Justin Simien’s Dear White People, is back with an extended Netflix series of its original film which received high praise at Sundance Film Festival and of course some backlash. The far conservative right called for a boycott of the initial film and Netflix series. But according to the shows April 28th release date, those tears had no effect on the shows airing. We can’t wait!
“For all the White people in the audience, on behalf of all the Black people in the world, you most definitely have permission to laugh.” That was the disclaimer given before every Sundance screening of the film and we are sure it stands for the Netflix series.
EBONY caught up with Justin Simien, the director of the critically acclaimed award-winning feature film for some chit chat about his “controversial” new series. During a panel in NYC and further in this interview Justin explains that he wanted to dig deeper into the character development in this show. Check out the interview below and let us know if Dear White People will be added to your must-watch list.
EBONY: How does the story expand over the course of 10 episodes?
Justin Simien: One of the things that I was struck by when we were touring colleges, is how much people not only sort of seemed to really relish seeing themselves in a story for the first time, but also there was a real appetite for more. It is a multi-protagonist film you don’t really get to go terribly deep into the characters. You sort of get a sketch of who they are and then you find out a couple of things about them that may surprise you, and then the movie’s kind of over.
One of the things that was really important for me is to try to flesh out these experiences and these different points of views. The show switches protagonists every episode. I really wanted to get to this thing about race and identity from as many different points of views as possible. Ones that I agree with, ones that I don’t. I never wanted to be accused of any character in the show being my mouthpiece. The way to do that is to make these people really human and to go deeper.
In terms of chronology, I feel like the season takes place over the month after the black-face party that ends the movie. Instead of really going forward in time, I just wanted to go deeper. Really get into the shoes of these people, get into their thoughts, and maybe challenge our audience. The ones who come to the show already in love with it, already ready for it. I want to challenge those people. I think that’s what good storytelling does.
EBONY: Given the current political climate and the loud and proud racial divide of this country, and unity, what advice would you give incoming freshmen or graduating seniors, who may be heading into predominately White schools or workforces?
Justin Simien: Let it go for a second. You know what I mean? Not feel like your livelihood depends upon other peoples’ opinions changing. It’s really hard to do that, but it’s the only way to survive this. If you let it crush you and get you down and make you feel hopeless then they’ve won. You have to be live, too.
There’s a line in an episode you haven’t seen yet, but one of the characters says, “Sometimes just being carefree and Black is an act of resistance.” It’s true. Going to the movies and laughing and enjoying yourself is an act of resistance because they don’t want you to be free. Balance, I think, and self-care is something I want people to really take to heart.
EBONY: What is one message that you hope sticks with White America after they watch this series?
Justin Simien: That we’re all having the same human experience. I think that’s the thing that the show seems to accomplish is for people who chronically don’t see themselves in the culture to see themselves in their complexities, in their faults, in their strengths.
Also for people who don’t maybe look like the characters in the show to also see themselves in these people. The way Hollywood and TV is, Black people don’t have any choice but to see ourselves in White-dominated television shows and stories and movies. I mean, that’s what there is.
I think it’s a chance for “White America” to experience a part of their own humanity by thinking about life from a different point of view. I mean, I think that’s the best part about stories. “Blue is the Warmest Colour.” I’m not a lesbian, I’m not French, I’m not a woman, but I saw so much of myself in those women and in those characters. I saw different parts of myself than I ever would’ve seen if I hadn’t seen that film. I just want to pay it forward, I guess.
April 28th is the big day for the Dear White People cast and crew. Time to call up your friends that have a Netflix account. You can catch the series HERE!