Jordan Peele, director of acclaimed horror films Get Out and Us, excels at transforming the strange, supernatural world of horror fiction into something eerily recognizable. His monsters are almost always allegories for real-life evil: racism, white supremacy, and America’s own history of torture and abuse. So it follows that he’d team up with writer and producer Misha Green to bring an adaptation of Lovecraft Country to TV screens. The book, published by Matt Ruff in 2016, subverts the famous horror writer after which it’s named.
H.P. Lovecraft was and is a legend in literature. He was also a shameless, notorious racist. As The Verge reported, “The vast, terrible cosmic horrors he wrote about are always connected to his fear that the pure, upstanding white race is being corrupted and overrun with foul emanations from the less eugenically pure.”
The greatest threat to Lovecraft Country’s main characters is racism in their 1950s-era community. Protagonist Atticus—don’t miss the irony of the name there—sets out on a mission to find his missing father, who has disappeared somewhere in New England, in a place his family calls “Lovecraft country.” Naturally, the area is rife with Lovecraftian monsters, but the biggest threat, which you can see in the teaser and trailer for the upcoming show, is hatred in the form of racist laws and police brutality. In other words, exactly the evils that have played out in America for centuries.
If Peele, showrunner Green, and co-executive producer J.J. Abrams can work their usual magic with this material—and it sure looks like they have—we might be looking at HBO’s next huge hit. Here’s what we know about the show so far.
The first trailer teases a sweeping epic.
The show is set to land on HBO on August 16, but in the meantime we can get a sneak peek of Atticus’s adventure from the first trailer.
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Here’s how HBO describes the show:
The ten-episode series follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he journeys with his childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee 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). Their search-and-rescue turns into a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and monstrous creatures that could be ripped from an H.P. Lovecraft paperback.
The cast is stacked.
The talent in this cast list is staggering:
- Jonathan Majors (When We Rise) as Atticus Black
- Michael Kenneth Williams (The Wire) as Montrose Freeman
- Courtney B. Vance (American Crime Story) as George Freeman
- Jurnee Smollett (Underground) as Letitia “Leti” Lewis
- Wunmi Mosaku (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) as Ruby Baptiste
- Aunjanue Ellis (When They See Us) as Hippolyta Freeman
- Erica Tazel (The Good Fight) as Dora Freeman
- Jamie Harris (Kingdom) as Eustice Hunt
- Abbey Lee (Mad Max: Fury Road) as Christina Braithwhite
- Jamie Chung (Once Upon a Time) as Ji-Ah
- Jordan Patrick Smith (Vikings) as William
- Mac Brandt (Kingdom) as Seamus Lancaster
- Tony Goldwyn (Scandal) as Samuel Braithwhite
The series will make some changes to the book.
Ruff wrote on his blog that he has seen the script and visited the set during production, but he has not seen the final version of the show yet. He wrote, “It’s a safe bet that, as with any adaptation, there will be changes, some large, some small…As it is, watching the trailer is like getting a glimpse of a parallel universe—one whose elements are familiar to me, but still different enough to feel fresh.”
The book was originally written as a TV pitch.
Ruff says his original idea was to create a TV show similar to The X-Files, except with a Black family doing the paranormal investigating instead of white FBI agents. “While transforming my original idea into a novel, I kept the structure of a season of television,” Ruff wrote. “The long opening chapter, like a two-hour pilot, introduces the main characters and sends them on a dangerous cross-country journey. Each subsequent chapter offers a self-contained weird tale.”
There are 10 episodes in the first season of the HBO version, but it’s unclear if they will follow the episodic chronology Ruff originally created. To get a hint of what’s in store, grab a copy of Lovecraft Country from Bookshop.org or your local indie seller.
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