‘Lovecraft Country’ star Jurnee Smollett talks about blood memory and her role – Deadline


Journey Smollett She got some of the best notices of her career love countryAnd the HBOHit limited supernatural series. It stars in Letitia ‘Leti’ Lewis, a young African American woman drawn to a mysterious journey through the secluded and severely racist America of the 1950s. Hateful white people, some engaged in strange and mystical activities, and bloodthirsty monsters pursue Letty and her traveling companions, Atticus “Tick” Freeman (Jonathan Majors) and Montrose Freeman (Michael K. Williams), through 10 episodes of supercharged action. HBO may be ordering a second season, which will once again put Leti through the wreck.

Limit: What was your reaction when you first read the text?

Journey Smollett in the movie

Eli Joshua Addy / HBO

Journey Small: Number one after reading it I lost sleep. I really wanted to play Leti. There was a fear that there would be anyone but me playing it. And I don’t usually have that kind of reaction to roles. I’ve been doing it for so long that I can trust that what it means to me is what it means to me. And with Leti, I felt as though I was called by that name, I lost sleep and had a real worry about whether or not he would come my way.

We actors are crazy this way. I was amazed by the show, great writing, and that’s what Matthew Carey Misha Green and [EPs] Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams felt so disoriented that they were providing such a compelling counter-narrative to this dominant narrative in film, television, and within this kind of space.

My mentor Alfre Woodard talks about the idea of ​​finding a character’s eyes. How does your character see the world? Letty sees the world through the eyes of an abandoned child. Interestingly enough, I’m so blessed because I don’t have that relationship with my mother, but I did have that relationship with my father. So I understood that. I understand the feeling of feeling estranged from a parent, only then losing them a second time through death… So, I connected with Leti in a very profound way.

Limit: It is a very materialistic role. There is a line near the end of Episode 1 where she tells Atticus, “You were an all-star in high school.” And then we see that – there’s a scene where you run to stay one step ahead of these horrible monsters.

Smollett: I tend to treat my characters in a very physical way in general. Fitness is very important to me in small ways and in big ways. Therefore, posture, gait, the way a person sits or stands on them are very thought out. But you get the info, well, she’s a former track star, “You better get your ass on the treadmill, Jurnee!” [laughs]. It was very simple, because she would have muscle memory. Not only will her muscles work because of muscle memory, but the real fear that drives her forward, is life or death. The stakes couldn’t be greater for this woman, bringing out another element of true primitive gear. I trained physically with my trainer, Janet Jenkins. We did a lot of strength training and I just had my son. So, when I got into the pilot, I had a little “Mom Bud” insecurities.

Journey Smollett in the movie

Elizabeth Morris / HBO

What was fun about this scene was that they put the camera on the back of a tractor. The DP and the director were like, “We’re going to start slow, and don’t worry, we’re not going to leave you far behind.” That’s what one of the camera operators told me. It’s great to be underestimated. It’s my favorite thing, because it nourishes me. I was like, “Okay, well, cool.” I know the first shot, I ran so fast that I hit the cameras.

Limit: Your character’s costumes are amazing. And they say something very important about Leti. I understand that you were fully involved in making these choices and working with the designer.

Smollett: I like the character building component in collaboration with all the different departments. And in this case, our gorgeous stylist, Dina Pink, was a wonderful collaborator. We’ve probably exchanged thousands of photos back and forth of Leti’s inspiration. And that was exactly that – it was an extension of Leyte’s shield. It wasn’t about vanity as it was, for many black women during this era, an extension of their dignity, was it? The second time I step outside, representing my race, I’m pushing the race forward. After the Civil War, there was a spirit of dignity within the black community, in every aspect – education, profession, and family. Speech mattered, the way you dress mattered because the idea of ​​pushing the race forward was of paramount importance in the community.

It’s a very beautiful thing to me. I’ve talked about this before how I grew up, hearing my grandmother’s stories. And although my grandmother cleaned the homes of white people in the South, she was a miss. Galveston was the first black woman. She would go to work every day and clean their toilets and kitchens, with lipstick and hair styled, and her dress perfectly pressed because she would not let them rob her dignity. There is a great quote from Eleanor Roosevelt where she says, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And I think of my grandmother, she wouldn’t let them make her feel inferior. And so I thought about that with Leti and that’s her armor, it’s not vanity. It is an extension of her dignity.

Limit: You are a very spiritual person. I was wondering how hard it was to indulge in such frightening and mysterious material over a period of months?


Smollett: It was one of the most intimidating aspects of the show. I like this genre, but I watched the documentary about it Exorcist And I saw, well, there were a lot of unexplained things when they were shooting this movie! I went into this realizing the world we were playing in. Our heroes are engaged in a spiritual war, and listen, racism is a demonic spirit. So, I had a lot of rituals. I always approach my characters in a very spiritual way, but this one definitely requires a deeper level of spirituality and just feels that it should be covered not just within [scope of the series], but also further afield, and trying to get rid of spirits from Leti. The story is very old. And there were moments when I just realized I had to give in to the spirits and allow myself to use them that way. It’s a mystery to actually talk about it.

After we wrapped the hair, I cut my entire hair short. It was like, I need to figure out a way to cleanse myself of Leti. And that was one of the ways that I thought would help me do that. one of my [acting] Coaches, you talk a lot about this blood memory idea. I, coming from a rich heritage of being black and Jewish, know exactly what it feels like to revitalize my bloody memory—a real connection with the suffering of my ancestors. And so when I step into characters like Leti, there are moments when you feel like it’s vibrating inside of you. But I think it’s part of my hardware. It’s not something I talk about often.

Limit: I read that Misha is working on the second season of Lovecraft. How do you feel about it? Anything you can tell us if you’re on the plane?

Smollett: It’s higher than my salary grade. It’s so funny being an actor, we’re told where to go, what to do, and we don’t have much say in it. But, yeah, I love playing Leti. I love the show. kicks my ass. When we finished Season 1, I thought there was no way in hell I could go back to this world, and yet now I’m like, Oh, I just want to go back. And I have no idea what Misha is planning. All she told me was that it’s bold and unlike anything that’s been shown on TV, but we haven’t been picked for a second season yet. I know as much as you know, man, honestly.

I have no doubts if and when there will be a season 2, whatever Misha’s plans are will definitely be ruined. She has such a knack for using the art of storytelling to illuminate the humanity of black people in a way that feels confusing and refreshing at the same time, but is also uniquely familiar. Lovecraft It is a family drama at its core. Each family can contact these family members. It is a very difficult task to make something uniquely familiar in this way. I remember watching parasiteAnd he thinks, wow, ho [director Bong Joon Ho] It brings us into a world that feels unique and new, yet feels very familiar at the same time. This is really storytelling.


Limit: You mentioned your son Hunter’s presence shortly before starting work love country. how old is he now?

Smollett: He is four and a half years old. He was just a kid on the pilot. I was still breastfeeding.

Limit: He’s probably too young to think there’s anything out of the ordinary for his mom on TV. Do you get a feel for what he thinks about his mom playing others, or is it too early at this point?

Smollett: It’s interesting, although children are artists by nature. They are natural actors, they are natural storytellers. He’s in his room all day, creating little stories with dinosaurs. He actually made his first movie that day here in quarantine [in Vancouver]. He was the director and Uncle Jojo was the DP – he was called my older brother. Set up all his dinosaur characters and create a battle. And the movie was called Dino Kings. And it was our world premiere in the living room. We had popcorn. He knows what I’m doing because he grew up in sets, and he’s watching me in action, sometimes watching the screen — when it’s a scene he can actually watch. This is his life, this gypsy life is going to be a part of his life in a very intimate way.

I remember episode 4, it was the museum episode where Letty, Atticus, and Montrose broke into the museum. There was a big crocodile. My character opens the door and he wants to be in that scene! It’s the most beautiful thing. Misha had a video of me holding him during training saying the lines as Leti, but I let him do all the action. And when I think about it, I think it’s very beautiful. Because Jonathan [Majors] and Michael [K. Williams] They are there and they are completely with us and we are in his character, and he is only on my hips.

Limit: That’s so cute. Well, it looks like you have another actor or director in the family.

Smollett: If he was going to do anything about it, I think he’d be more of a director or writer because he’s such a leader. He is such a manager.

Limit: You mentioned that you’re on set in Vancouver. What do you shoot?

Smollett: I shoot lo With Allison Janney. It’s a movie for Netflix, meet me love country His boss, J. J. Abrams. It produces. It’s a thriller in which I seek the help of Lou, Allison Janney’s character, after my daughter’s disappearance. And we have to track the kidnapper pretty much through the woods. We just read the table over Zoom yesterday. This is so great! I can’t wait to get into the mud with this woman. I admire her work. It will be very special.

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