Under the direction of writer-director Carl Jones (The Boondocks), the animated series Black Dynamite, based on 2009’s critically acclaimed feature film, has become a top-rated show on Adult Swim. Now in its second season, Jones is bringing Black Dynamite, a 1970s renaissance man with a mean kung-fu grip, and his crew back for more loving, fighting and high-kicking comic relief.
Jones sat down with EBONY.com to talk the “B” word, post-traumatic slavery disorder and the out-spoken music star he’s collaborating with next.
EBONY: Is it safe to say that Rudy Ray Moore is one of the inspirations for Black Dynamite? If not, who do you think was he inspired by?
Carl Jones: Absolutely. Probably the same masters a lot of humorists were all inspired by: Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, Moms Mabley, etc., with a dash of a few uncles, cousins, neighborhood winos and junkies. Character inspiration is everywhere and in everything. Not even always people. Sometimes it's an experience, an era or other forms of art, especially music.
EBONY: Black Dynamite, the animated series, didn’t fall into your lap, you literally chased it down. Can you share some of that story with EBONY readers?
CJ: Well, I wouldn't say I chased it or it fell in my lap. I kinda found me as I was looking for it. I happened to have a good bootleg movie connect (who I will not reveal) that got me a copy of the film early. And when I saw it, the animated world just instantly started to flesh out in my head. It was right up my alley. I loved the Blaxploitation films, and the movie I thought was amazing.
So I put some ideas down on paper, and I was planning to reach out to my manager and agent to pitch the idea to them first, when I get a call from my manager saying that the Black Dynamite people wanted to meet with me. So apparently we were all on the same frequency. I met with them and they showed me the movie and I had to act like this was my first time seeing it when in actuality I had seen it about 20 times by then (laugh). Shortly after, we were off pitching to Adult Swim. Fortunately, I already had a relationship with Adult Swim, so they took a chance.
EBONY: We know it's on Adult Swim and not the Disney Channel, but was the idea for the cartoon to always be so adult?
CJ: Well, in my mind it was. I wanted to keep the stories and the world honest to that genre of filmmaking and the culture as well, so, yeah.
EBONY: Do you miss Blaxpolitation shows?
CJ: I don't really like using the term Blaxploitation, because that's not what the original films were. It wasn't until Hollywood got involved did they become highly exploitative. But I do miss the ideas and the principles that those films were founded on–meaning they were films about real Black heroes. Alpha males and Alpha females.
And even though guys like the Mack or Willie Dynamite were hustlers and pimps, those were the heroes of the community. You have to put it all in context by understanding the socioeconomic disposition of the Black race that contributed to the conditions of our environments. These extreme, impoverished circumstances, along with racial injustice, bread a unique culture and way of life that was necessary for survival. So those films mainly speak to a very specific era of time in world history, but also the attitude, colorfulness, personalities and characters transcend all barriers of time and race. Just like hip-hop, because it's honest.
So I miss the essence of what those films represented and their fearlessness when it comes to presenting a very honest, unapologetic portrayal of the human condition.
EBONY: With the cult-like success of the show, do you think the genre has a place in modern cinema, for more big-screen movies?
CJ: Absolutely, but it won't happen. Hollywood is not designed for it. You have to understand the economics behind the boom of Blaxploitation films and how they were generating wealth for the small, indie filmmaker. The big screens are designed for the big filmmakers. Now we do now live in a digital era that doesn't need a giant screen to validate its position in the industry. Bottom line, if it’s good, people will find it and watch it. And there are more cell phones then there are humongous screens all over the world. We have all been a little over-romanticized when it comes to big screens. But a picture is a picture.
EBONY: There have been some pretty hysterically funny plot lines and references in the series that will also cause some to blush. How do you know when you've gone too far?
CJ: Too far? I never been there. (laughs)
EBONY: Who plays the "voice of reason" when it comes to Black Dynamite and his exploits… or does that even happen?
CJ: I think the consequences are the voice of reason, that way there is never really a wrong or right, just actions and reactions. I like for people to watch these episodes and use their own reasoning. So I will sometimes tell stories that are a little uncomfortable to watch, but it forces you to think and feel for yourself, instead of dictating to the audience what their emotional, moral or ethical response should be.
EBONY: Do you have any other projects in the works?
CJ: My visual art and a couple of projects with a very brilliant comedian by the name of Erykah Badu.