By Adam Karenina Sherif
*content warning for reference to racist police violence*
Hosted by Davey D, the panel for the Hulu series Woke featured series actors Lamorne Morris (New Girl), Blake Anderson (Workaholics) and T. Murph (Key & Peele), showrunner Jay Dyer (Californication) and director Maurice “Mo” Marable (Brockmire), and Woke’s co-writers Keith Knight (the cartoonist whose life the show is based on) and Marshall Todd (Barbershop). They all shared a great, witty dynamic.
Opening with a reflection on how the show’s caught on, Morris shared candidly that recently, instead of people yelling “Winston!” when they see him in person (his character from New Girl), he’s had folks yelling “Keef!” When Davey D brought up the interesting question of how the show might be received internationally, Dyer cited the waves of BLM protests that have also taken place outside of the US as evidence that people are increasingly engaged with the issue of systemic racism. And even outside of its social justice component, he also believes that the show is funny enough to resonate with audiences in that respect alone as well: “there are great characters, the performances are great, there’s no reason that won’t translate”.
Co-creator and writer Todd really emphasised the cast’s talent with respect to taking the scripts they’re given and making it even funnier with their own improvisations and elaborations. Director Marable described the cast as the easiest he’s ever worked with, and that they’ve all become “actual friends”. Asked what a showrunner does, Dyer joked that he “runs in circles and has nervous breakdowns”. Speaking about having his own experience realised, and specifically the translation of his artistic sensibilities from page to screen, Knight put it that he feels “privileged to have so much quality, so many great people come together on this project”.
In terms of the show’s origins, Knight and Todd were actually paired up by the show’s producers. Todd immersed himself in Knight’s comics work and, realising “both of us had had run-ins with the cops”, they found the basis for the show. He also remarked that working with Knight has been the smoothest collaborative experience he’s had, and they’ve never gotten into any fights “which is uncommon for writers!”
Asked about how much embellishment there is with the show, Knight said very directly that the experience of police violence that Morris’ Keith suffers was absolutely real and happened in the Richmond district of San Francisco, having been a resident there for ten years at that point. He recounted that the most shocking part of it for him was “my white roommate jumping off the bus and running up to the cops and getting in their faces – to me that was the big shocker”. On the question of whether he’d really do such a thing, Anderson, who plays roommate Gunther, replied warmly “I’ll be on your side, my friend, I will be”. Knight also revealed that the original roommate in question actually auditioned for the role(!).
On how he approached portraying Knight’s story, Morris said slyly, “Well, Daniel Day-Lewis is a friend of mine…” More seriously though, he said he did his homework when he was first approached for the project, watching YouTube videos and reading interviews – specifically, he dug into Knight’s musical tastes. “He’s into all types of music, and it’s not on the nose. Usually, you see a Black dude and go ‘Oh, he listens to hip-hop and that’s it’” With similar eclectic tastes himself, Morris was able to blend some of his own sensibilities into the role.
Anderson said, of his great chemistry with T. Murph who plays Clovis, “You don’t have a choice but to be his friend – within seconds of meeting you, he’s comfortable enough to be roasting the hell out of you!” Anderson added that his character’s not too far off of his real self, but that he particularly enjoyed that “other than it just being a straight up comedy, these scenes have some weight to them” and that it was “a cool opportunity to be able to click into that”. T. Murph apparently had a fantastic audition and was subsequently asked to bring more of his own personality into it likewise. Davey D picked up on Murph’s crew cut and long beard combo, probing “I gotta ask, are you gunning to play James Harden in some fashion?”
Asked about a potential second season, Knight said, “we’re hoping for a Season 2”. He noted that the show was finished before February, so they couldn’t address most of 2020’s major subsequent chaos and upheaval. “It would be amazing to get into what a post-Summer 2020 world would look like”. Director Marable put it that “I really wanna talk about how f’d up this world is, and how it affects real people, and make fun of it, you know”. Balancing the picture, Morris added he’d like to continue expanding the dynamic he has with Anderson and T. Murph through further everyday adventures: “it’s three idiots walking the streets of San Francisco.. maybe we go wine-tasting?”. And all parties seemed excited at Davey D’s suggestion of an eventual Woke movie.
Woke is available to stream on Hulu now.
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