEY: Right -SHANNON: …or when I’m talking to my sister I’m never like, “Wow, this is a deep moment due to colorism.” -No. That’s my sister -ASHLEY: (LAUGHS) SHANNON: …she’s fucking gorgeous, I’m fucking gorgeous It’s when you’re out in the world, -when you think about -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON:… who’s gonna get the job at the department store, like, things like that -ASHLEY: Yes -SHANNON: We know that it exists, but it– it doesn’t exist without the white gaze -ASHLEY: Yes -SHANNON: And I struggled with this as a writer on the show Resisting the white gaze and resisting the urge to speak to it and invoke it all the time, when you’re telling a story that is in part about racism, is really fucking hard It’s a who– It’s a million different colors that we call Black in one family, and it’s only when we start interrogating white gaze and, like, this desire for white people to know exactly what percentage of Black we are, so that they can know exactly what percentage, like, to be afraid of us, which is fucking insane That’s what makes us, like, be mad about who’s on a movie poster -And who’s not -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: …on a movie poster So, I think one way that we did fight against it, was by… yes, giving you Leti and then also saying Leti has a sister who looks like Ruby And then they have a sibling that looks like Marvin and -ASHLEY: Yep -SHANNON: We don’t really have to explain too much about it, you know what it is They have different dads Okay, we all know what that’s like Like, let’s move on, right? ‘Cause that’s what we do within our families Like you said, you and your sister, you’re not invested in colorism -ASHLEY: No -SHANNON: …until you step -out of your home -ASHLEY: And I think about that so much with, specifically, Leti, who clearly, even as she loves her siblings, and she comes back and relies -on her siblings a bit -SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: It definitely gave me this reminder, that Leti, and maybe due to her– the color of her skin, maybe not, seems to have allowed herself a bigger imagination about what is possible -SHANNON: Mhm -ASHLEY: …for Black people, in the world And specifically in the way this starts for everyone is, “What is more possible for me?” -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: You know? And I– I– I can’t help but think about how her color, and how the world reacts to her because of that color, would have changed her perception about -what was possible for her life -SHANNON: Mhm And would have expanded her imagination about where Black people could go Even as her siblings, obviously consistently are like, (LAUGHS) “Uh, you’re a little crazy!” Like, you know, like -SHANNON: Yeah -ASHLEY: …you are, you are not on the up enough, if that’s what you think You are being unrealistic You are not living in reality SHANNON: Reality -LETI: I’m not cleaning house -RUBY: So what, then? You think you’re gonna go downtown and get a job in one of those department stores? -LETI: Yes, I do -RUBY: You think it’s that easy, -huh? (LAUGHS) -LETI: Yes, I do! You know I’ve been applying for years Well if I get the job it’ll be enough money for both of us -to move! -RUBY: You know, I’m fine -where I am -LETI: We could have our own rooms for once, hell, our own house, maybe! There’s a lot of colored folks pioneering into all-white neighborhoods these days RUBY: Then maybe you should ask one of them to put you up Or, go to Marvin’s Two nights, Leti That’s it -ASHLEY: Once again, because -SHANNON: Yeah ASHLEY: you think it can be different
That means you are not living in reality, or they are at least– you are not living in my reality And I think I did keep wondering if that was the thing between Ruby and Leti was not just Ruby saying, “You know, as an older sibling, I get it We do have to be the responsible ones.” I think there’s also something there for Ruby that isn’t just, “You’re irresponsible.” It’s also, “The world is not the same for me…” SHANNON: Hmm ASHLEY: “…as it is for you And I know that you are still a Black woman You’re my sister But we are going to have different experiences in the world.” And I think she wanted a little more acknowledgement of that SHANNON: Yeah. Yeah, that’s such a great reading of the scene So, I’m excited for you to watch their relationship get, like, really fucking crazy over the course of the next– ASHLEY: I’m excited SHANNON: …few episodes. Yeah ASHLEY: I’m excited So, we can’t really have a conversation about Black family dynamics without zooming out a little bit and exploring the communities and the history of Black people -in this country, so far -SHANNON: Uh-huh ASHLEY: So, this show is set in Chicago during the Jim Crow era, which was really important to see on the show, because I think it’s– it’s– Chicago in that time was segregated, but I feel like the idea of, like, Black people in the city and the block parties and the joy, all of that gives us, like, this sense of safety -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: Like this real sense of community and safety, and I think that starts to break apart a little bit when we get to that James Baldwin quote SHANNON: Hmm ASHLEY: Once we get to the– (CHUCKLES) there in the car with the James Baldwin quote, we’re getting some scenes and some things that are showing us that, like, the joy is there but it’s qualified SHANNON: Right It’s qualified. I love that ASHLEY: Yes And as they move toward Lovecraft Country, which means they inevitably– (LAUGHS) inevitably come into some sundown towns, which are places where Black people are, uh, violently encouraged not to be when the sun goes down, or really ever -SHANNON: Uh-huh -(ASHLEY CHUCKLES) But as that’s happening, you very quickly go from feeling safe to seeing the danger all around you -(LAUGHS) -SHANNON: Right We feel so safe in this Black community We’re at this block party, -we love Uncle George -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: We love (SIGHS) George and Hippolyta, like– -ASHLEY: Yes -SHANNON: …all of this magic is happening, and then it’s time for the road trip, which is also, like, fun and exciting and an adventure, and I want to say, like, as you were describing the sundown towns, I also just thought, like, when you get to the sundown towns and we see the police and we have those interactions, I think we forget about the white people at the gas station -ASHLEY: We do -SHANNON: So, I want to talk about these fucking people (LAUGHS) for a second -ASHLEY: Mm -SHANNON: Because I I personally hate the word “microaggression,” I am ready for it to be abolished -because– -ASHLEY: There’s nothing micro -about it -SHANNON: No. No ASHLEY: I wanted Tic to go off -on that Buddy Holly lookin’ motherfucker -SHANNON: I know. (LAUGHS) I mean, I felt it too, right? He throws the banana peel and then they have to get in the car because you could literally die for throwing a banana peel at a white person And as we see later, you can literally die for doing literally anything -Um -ASHLEY: Sittin’ at a booth SHANNON: …due to white supremacy So, there’s– there’s that too Like, it’s not just the cops, it’s not just the monsters, it’s everybody It’s all around you It’s haunting you, you’re doing a– You’re on a roadtrip trying to find your father, reconnecting with old friends and literally minding your business and a white person very desperately needs to remind you that you’re Black and that they have a problem with it And that– That’s like a little small thing that is a part of the horror that’s not necessarily less horrific than what we see happen later And that’s why we have, like, all these little pops, right? -We have Aunt Jemima -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: …on the billboard We have that “highest standard of living,” those kind of visuals to remind you that like, again, what is reality? America is always saying it’s this one place America is always saying, “Freedom, liberty, get your new car.” And our characters are living in that but also living in a completely different reality ASHLEY: Yes. Yes! And, you know, the thing that is really interesting to me, and I wanna take us to that diner And… there’s like that obvious hostility when they walk in between them and the one customer -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: And the clearly terrified Soda Jerk I felt like watching the Soda Jerk
and his actions in that scene, in, like, the subsequent scenes that have to do with the diner, I was like, “This is the white moderate.” (SCOFFS) -SHANNON: Yeah -ASHLEY: This is the white moderate who’s like, “But I didn’t chase them.” -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: “I didn’t shoot at anybody.” -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: “I just caught these people because if I didn’t, they would have come after me.” -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: “You know, so I really didn’t have any choice.” -You know what I mean? -SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: Like, it’s that simpering, like, idea that this is what I have to do -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: And then, when he says, “Tell me again about why the White House is white.” -SHANNON: Yes! (LAUGHS) -ASHLEY: And the way that scene came together, ’cause Imma be real, I didn’t know -SHANNON: Yeah -ASHLEY: I didn’t know I thought– When he asked the question, I was like, “What?” Like– (LAUGHS) Like where is this going? What kind of question is this? And by the end of that scene, when Leti comes right at you saying, “We gotta get the fuck out of here,” I was just like, “Yeah, run!” SHANNON: Yes, I wanna take a moment to acknowledge, like– I fucking busted out laughing when Leti came running through -screaming -(ASHLEY LAUGHS) SHANNON: I don’t know what it was, it was just really funny But also, Jurnee Smollett, like, Leti, is kind of everything in this scene My favorite moment, one of my favorite moments in the pilot is when they’re walking into that restaurant and they pass by those two white women, and Leti just, like, tips those sunglasses down -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm -SHANNON: …and If you missed it, please go back and watch it, because it’s like this little acknowledgment of “I fucking see you -ASHLEY: Yeah -SHANNON: …and you see me, and we’re going into this restaurant.” So, what Uncle George is doing here is he’s investigating this restaurant, not because it used to be Black-owned, but because it was owned by a white person who did serve negro customers -ASHLEY: Right -SHANNON: And she was punished for that, and now, this new kid is like, “I don’t wanna be punished for it, I know what happened to her.” So it’s about, like, any safe spaces, and then, again, what is reality? The reality is that safe space can be fucking burnt to the ground, and somebody else can take ownership of it, and now it’s not a safe space anymore I think that this show does a really good job again, at that balance of, like, fucked-up things happening and our people constantly pushing back And, you know, again, -having a good time of it -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: …not necessarily this scene, but the road trip itself, like, the idea of Black people wanting to travel Because we could have just been like, “It ain’t safe, we’re staying in our houses.” And a whole lot of Black people went, “Hell no We live here, we fucking built this country, whether they want to acknowledge it or not, and our families deserve to go on road trips, so let’s figure out the safest way to do that.” ASHLEY: Also, we’re not exempt from the wanderlust that this country is founded on -SHANNON: Yes, yeah -ASHLEY: We’re not exempt from that It– It– When you say, “This land is my land, this land is your land” -(CHUCKLES) -SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: Like, we’re talking to each other, okay? If this land is your land, then this land is my land too So, what does that mean when in my land I can’t travel from one place to another -without my life being endangered -SHANNON: Hmm ASHLEY: …for existing? For having the audacity to exist? It’s wild to me -It’s absolutely wild -SHANNON: It’s wild ASHLEY: When you were talking about getting away from the white gaze, this is one of those moments that I did not get away -from the white gaze -(SHANNON LAUGHS) ASHLEY: I– I would be honest, because I definitely, in that moment, one of the first things I thought from that, uh, diner scene, was, “I hope people don’t think that this is a TV dramatization.” SHANNON: Hmm ASHLEY: Like I hope they understand that the moment we’re seeing, this is how it was -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: This is how it could be now in certain places Sundown towns are not gone -SHANNON: Oh no -ASHLEY: Sundown towns exist -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: I grew up in Indiana -We have sundown towns -SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: We have places where I’m not going For nothing. At all And I’m definitely not going at night SHANNON: Yeah, and I think, you know, if you look at the scene, again, they walk in, nobody, like, calls them a nigger and starts beating them -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm -SHANNON: …like it’s not that, it’s that phone call in the back, it’s the white women’s eyes when they leave, it’s them pulling out into town and seeing those white men sitting outside the fire station, it’s just that feeling, right? -ASHLEY: Yeah -SHANNON: Like the violence comes later, the– the cops come later, and– and– This is how it is It’s quiet, and then it’s fucking violent, and you’re running for your life -ATTICUS FREEMAN: Uncle George? -UNCLE GEORGE FREEMAN: Hmm ATTICUS: Remind me why the White House is white?
GEORGE: The war of 1812 British soldiers put the executive branch to torch And later when the slaves rebuilt it, they had to paint the walls white to cover -the burn marks -ATTICUS: The burn marks (SIRENS WAILING) LETI: Get your ass up! We gotta get the fuck out of here now! -♪ (DRAMATIC MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ -(INDISTINCT CHATTER) SHANNON: And I think, too, you know, there’s this other element at play when we talk about these two communities When we talk about our characters moving from this Black community to these white communities One conversation that, like, just floored me in the room, we were talking about how segregation also meant that Black kids were growing up with Black teachers -ASHLEY: Yes -SHANNON: …Black doctors -ASHLEY: Yes -SHANNON: Black family all around We had other problems along with it, but we had that. So, we don’t necessarily have to, like, use our imagination that hard to think about what it looks like for Black kids to grow up in a– in a safe environment Because that environment, especially the way its presented in the pilot, again, block parties and just, like, conversation and comfortability, and none of the houses, like, are mansions, or anything like that But the comfortability doesn’t come from wealth, it comes from community and family. And– -ASHLEY: A sense of safety -SHANNON: Yes. And a feeling of safety And I think that’s really important too ASHLEY: I agree with you And I think you’re right that there is something to this conversation, like, we keep having this conversation about segregation in education and segregation in housing, and all of those things And it’s like its not so much that we need equal representation of all people in all places, as much as it is, we need everybody to have a place they can go -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: Where they feel safe And where their schools and libraries and, like, sidewalks and those things are as funded as anybody elses As well funded as anybody elses SHANNON: Right. And there’s something– I guess, like, the icky part, like, the conversation that I feel like we did have in the room, that we don’t necessarily have an answer too is, like, something was lost when you integrated Something was lost when you took Black kids out of their neighborhoods and put them into schools that were violent, right? -Like, those were the violent schools -ASHLEY: Right SHANNON: Into schools where they weren’t wanted, into schools where they were the only Black kids And something violent is happening today -ASHLEY: Yeah -SHANNON: When Black kids are growing up in all white schools, or predominantly white schools too Like, it hasn’t quite worked, and we should start really investigating what was lost And I feel like that’s part of the feeling I have when I’m watching the pilot I’m like, “Damn.” Like, that– I don’t know, the block party make me think of, like, -Women of Brewster Place -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: And, like, of course there’s drama Of course there’s drama among Black people, but it’s a different kind of drama And, like, there’s also all this support and joy and safety. And, again, our characters, you feel that fucking shift when they leave -ASHLEY: Yes -SHANNON: …segregated Chicago, and they start travelling through these other towns And it’s terrifying ASHLEY: It’s absolutely terrifying But there’s also a lot of joy on this show SHANNON: Yes! Yes -Yes -ASHLEY: There– And you know, that block party, I think is one of the first instances of that joy that we see Well, really, the first instance is, you know, Uncle George -in bed -SHANNON: Let’s get into it Let’s discuss ASHLEY: Let’s talk about watching a not older– I’m not gonna say older. But an adult woman An adult, Black, darker-skinned, gorgeous woman, -be loved on -SHANNON: Mm-hmm ASHLEY: …by her husband first thing in the fucking morning (SHANNON LAUGHS) “We don’t give a fuck about Diana next door, -we’re gonna do -ASHLEY: We don’t care SHANNON: …what needs to be done!” Black love! HIPPOLYTA: What you lookin’ at, George Freeman? GEORGE: My wife HIPPOLYTA: Why you lookin’ at your wife? You waiting for her to fix your breakfast? GEORGE: I’m lookin’ at my wife because I feel I’ve been spending too much time in my room and not enough time in bed with her ASHLEY: Black love. He said, “You’re my wife.” He said– He said, “I wanna– I wanna my wife.” -SHANNON: Yes! -ASHLEY: He just kept saying, -you know, “My wife.” -SHANNON: Yes! ASHLEY: There’s something about– I don’t know what that is I’m not even really a person who, like, loves the idea of marriage, or like any of th– I mean, I got married, don’t get me wrong
ASHLEY: (CHUCKLES) But I’m not a person who’s like, “Marriage, it’s the most important thing that ever happened to me.” But there is something about a guy just being like, “my wife.” -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: Like, “that’s my wife.” SHANNON: And I think Courtney B. Vance, Uncle George, could’ve used any other word there -ASHLEY: He could have -SHANNON: Like, my love, my everything. Like, any, like– He’s saying, like, “this needs to happen and this needs to happen now.” Um, and I just loved watching that scene and being like, “Yeah, we are acknowledging grown-people making love and grown-people being in love,” and they– I think you feel it in that scene So, we have that Black joy, we have Atticus, like, talking about these books that he loves There’s this tiny moment, this is such a TV critic thing -for me to do -(ASHLEY LAUGHS) but I’m like… When he lays the book down on his father’s bed, the care with which he lays that book down, you’re like, “is it about the book, is it about your father?” Of course, it’s about all those things And, Ashley, you and I have talked about this too, like, the love of art, the love of literature -ASHLEY: Yes -SHANNON: …that’s happening with all of our characters Atticus and his books, George and the books Diana working on this comic book, um, and she’s got a new version of the comic book, like, we have Ruby and Leti singing, like, we have so much art happening, um, that is also working directly with this conversation of Black joy ASHLEY: Because, isn’t that just the Black exper– I’ma be real, I don’t know anybody more creative than Black people SHANNON: I mean, can we talk about it? ASHLEY: We should probably talk about it I don’t know anybody more creative than Black people When I think about how much Black people have been able to do, specifically in the arts space, with as little as we have been -ASHLEY: allowed. It makes -SHANNON: Right in my mind, almost every Black artist practically a genius You know, like, almost every Black artist, I think, has to– in order to get to the place where they can express themselves fully, -ASHLEY: …see themselves fully enough -SHANNON: Hm-mm to express themselves and the world around them and the things we make? SHANNON: Right. And we see this all throughout the episode, they start the road trip and it’s like, again, Black people minding their business, -SHANNON: white people are mad -ASHLEY: Yup -SHANNON: Why are you mad? -ASHLEY: Why? SHANNON: Think about that, those interactions between the cop and Atticus, right? He’s just like, “I don’t like you. You– you’re smart You read books. You just gave me permission to open the trunk I don’t like that. And you guys are just out here being free!” -ASHLEY: How could you? -SHANNON: And then, like, it’s infuriating, you know? Then you follow the speed limit This is so great, right, like, I give you these ridiculous parameters and I tell you, “You are gonna die if you don’t follow these ridiculous parameters Make a U-turn, drive 25 miles an hour and try to get out of this town before the sun goes down.” And what happens? Black people being fucking incredible and inventive and genius, do it! -ASHLEY: Right -SHANNON: They make it out And it doesn’t actually matter, right? That’s the other dark element too -ASHLEY: Oh, yeah -SHANNON: Like, right? It doesn’t actually matter, you can’t really win and you still end up with your face in the mud and a gun to your head After following these ridiculous -SHANNON: parameters -ASHLEY: ‘Cause the apathy is the point -SHANNON: Mm-mm! -ASHLEY: That’s what they want You know how people control you? It’s not by making you hate yourself It’s by making you not care what happens -ASHLEY: to you because -SHANNON: Mm-mm you feel like don’t have any control over it either SHANNON: Oh! -ASHLEY: And I think that -SHANNON: Phew! that’s really what’s hap– Like, I mean, I mean it’s all racist! (LAUGHS) -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: It’s all racist and motivated by racism but the cruelty and the desire to crush another human spirit or to take another human life is just, i– it’s beyond just being a hater, it’s beyond just being bothered, it’s beyond, like, being jealous of the community and of the art and of all these things you can’t access, it’s so much more than that SHANNON: And I think there’s another word that is going to be very important for the rest of these episodes There’s another word for racism and it’s absurdity -SHANNON: Right? -ASHLEY: Mm-mm! SHANNON: These… police are absurd and that’s why our characters can’t really, properly navigate them because you can’t navigate this kind of, like, absurd, anti-intellectual monster, like, -SHANNON: that’s what they are -ASHLEY: Yeah SHANNON: And we’re going to see more of that throughout the show, like, our characters trying to navigate the absurdity of racism. Then the choices that you make kind of become necessarily absurd -because you’re navigating this absurd space -ASHLEY: Yes The way that I think about it is like, we have this
epic moment in the cabin where one monster turns into another kind of monster, right? A cop becomes a shoggoth -And, in my opinion– -ASHLEY: Yes The vampire pig -(MONSTER GROWLING) -(WOMAN GASPS) SHANNON: A vampire pig When that happens, I believe that the world actually gets a little safer for Black people But, what’s interesting about the monsters is, like, to me, even the monsters make more sense than the fucking police Like, we can navigate the monsters Okay, they’re afraid of light, let’s get some flashlights Like, they make more sense to a degree than these other monsters that our characters are up against So there’s a lot happening, but I also just wanna talk about these fucking monsters -Ashley, you’re our horror doula -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: What did you think? You know I like, -barely saw them -(ASHLEY LAUGHS) -SHANNON: They were really cool -ASHLEY: I love the monsters SHANNON: But I was like, I don’t need these teeth in my life right now Like, I don’t need this ASHLEY: Listen, I love the monsters -(SHANNON LAUGHS) -ASHLEY: Like I said, I wanna be agitated, I wanna be surprised -SHANNON: Yes! -ASHLEY: …and you wanna talk about agitating and surprising? Put a thousand fuckin’ eyes -(SHANNON LAUGHS) -ASHLEY: …on like, a blobfish and give it some legs and like, the mouth of a giant squid And then also give it the ability to travel in the dirt Like under the ground -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: So under your feet Can pop up at any moment Oh, oh, don’t worry, -it can also climb trees, uh -SHANNON: Okay!? -ASHLEY: …go from tree to tree -SHANNON: Okay!? ASHLEY: Like a– Like a bit– Like now it’s like -a Tarzan vampire pig -SHANNON: Oh, my god! ASHLEY: And once it’s Tarzan Like, I mean, I loved that You know, there is a scene, um, where Leti really has to take control She has to do (LAUGHS) like, she has to do this thing And she’s gotta save everybody -by getting to the car– -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: And she hears these things in the trees She hears them behind her– Let me tell you a little story about Ashley Ford, okay? SHANNON: Give it to us ASHLEY: When I was a kid, and me and my brother would get in trouble, he would run and I would stay where I was and cry (SHANNON LAUGHS) ASHLEY: I don’t see a different future for myself if a Tarzan vampire pig shows up I don’t, like, I think I would give it my best shot for a while, I think I would take off running and then I would remember that I’m flat-footed and not very fast, and I would be like, “Just give up…” -SHANNON: Yes -“Just give up. Just die -Just die.” -SHANNON: Yeah ASHLEY: And that kind of monster is the exact kind of monster that would make me go, -“I’m just gonna die.” -(SHANNON LAUGHS) ASHLEY: Because, I think that like, you know what, maybe if I had faced Jim Crow era racism, I’d be tougher with the vampire pig -SHANNON: Sure -ASHLEY: …but because, you know, I went to college during the Obama years, all right? (CHUCKLES) Sis is soft in a certain sense I don’t– I’m not comin’ up against that and feeling like I might walk away -Like I’m comin’ up against that -SHANNON: Yeah and bein’ like, “Well this is the end.” -SHANNON: Right -ASHLE: Like I can’t imagine having ran– run out of the cabin I can’t imagine it Those things were terrifying SHANNON: Yeah But I love how Leti– Leti’s scared shitless -ASHLEY: She is -SHANNON: And what is she doing? -She’s reciting the 23rd Psalm -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: Which I loved And this might’ve even been one of my pitches because my mom used to say it, she would always reference it as what you do when you’re terrified, you start reciting the 23rd Psalm And I love like, Leti’s like saying it under her breath and Atticus is like, “You can do this, you can do this.” And she’s like… (SCREAMS) “I’m fucking scared.” That scene feels so real to me, and true because she’s like, “I’m going to do this thing because we don’t have a choice, but I am terrified and I am calling on the Lord I haven’t been to church -in a million years…” -ASHLEY: Right SHANNON: “…but this is the prayer I’m gonna say.” That felt so authentic But, what was interesting was, when we broke the scene in the room, and I love how we broke it, but I felt very different watching it I remember having this strong reaction to the Black woman being sent out to save them And feeling a little something about that (ASHLEY LAUGHS) SHANNON: So there’s that– Again, layers that I didn’t even know were there, I’m seeing too So, it’s really exciting to be like, “Oh, shit. Oh, they sent the Black girl Black woman will save you Yes But this is also problematic But okay I do–” Like, Leti was booking it through the woods and I was like, “Go Leti, go!” And I completely forgot that the shoggoth could fly, so I was like, “Oh my God! -They’re in the air!” -ASHLEY: They’re in the air -(LAUGHS) -SHANNON: “They’re in the air, -this is all bad.” -ASHLEY: They’re everywhere, -okay? -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: The shoggoths are everywhere And I love, you know, when you were talking earlier about, you know, you feel like Black people are safer when the cop is bitten -and becomes a monster -SHANNON: Yes versus when he was cop Which, hard agree. Okay? Hard agree But there is something about that moment
when she’s deciding to go, and the cops are still being weird and racist and on -the other side of the room -SHANNON: Yes and bein’ like, you know, “What if she leaves, and you might leave.” And all this other stuff “You might get it in your head to leave.” And it’s just like, “Not only did you not need me, -you were about to kill me…” -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: “…like 15 minutes ago.” -SHANNON: Yes You saying that is so important because it reminds me of how the 2020 Black Uprising began Which is, collectively we all went, “We’re in the middle of a pandemic, we’re facing a monster like we’ve never faced before and motherfuckers are out here still being racist?” ASHLEY: Right! SHANNON: Y’all still got time to shoot Black people in the street, and we are literally– Again, the monsters are outside, we’re stuck -in this cabin together -ASHLEY: Right SHANNON: We are quarantined in this cabin together and you guys still have the energy to be racist? And I feel like that shifted things for us as a culture, where we went, “Okay, that’s enough Defund the police We’re done.” Right? -ASHLEY: Yes. I think we were all -SHANNON: That’s that ASHLEY: …a little busy, we were just being busy You know what’s strange, in that scene I was also thinking, would I rather run and die? Or stay in the cabin and wait for one of these panicky white men to let a bullet fly Like, he’s still being racist in the midst of the bullshit outside, I think– Do you think that we thought there was a limit? I wonder if maybe we thought there was a threshold where at a certain point, white people would have to go, “Okay, the racist stuff, I’m gonna have to put to the side while I focus on the more important thing.” SHANNON: Right Which is what our characters are thinking in that cabin, -right? -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: Like, can you just tell us where the car is? ‘Cause we’re all gonna die And the white people are still hesitating And yes, I think you’re right, as a culture we went, “Well, there’s a pandemic. Like, surely during this time…” So, yeah. Something about that feeling in the cabin and being like, “Come on, are we really doing this right now?” Yes we are But that’s okay, because our heroes got out and they arrive at this fucking weird looking castle, mansion place And I believe the line is, “Welcome home.” -Right? -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: “Welcome home.” ASHLEY: Okay, so before we wrap up, we have to talk about some of the references because I can already tell I’m gonna be really obsessed not just with the show but with these references, girl! -SHANNON: Yeah -ASHLEY: I mean, when I saw the moment that made me go, “Wait a minute. Wait a minute, that’s a photo! That’s a picture! I’ve seen that a million times!” And it was a Gordon Parks photo -that I have seen -SHANNON: Yes about a million times, with this beautiful Black mother in a blue dress and her daughter in a white dress And I mean, they are dressed to the nines, to me -SHANNON: Yes. Oh yeah -ASHLEY: And they are standing under a sign that says, “colored entrance” And that photo, to me, is the epitome of Black pride, right? SHANNON: Mm! ASHLEY: Because it is this sense of like, “You cannot control the regality that I hold even when you put me into demeaning circumstances.” SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: And I think that’s the hate factor That’s where the hate comes from, is from the inability to crush And the inability to truly sideline It’s putting all your effort, your history, sacrificing your history, your integrity, your legacies to really trying to crush a people who will not be moved -SHANNON: Yes. Ooh -ASHLEY: They won’t be So I love, I love that photo And seeing it sort of, like, shot on film Adding the movement and the depth to it that film does, I could’ve cried! Like I really could’ve cried in that moment because I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a beautiful reference And to be perfectly honest, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen such a beautiful reference to Gordon Park’s work in that way And it just– I mean, it messed with me a little bit -I ain’t gonna lie -SHANNON: Yeah, ’cause I think it’s also, like, we’re speaking to– again, we are in conversation with Gordon Parks We are in conversation with these fictional characters but we’re also in conversation with these artists from that time. There’s a Curtis Mayfield reference with another billboard shot There’s the music, there’s Baldwin’s voice,
there’s so much happening that we’re reminding ourselves, like, I don’t know, maybe you got choked up ’cause it’s like, we’re not in this alone, right? -ASHLEY: Yes. Yes! -SHANNON: Like, we’re not in this alone, we have done this before, we have done it differently, we have created in times of struggle, and we will always do that And I just feel like we’ve talked a lot about Black joy today, right? And Black creation under these strange circumstances that technically should have destroyed us And along with Black joy, there’s another word that I keep thinking about when I think about this episode, and when I think about the show, and it’s “imagination.” And I can’t help myself, I have to just force you guys to read this poem, because in thinking about the show, and also in preparation for episode two, I highly suggest reading a poem called “Conditions for a Southern Gothic” by Rickey Laurentiis Specifically because it ends with these two lines that speak not only to next week’s episode, but to the show as a whole And the line is, “Who among us was made to scratch a myth? Speak If God made us in his image, it was the first failure of imagination.” ASHLEY: Mm! Now I love me some Rickey Laurentiis, -okay, Boy With Thorn is -SHANNON: Okay! ASHLEY: …a fantastic poetry collection -(SHANNON SIGHS) -ASHLEY: So, yes! We can– Mm! -Thank you for sharing that -SHANNON: Get into it ASHLEY: And you know, I wanted to offer you something, Shannon, one of the things that I found really helps my friends who want to watch horror films or horror shows, but do not want to deal with those moments after when you’re sitting there thinking, “Okay, is that shit coming for me?” SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: And you need to bring your heart rate down, and you don’t wanna deal with the agitation -that Ashley is addicted to -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: You have to find a follow-up show -(SHANNON GASPS) -ASHLEY: You have to find a show that is only going to give you good vibes that you can put on after you watch Lovecraft Country and feel terrified, and I’m gonna make a suggestion -for you -SHANNON: Ooh ASHLEY: I think the perfect counterbalancing show to this show that’s gonna keep you in a good mood, but is also going to help relieve you from some of that fear, is Living Single SHANNON: I was literally going to say Living Single -ASHLEY: Yes! -SHANNON: I was like, that’s my show of like, I just need to kind of laugh -and go to a safe space. Yes -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: I love that Yeah, so Lovecraft Country and then a little Living Single and probably less nightmares for you and some of our audience members as well, I love it so much ASHLEY: Absolutely SHANNON: Thank you. Guys, that’s our show for this week! Thank you so much for listening ASHLEY: This podcast was produced by HBO in conjunction with Pineapple Street Studios Our executive producers are Jenna Weiss-Berman, Max Linsky and Bari Finkel Agerenesh Ashagre is our managing producer This episode’s lead producer is Jess Jupiter and our associate producers are Alexis Moore and Natalie Brennan Our editors are Maddy Sprung-Keyser and Josh Gwynn Noriko Okabe is our engineer, original music by composer Amanda Jones SHANNON: If you like the show and you have a minute, you can review and rate this podcast via Apple Podcast, Spotify, or anywhere else you might get your podcast It really helps people find the show You can also stream the podcast on HBO and HBO Max We’ll be back next week after episode two premieres on HBO and streams on HBO Max on August 23rd -at 9 p.m. Eastern -ASHLEY: We’ll see you then -SHANNON: Bye! (LAUGHS) -ASHLEY: Bitches!