♪ (HBO INTRO PLAYS) ♪ (RADIO STATIC) ♪ (RHYTHMIC MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ NARRATOR: You’re tuning in to Lovecraft Country Radio There’s some strong language and spoilers ahead Buckle up ♪ (MUSIC FADES) ♪ WOMAN: Please, listen to me After Dora escapes with your cousin Ethel, she grows up, she marries Montrose Freeman, together they have a beautiful baby boy We call him Tic because Atticus is really a mouthful Then, I fell in love with him I– I am in love with him I don’t want him to not exist But we can’t change any of it He has a future… (SOBS) My– My baby BOY: Momma! Momma, where are you? ASHLEY C. FORD: Woo! Okay, um That messed me up It really messed me up, and I’m mad at you SHANNON HOUSTON: You’re mad at me? -You’re mad at me again? -ASHLEY: For not warning me SHANNON: I’m mad. I– This episode is so huge and so much, and all the feelings, and Hattie and Leti (EXAGGERATED SIGH) ASHLEY: Okay, so it took a lot for these characters to learn that they have to work together But a trip to the pass might have been all they needed to finally get their shit together SHANNON: (LAUGHS) Yes This is episode nine, “Rewind 1921.” ♪ (MUSIC PLAYING) ♪ ASHLEY: Welcome to Lovecraft Country Radio I’m Ashley C. Ford, podcast host, writer, and horror enthusiast SHANNON: And I’m Shannon Houston, a writer for the HBO series, Lovecraft Country And mother to three, free Black children ASHLEY: Amen, amen And a turtle named Jonovelli We will never leave Jonovelli out of this SHANNON: (LAUGHS) Hello, Jonovelli. Mommy loves you (ASHLEY LAUGHS) So, quick recap There was so much going on in this episode -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: So Atticus, Leti, and Montrose go back in time to the night of the Tulsa riots, to save the Book of Names And reverse Lancaster’s curse So, not only do they have 24 hours to save Dee before she dies, they also have to try get the Book of Names before it burns in Tulsa. Which forces them all to confront horrible family trauma that occurs in the middle of a massacre, and it is vivid, SHANNON: It’s very vivid Um, all the Tulsa scenes are hard to watch, and we talked a lot in the writers’ room about how we could do an episode that is set in Tulsa during the riots, and how there’s a way to do that episode where you just feel awful the entire time, and you just basically want to die And there are definitely parts of this episode where I’m like, “I can’t I can’t deal with this.” Um, but, true to Lovecraft Country, there’s still beauty in this episode -There’s beauty in Tulsa -ASHLEY: Oh, yeah SHANNON: There’s beauty in these Black families There’s beauty in the resistance, the fighting back, that I can’t wait to talk about But sometimes you just watch– You know, you watch the history of things that have happened to Black people in this country and you’re just like, “We have really been fighting for a long time, -and we are really tired.” -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm SHANNON: And in the middle of this episode again, I just thought about Joseline Hernandez That iconic line came to mind That line of, “Ho, why is you here? -ASHLEY: Mm -SHANNON: Why is you here?” Why? White people? We did this thing We create this town It’s beautiful, it’s Black It’s well to do And you can’t leave us the fuck alone So, again, “Ho, why is you here?” Ashley, help ASHLEY: Listen, you know what this episode reminded me of? You know when White people like to ask you what decade you think you should have been born in? -(SHANNON LAUGHS) -ASHLEY: Like this was somethi– This was like when I went to college, this was an icebreaker that people tried to do a lot -SHANNON: Oh, my God -ASHLEY: Which was like, “What decade should you have been born in? What decade would you go live in if you had the chance?” And I sort of understood what they were trying to do with it, but as a Black person obviously, the only answer for me was, “Bitch, the future.” -SHANNON: Future decades -ASHLEY: That’s the only decade The future decades are the only ones where I might have a chance at being closer to free, because let’s be honest about what this has been like for a long time. Like, I should have been born in 3030 That’s how I feel about it That’s when I should have– That’s the only answer for Black people SHANNON: You’re gonna have to link up with our girl, Hippolyta -ASHLEY: I know this -SHANNON: …so that y’all can work this out, because I too feel ready to just skip ahead to the year 3030
And the great thing about that is Hippolyta will be joining us -later today -(ASHLEY CHEERS) SHANNON: Her actual name is Aunjanue Ellis But I think at this point she’ll be Hippolyta -in our hearts for a long time -ASHLEY: In mine forever SHANNON: So, I’m so excited to have her later with us Obviously, this episode like all the other episodes -was very loaded -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm SHANNON: But this is a situation where I actually, for the first time I’m like we actually have to go scene by scene -Like, we have to digest this -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: …and really talk about how these scenes show us new sides to these characters that we’ve been living with for so long So, let’s start with this opening scene, where our girl Dee is really going through it, to say the least ASHLEY: Oh, yeah. She’s sick She’s not doing well, bro Her arm is looking kinda grotty -SHANNON: Real nasty -ASHLEY: Okay. It’s looking kinda gangrene situation And the family has really come together and finally, started talking, and saying what they know, and telling what they know, and seeing if they can work together to save Dee And part of that I think is in realizing how they have failed Dee so far, at this tough point in her life So, we see Dee slowly transforming into another Topsy and Bopsy, -and it’s terrifying -SHANNON: Mm-hmm ASHLEY: The demons, who at the end of the last episode, that got their claws in her, clearly, as I suspected -SHANNON: You called it -ASHLEY: …were turning her into something otherworldly and terrifying SHANNON: Yes, it is that thing, where the family has to look at the results of them not paying attention to her We talked a lot about that in the last episode There is a cost to little Black girls, -when you ignore them, when you don’t listen to them -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm SHANNON: When you are so wrapped up in your own problems, that you literally forget that they’re going through stuff So, this is the physical manifestation of that, and it is ugly, and it is horrifying, -and it should be -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm SHANNON: And I think for a lot of people watching this, they’re gonna be mad at our heroes, ’cause it’s like, “You’re too late! Like, this shouldn’t be happening.” -ASHLEY: Right -SHANNON: “It’s taken this horrible thing for you guys to actually get in a room together, and really talk about your problems,” but the reason that we made that choice in the writers’ room is because we were like, “But that is what people do!” -ASHLEY: Yes -SHANNON: Like Black families, all families are so guilty a lot of the time of waiting until something goes horribly wrong to realize that they should have been doing more Um, so as our people are thinking of, uh, ways to save Dee, obviously, all these secrets come out -Tic is looking to magic -ASHLEY: Uh, yes SHANNON: And he thinks that they should bribe Christina into helping Dee with Titus’ pages -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm -SHANNON: Uh, but there is an issue with that, which is that Leti already gave those pages up -ASHLEY: Yep -SHANNON: Um, then we have Ruby coming along, and she’s asking Christina to do it for her Um, since as we know they’re in this, like, deeply strange, -but kind of hot relationship at this point -ASHLEY: Yep SHANNON: But, of course, Christina is not just doing it for Ruby It’s that weird space that Christina exists in, where it’s like, “Oh yeah, sure. I’ll help you, but it’s not free.” Like, nothing is free with her, and she has her own ambitions So, I think, you know, some people might be asking the question, “Why even bring Christina in?” What did you make of that scene? ASHLEY: I keep thinking about the fact that at the end of the day, Christina has had more access to this information -than anybody else -SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: And I think about that a lot, I think about how in so many of, like, these industries and places that we think of as overwhelmingly White, it is not necessarily -that these people are better at doing the work than others -SHANNON: Mm ASHLEY: Obviously, just as Christina is not necessarily a better witch, wizard, or anything of the Other, -than Atticus, and even Montrose -SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: It’s just that she has had more access to more information -for longer than they have -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: And I love that this relationship between her and the rest of our, um, characters continues, because it’s really accurate Like it’s really accurate The idea that, like Christina’s not gonna lie She has access to all the information And at the end of the day, that just makes her a resource, they literally can’t afford to give up SHANNON: She does help them, and unfortunately, of course, true to Lovecraft, it’s like, it gets even more complicated, because Christina’s like, -“I need the blood of Dee’s closest relative.” -ASHLEY: Yep SHANNON: And Montrose has to finally admit
to possibly not being Atticus’ father Um, it’s assumed that he’s the closest relative since Hippolyta is still MIA, but what Montrose is saying is that closest relative could actually be Atticus ASHLEY: Uh! And that line really killed me -Where Tic is, like, “Mom cheated on you?” -SHANNON: Mm-hmm ASHLEY: Like, you could see, that like, he like It was like, “How much of my shit can crumble?” -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: Like, “How– “How much of this can fall apart at once? -Let’s keep poking the bruise.” -(SHANNON LAUGHS) And Montrose said, “No, we all had an understanding, when you go through something like Tulsa together, you have an indescribable bond.” -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: And that I understood MONTROSE: Me, your mom, and George, we– we grew up close together, son What we went through that night at the massacre? You live through something like that, it makes an unbreakable bond SHANNON: And that bond between Montrose, George, and Dora, that’s the reason that we– We don’t fully resolve this question of lineage, right? -ASHLEY: Right -SHANNON: Christina is able to partially heal Dee with a spell that restores her arm It’s a temporary fix, because Lancaster used blood magic, they have to fully heal Dee with this spell from this very powerful book, the Book of Names -ASHLEY: Right -SHANNON: And one reason that we wanted to do this is because we wanted the question of paternity to shift away from, “Who is the biological parent?” We talk about blood in lineage a lot on this podcast, and on the show, -ASHLEY: We do SHANNON: And it’s very interesting and important to me as an adopted kid, because I’m like, “But blood isn’t all,” you know? -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm -SHANNON: Blood doesn’t always automatically translate to family And that’s what’s happening when they’re in Tulsa with Atticus and Montrose We needed that moment, where Montrose speaks this truth, which is, “I am your father.” -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm -SHANNON: “I always wanted to be, and that’s why it doesn’t really matter, if George is your actual biological father, because you’re my son, and That’s a really powerful moment in it’s– I think it’s also combatting our White characters’ obsession with bloodline and lineage, right? ASHLEY: Right. So, Montrose, George and Dora are the only ones in both their families -to make it out of Tulsa -SHANNON: Mm-hmm ASHLEY: Everyone else dies in the house, and we see that, you know? It’s trauma bonding -It’s trauma bonding -SHANNON: It’s trauma bonding It is, and it’s It’s weird, too, ’cause I’m also like, but it’s also kind of beautiful Like, it’s beautiful to me that they made this commitment to each other after surviving this horrific thing It’s beautiful to me that Montrose has been holding this secret in -and George did too -ASHLEY: Right SHANNON: because it was like– And Dora did, too! They all did, because it was like, “That’s actually not important, what’s important is that we are all a family.” But of course, it’s easy to say that when I’m not Atticus, right? I’m not the person on the receiving end of yet another shocking revelation So, of course, he’s angry, because it’s– this is bigger than just, “Another lie from my dad.” One of the things that he’s saying is, like, “I kind of– I tried to love you because you were my dad though things that you did to me are the kinds of things that I shouldn’t have to try to love But because of this blood connection, I thought that I had to, and Also, sidenote, I was also looking at Uncle George and being like, ‘Ugh, kinda wish that was my dad.'” -ASHLEY: Yep -SHANNON: So, it’s really messed up, and it takes Tic and the other characters literally going through the multi-verse machine back to Tulsa, 1921, to make sense of everything and to come to terms with these secrets and these lies and– and a lot of the trauma that we’ve seen -over the course of this season -ASHLEY: Right SHANNON: So, they start with the Stratford Hotel And I wanted to just say, like, in the writers’ room, when we talked about what do they see as soon as they land? We talked about different versions We talked about a version where they would go through the machine, and everything was on fire already And it was, you know, it was already chaos -ASHLEY: Right -SHANNON: And we realized that that wasn’t the way to go, and we found out that the Tulsa Massacre actually happened on prom night for a bunch of kids And when I read that, I literally just cried I just thought, wait, no You’re in your prom dress, and you’re getting ready for, like, a fun night -You’re 17 years old– -ASHLEY: Yeah SHANNON: …and then prom is cancelled, and you kind of don’t know why, and you’re hearing news of, maybe, a potential situation that you don’t, like– Again, you have no idea what’s coming And Atticus and Montrose and Leti are now back there, and This entire experience is, to me, all about them bearing witness. They don’t have to think about what it meant
for Montrose to survive Tulsa anymore, they’re going to see it Which is what also makes the opening scene kind of troubling, -because Montrose is so clearly terrified to do this -ASHLEY: Yeah SHANNON: And Leti and Atticus are literally like rushing him, again, because they have a limited amount of time -(ASHLEY CHUCKLES) -SHANNON: But let’s talk about that for a minute What were you thinking about Montrose and the rest of the gang when they landed? ASHLEY: I was thinking about the fact that the fear Montrose had in Tulsa as a child would’ve been the same fear and anger that he has now Like, he’s never really had the opportunity -to process those feelings -SHANNON: Yes. Yes ASHLEY: So there– So, he’s kind of stunted in that place. Like, his anger and his sadness are both in stunted places inside of him, and so taking him back into this environment, I was like, “Oh, they think he’s just being Montrose from episode four, -kinda tryin’ to sabotage stuff–” -SHANNON: Nope. Right ASHLEY: “…tryin’ to mess stuff up there–” It’s like, because his fear in their present day -looks the same as his fear in Tulsa -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: But the context is different And they don’t have, really, the context for Tulsa, they have the story, but they don’t have the experience And so, as they go along this journey, and they see what would have happened to him on that day, they see what his world was like in that time They see the people he encounters, the relationships he has with those people The regrets he has, the mistakes he made Like, as all of that is building, it’s like they don’t even see Montrose, really, until you get to almost the end of the episode -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: Until then, it’s like they’re still dealing with him in a way that does not acknowledge what is actually happening And, in their defense, it’s not like he’s telling them what’s happening -SHANNON: Right, right, he’s not -ASHLEY: As a matter of fact, he’s defending some of the horror that they see SHANNON: Yes. And I think that was the other interesting thing You know, they get to Tulsa, 1921, they get there on this night, and I think for our audience, too, you get there on this night, and you’re like, “Okay.” Like, you’re kind of preparing yourself for a particular type of violence And instead, they show up at Montrose’s house, and they see young Montrose getting beaten by his father, Verton -And -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm SHANNON: …it’s shocking to everybody, because it’s like, well, no, wait, we thought we were just coming here and gonna go through hell trying to get a hold of this book because of the w– the White violence, that’s obviously going to be happening But then, we’re seeing this other family violence within this Black family And And it’s so heart breaking, right? Because you Montrose defend his father, “I deserved it.” And Leti has to tell him, “Nobody deserves this.” So, I just– You know, we’ve talked a lot about these kind of relationships, um, and I think that’s such a great example of– of how deep these– these things go, how much you can actually stand there and witness your old self, your child self, being beaten, and still think it was because you did something wrong ASHLEY: Yes! And it’s one of those things that I want to make sure we reiterate, and talk about the fact that just because it’s an explanation, -doesn’t mean it’s an excuse -SHANNON: Yes! -ASHLEY: …for his actions -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: Looking deeper into a character and why they do the things they do, and why perpetrate the harm that they perpetrate, is not giving that person a pass -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: …for the harm that they perpetrate So, going into this and talking about like who Montrose is and like why Montrose does what he does, and having a look at, you know, these experiences that might have led him to this place, is not to say, like, “What can you do with a person whose been through all this?” -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: Because, clearly, we see Dora and George went through similar things and they didn’t end up like that We see that. But there’s a conversation to be had about the manifestation of pain -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: And what it means when it shows up -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: It’s sad to see him blame himself for being harmed But when you watch somebody look at themselves as an innocent child and continue to blame themselves for being harmed, is it no wonder that that person can’t necessarily find compassion -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: …for those that they have harmed -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: And, again, not an excuse, just an explanation SHANNON: An explanation And he’s– he’s so haunted by it that, what does he do?
He messes up the plan He splits off and runs away, and disappears while Leti and Tic are talking And so, then Leti has to leave and go and search for the book, so that Atticus can go find Montrose And I love this moment too, because before they split up, um, Leti and Atticus have this really small, but beautiful scene And it’s like– It made me think about the responses to Ji-Ah You know, Leti says to Tic, “We should name him George.” And that’s her first time actually acknowledging to Atticus that she’s pregnant Of course, she knows he already knows, because she and Montrose talked earlier But it’s this moment and– and I got crushed because when she says it, I just go so warm and happy And then Atticus does not respond warmly It made me think about how a lot of people pointed out that Leti is not getting the same Atticus that Ji-Ah got ASHLEY: No! SHANNON: The sweetness that we saw in episode six and the way that he courted Ji-Ah, not knowing who or what exactly he was courting -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm -SHANNON: That’s not the same person that we’re seeing in this present time And it is upsetting, ’cause we do want Leti to have that But it’s also true to life, they’re in a completely different relationship, he’s a completely different person now So, it’s sucks, but it’s like ASHLEY: You know, I actually thought he didn’t say anything because he wanted to let her have that He’s already gone to the future He knows that they have a son -SHANNON: Yeah -ASHLEY: He knows that that son’s name is George She didn’t get to tell him that she was pregnant -SHANNON: Yeah -ASHLEY: He already knew She di– He didn’t even get to pretend that he didn’t know, because Montrose told, you know, before they even got to have the conversation -SHANNON: Right -ASHLEY: So, at this point the only thing in my mind that Leti has really gotten to have a moment with Tic about, in relation to this child -is the child’s name -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: And in that moment he could turn to her and say, “You do– We do name him George.” SHANNON: Yeah. Yeah ASHLEY: And I already know that we name him George -SHANNON: Yeah -ASHLEY: And I felt like instead he decided to let her have that, and to let her have that moment of thinking, “This is when I decided to name my child.” SHANNON: I love that I love that interpretation -I just wanted them to make out -(ASHLEY LAUGHS) SHANNON: I was just like, I know you have several things to do, but can we just– No, okay No time for making out. Okay -Moving on. So, they split -ASHLEY: Yes SHANNON: Tic thinks that Montrose is looking for George He thinks he’s going to try to warn George about the future But that’s not what he finds when he finally finds Montrose It’s a very different scene And we’re with Tic and Montrose watching young Montrose and a young boy named Thomas, that Montrose has feelings for Um, this scene is yet another soul-crushing, beautiful, powerful moment in the episode for me -What did you think? -ASHLEY: I… (LAUGHS) Sorry -SHANNON: Feelings -ASHLEY: (SIGHS) Feelings I… (SIGHS) This was really tough for me because, even though everything that’s happening like in this story up until this point is just like, “Oh, my God I don’t wanna– I don’t wanna watch another person die like this.” I definitely don’t wanna watch another possibly queer person die like this I don’t wanna see it and like This scene still played out in such a way that it’s like not everything about this person has to die And that’s not enough But they had this effect on Montrose Like this moment had this effect on Montrose enough that it brought him back here -SHANNON: Yes -ASHLEY: And that’s huge Like, that’s so big And enough that it gave him like the room, or the strength, or the space, or whatever it was to finally talk to his son -Like, to finally tell him what’s really going on -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: That that happened was just amazing and beautiful And I loved that moment, even if I didn’t love what it took to get there MONTROSE: Thomas won’t mean much He’s just the first in a long list of sacrifices I made to be your father (SNIFFLING) ASHLEY: I keep thinking about this thing Montrose tells Tic “Saving Thomas isn’t actually gonna change the future, because it’s just one of the many sacrifices -I made on the way to being your father.” -SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: And I keep thinking about this idea of sacrifice that has been given to me that I since adopted And the idea of it around Black people in parenthood, right? -SHANNON: Mm-hmm -ASHLEY: Which is that, like, I know, growing up,
the idea that, like, you go, “Oh, their mom really sacrificed for them,” or, “Their dad sacrificed their–” What so many people “sacrificed” for you to have this, was such a huge thing, and it was such a, like– It was such a– a weight to be put on you, -especially as a young person -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: But it was also something that you were grateful for That people had done this work -before you to ease the way for you -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: But now I understand sacrifice as a term that means giving away the sacred And giving away what you find sacred Giving away what is important -to you -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: And It occurs to me that there are a lot of situations where our parents or our ancestors made sacrifices that did not actually put us on the path -toward freedom or liberation -SHANNON: Mmm ASHLEY: They were absolutely sacrifices, and you don’t want to think of those things as wasted, and I– I don’t think effort is ever wasted Effort in the name of love and care, I don’t think it’s wasted, but I think it can be misguided And I think we’ve seen a lot of misguided sacrifices in the name of caring for Black folks, -and caring for our children, and caring for our people -SHANNON: Ugh, yes. Yes ASHLEY: So, that’s something sacred that Montrose is giving away -It’s love -SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: It’s hope, it’s freedom The things– Everything you need to be able to actually raise -a free child, he left in Tulsa -SHANNON: Oof! (SUCKS TEETH) Yes, he did. Yes, he did And he’s back, and he’s going to– he– he wants to fix it, right? That’s part of it I– I love everything you just said Um, but it’s– But– But yes, there’s, like, this question of should you make those sacrifices? Should you have made those sacrifices? And then, at the same time, there’s this weird feeling of, like, “We love that he did, because we love that Atticus exists.” And Tic needs to hear this He needs to hear, like, “I want to be your father It’s– It’s the only thing that I want.” And Tic is– has convinced him at the end of it to not interfere And so we watch this brutal scene where Thomas gets shot, and when Montrose falls, watching Thomas, and Tic is holding him up, talk a little bit about what you thought of that moment ASHLEY: It just made me think of the bond between parent and child, and this idea that, “Even as you tell me these hurtful, complicated things, even as I’m still unsure what it means to you that I’m your son, and that we are– Like, I know that it’s important to you, but am I important to you? Who I am, not just your vision of me Even as all of that is going on, when you begin to fall, I’m gonna hold you up, because I’m not going to let you fall I’m not going to let you fall.” And there is, in that moment, I think the beginnings of the opportunity for them both to heal and forgive But Tic has to be able to accept that this may be the most that Montrose can ever give him SHANNON: Right. And sometimes, forgiveness, you know, just because we are talking about– we’re talking about abusive relationships between parent and child Forgiveness doesn’t always mean, “Oh, I see where you’re coming from, and I understand, and now we can proceed and love each other and hang out all the time.” It’s not like that sometimes -ASHLEY: No! -SHANNON: But there’s another -level to this scene, um, that we see– -ASHLEY: Oh, yeah! SHANNON: and it’s the baseball bat ASHLEY: The baseball bat Uh, Montrose starts telling the story again, about how the man shows up with the baseball bat Jackie Robinson SHANNON: Jackie Robinson MONTROSE: He saved us all The last thing he said before he disappeared was– JACKIE ROBINSON: I gotcha, kid (BAT RATTLES ON GROUND) ♪ (OMINOUS MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ MONTROSE: Called him, “mysterious stranger.” ASHLEY: And just my goodness Wears those White folks out SHANNON: Oh, my gosh Iconic. I’m not supposed to say it, I worked on the show, but this is fucking iconic (ASHLEY LAUGHING) -SHANNON: This is iconic -ASHLEY: It was so gratifying to watch To watch, like, them come at Tic and watch Tic just essentially give them the whoopin’ of their fuckin’ lives Like, even at one point, there was, like, a White woman in the scene -who was, you know, catching her looks -SHANNON: Uh-huh
-ASHLEY: And I was like, “Yep.” -SHANNON: “Yep, you can get it, too.” ASHLEY: “Should– Shouldn’t have been over there.” SHANNON: “What are you doin’ here?” ASHLEY: “I don’t know what you thought, but you shouldn’t have been over there That’s what happens.” That’s how I felt -SHANNON: It is what it is -ASHLEY: It is what it is SHANNON: You didn’t have to be here Ho, why is you here? ASHLEY: Why is you here? SHANNON: It’s beautiful It’s beautiful Um, and we’ve been– we’ve had Jackie elements throughout the show, right? That crazy opening in the first episode Jackie Robinson with the baseball bat smashing the bejesus out of Cthulhu -And -ASHLEY: Sure did SHANNON: we’ve had several other iconic baseball bat moments throughout… (CHUCKLES) throughout the series, and we had them all there partly because we knew we were gonna have this scene in episode nine And again, you know, I wanna say when you think about the Tulsa Massacre, we were fighting back the whole time We were organized Our people were organized. Um Again, outgunned and outnumbered and it’s tragic, but if you think that there weren’t Black people out there busting heads wide open with baseball bats, you’re wrong All manner of defensive tools were used, and that’s also why we had this moment Not just because we wanted– you know, we wanted that cool tie-in, but just because, again– And obviously, like, you can talk about Jackie Robinson as a Black-American hero and what he stood for and what he means to us, and taking that rather wholesome image, right, of Jackie Robinson even though that story is filled with violence too But taking that image and then handing the baseball bat to Tic and making him the hero in his own father’s story So, for me that scene, it’s the look on young George, young Montrose, and Young Dora’s faces when they’re looking up at this guy who came out of nowhere saving them It’s so bizarre It’s so strange It’s so beautiful I love it. I just love it ASHLEY: And it’s also just this great interpretation of the fact that sometimes the battle that our children are going through -is a battle that could save our child self -SHANNON: Yes ASHLEY: Which is its own beautiful thing in its own beautiful part of the story SHANNON: And along those lines, there’s this quote that I just thought of And I don’t actually know exactly who it comes from, but I remember reading it on Son of Baldwin’s website, probably on Twitter years ago But the quote was, “What you heal within yourself, you heal for your whole family line.” ASHLEY: (WHISPERS) Yes SHANNON: And I wrote that down in a journal, and I think about it a lot And again, we talk a lot about the work required It’s not simple to do this work of healing It might involve a multi-verse machine (CHUCKLES) um, or some version of a complicated process So it’s not easy to do, but if you just start doing the work, we will see effects, right? We will see the effects in Leti and Atticus’s child That’s what we hope That’s what we pray for So, we have Montrose and Atticus having this incredible moment, and then Leti is having a completely different but equally incredible, horrifying-everything experience in Dora’s house So, let’s talk about our queen, Leti fucking Lewis, and what’s going on, on her side ASHLEY: So while this is all happening, Leti is not only pursuing Dora’s family, like trying to get there, but also trying to outrun actually attackers during the Tulsa– And I’m just like, “Oh, she should not be by herself.” And Atticus is, like, very much the upfront, like, face of– hero of the show so far, whatever, if you’re thinking about him that way -SHANNON: Sure -ASHLEY: For me, it’s still Leti Um… (CHUCKLES) She’s the hero of the show And she has this conversation with Hattie who, to be perfectly honest (LAUGHS) when she first walks in and Hattie looks at her shoes, -I was like, “Come on.” -(SHANNON GIGGLES) ASHLEY: Clocked! SHANNON: That’s why Hattie is the truth Hattie said, “Nah.” ASHLEY: Clocked her from moment one But then they realize it’s going down Dad’s going to the roof, Verton is going somewhere else They’re both gonna try to fight for their homes and for their community Leti knows what’s going to happen She already knows that the house is going to be burned, and Leti having to know, to know you’re not gonna get to have that conversation
Searching for the Book of Names, being found by Hattie who is immediately like, “I knew–” -Like, “I knew something was going on.” -SHANNON: I love it ASHLEY: She’s immediately not here for Leti, and when Leti tells her what is happening and what’s going to happen, Hattie says, “I need to focus on saving my family.” SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: And Leti has to then appeal to her and to the fact that you will be saving your family Just not the family that’s in this house SHANNON: The performances here are just so incredible It feels so real, and like you said, Hattie has to make a choice, which is, “If it’s true that I’m dying and if it’s true that we’re all dying, then I do need to think about the future.” And there’s that incredible line where she says, “When my great-grandson is born, he will be my faith turned flesh.” HATTIE: When my great great grandson is born, he will be my faith turned flesh SHANNON: You know, we talked about this a lot in the room, it’s very simple, quote unquote, to say, “Well, Leti wouldn’t be scared because she knows she’s not gonna die She’s invulnerable She knows that now.” Guess what still is awful? ASHLEY: Watching people burn to death SHANNON: Yeah. Yeah Standing there and witnessing that and you’re pregnant But we, the writers, were like, “No, she has to try to save somebody.” Like wouldn’t– wouldn’t you try? And it’s like, “But she knows what could happen if she– You know, like, it’s so complicated -ASHLEY: Yep -You want her to fix it You want– really what you want is for our heroes to go back in time and make it not happen -Right? We had that conversation too -ASHLEY: Right SHANNON: But that’s a whole other different issue, so they’re just– They have to get the book and run, but she doesn’t run She stands there with Hattie, and they start to pray And Hattie also says that line, “I hope the Good Lord is ready.” That’s when she became iconic in my eyes ’cause it’s like, like, God needs to prepare for you showing up? -I love you. I stan you -ASHLEY: Yep SHANNON: So, they start saying the prayer, and as the house is going up in flames, and as Hattie herself is going up in flames, we hear this incredible voice, Sonia Sanchez, this poem that plays out called Catch the Fire And I’ll never hear that poem the same way again -ASHLEY: How could you? -SHANNON: I don’t know -It’s insane. (CHUCKLES) -ASHLEY: It’s revolution And that’s what’s hard– Like, it’s– you know What grabs me about this moment with Leti in the house, having her moment with Hattie, is that there’s the idea of justice here, right We wanna fight for justice for people who have been taken wrongfully from us And the truth of the matter is because those people have already been taken, there is no real justice We can have accountability, and we can find ways to give retribution for what has happened to our people and to our community and to individuals But justice when someone has been killed, -when someone has been murdered -SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: …like what is that really look like? ‘Cause we can’t bring them back -SHANNON: Right -What Leti understands is that -these people are already gone -SHANNON: Yep ASHLEY: These people are already gone We remember them We honor them -But we have to move forward -SHANNON: Right ASHLEY: And moving forward doesn’t mean forgetting and it doesn’t mean pretending it never happened It means letting it inform the future And she understands that these deaths, right now, inform the future SHANNON: Yes, and she– you know that final scene where she’s literally walking through fire, -and the planes come because yes -ASHLEY: Yes there were planes dropping bombs on this city in the middle of this. And it’s such a strange feeling Again, to go back to what this show does, it’s like, it doesn’t just give you one thing I am angry. I am upset I am heartbroken I am empowered seeing Leti walk through fire and hearing Sonia’s voice playing over it And then, Montrose comes in with this final speech as the portal is closing And I was thinking about his words -when you were just talking -ASHLEY: Mm-hmm SHANNON: because what he’s kind of saying there is we did it Like, it’s like, we did it We got the book We’re all about to get through this portal But I cannot forget these people And he starts naming his neighbors, his family members. Like this was a whole community This person had this This store that I miss It’s complicated Like, our heroes win, -but they can’t really win -ASHLEY: Right SHANNON: So, speaking of coming out of the portal
and them coming back to Hippolyta, let’s bring on Aunjanue Ellis to talk about that iconic scene and her iconic character Aunjanue Ellis, welcome AUNJANUE ELLIS: Hello, hello, hello ASHLEY: Thank you so much for being here I have been watching Hippolyta, and I’m also just a fan of your work, even previous to Lovecraft Country And so, this is so much fun and such a big deal to have you on the show today and be able to talk you about this amazing show and this fantastic character In the time you’ve spent playing Hippolyta, what have you learned from her? Because I feel like I learn from her every time she’s on the screen AUNJANUE: I agree with you I agree with you I think that she presents one way early in the season, and then with every episode, there’s more that’s revealed about her core and who she– who she is And I find that– I find that really exciting because it could have been a portrayal of a woman who is this repressed, 1950s woman in a situation with a husband, a marriage where she loves her husband and she wants to be something but it will never be realized And that’s sort of the– That’s the sort of tease of it you know And then, with every episode, we see that it’s far from what it appears to be SHANNON: Yeah, it’s been such an incredible experience watching it unfold. And then, of course, episode seven, which, you know, today, we’re talking about episode nine, but in episode seven, you have this incredible adventure Can you just talk a little bit about what it was like working on that episode and how it– Maybe how it helped inform like your performance in episode nine, too AUNJANUE: So, I just think it’s– I love the idea that, with– with Lovecraft, Jonathan Kidd, who’s one of the producers of the show, talks about this idea of Afrofuturism, right? And what we thought the future would look like, and what– we are stunned every day about what the future actually looks like Some of it is beyond our imaginations, some of it is the stuff of our nightmares, right? That’s what we’re living right now And I think that’s what places Lovecraft Country, uh, in a particular and exciting way in– in culture right at this moment And then for Hippolyta to see this woman sort of be a timeless character, that she– that she has a foot, literally a foot in the past, has a foot in the future, and we just have to watch this And I– The idea behind Lovecraft for me is just that it is about the– the Black immigrant experience in America And when you extrapolate from that, when you– you, you know, enlarge that idea that is about Black people being travelers -SHANNON: Yes -AUNJANUE: Black Americans particularly being travelers -SHANNON: Yes -AUNJANUE: And she just takes that idea, and that notion to just this, you know, -this whole other level Like literally in space -SHANNON: Right. (LAUGHS) -AUNJANUE: You know what I mean? -ASHLEY: Yes AUNJANUE: Like, it’s not just moving from Mississippi to Chicago to find another life, another identity It’s moving from Earth to this unknown world -to find another identity -ASHLEY: Yes AUNJANUE: Um… And that was– that was exciting And then so we go to the ’20s and she’s, you know, hanging out with Josephine Baker and– -ASHLEY AND SHANNON: Yes! -AUNJANUE: And I love that I love that it just defies expectation You don’t know where she’s going to end up And so, in terms of my portraying that, I just had to give it all to Jesus -I had no other words to say You know? -(LAUGHTER) AUNJANUE: You know what I mean? I just– And I decided that very early on ‘Cause when I started working on the show, everybody would say to me, the costume designer, the sound guy would be, “Have you read episode seven? Have you read episode seven?” And I would say, “No.” And it was– It took me a long time to read it because I was afraid of it Uh, but then when I read it, I just thought, what a tremendous experience this will be to play something like this What a tremendous, hopefully, experience it will be for Black women to see Black woman portrayed in this– -in this way -ASHLEY AND SHANNON: Yes. Yes -(LAUGHTER, OVERLAPPING CHATTER) -ASHLEY: We’re both just like, yes I think, yes, that’s it, because it really did feel that way for me. Um, that connection between episode seven, um, and episode nine is that through-line for me, that– that– that power
of a Black woman, that power of experience and knowledge and wisdom, and not having to hold back, and being able to fully express it, it just blew my mind And continues to blow my mind Because on this show, we talk a lot about undoing toxic coping mechanisms we’ve learnt And that’d been passed down from traumatized generation to the next generation, like when you talk about, you know, like the fact that this is the future for people who lived through, you know, the sixties, and people who lives through the twenties, and you know, the 1800s and– People who lived through that, we’re in the future right now, and we’re still facing so many of the same things, in addition to that traumatization that was handed down -AUNJANUE: Mm-hmm -ASHLEY: So What did that work do for Hippolyta and her family? Her spending this time learning what it means to name yourself. What did that ultimately do? AUNJANUE: You know who I think about? I think about Hortense Spillers I don’t know if you guys are familiar with her work -But she has this essay -SHANNON: Yes AUNJANUE: …um, Mama’s Baby, Papa’s Maybe What she says is, is that, if America didn’t have a Black woman, -they would have to invent her -(SHANNON GROANS) ASHLEY: Mm AUNJANUE: Because we are the expository for its– its exercise. E, X, E, R, E, E-R, and, E, X, O, R, of its demons We bare the scar, we bare the stain, we bare all of that Black American woman do in a way, particularly that no other species on this planet does And so, with that sort of thinking in mind, you know, that we– we– all this stuff is sort of attached to us That has nothing to do with who we think of ourselves -SHANNON: Mm-hmm -AUNJANUE: Right? So, we are constantly named, constantly named, constantly named And so, a lot of our existence, and I have to say, is pushing back. Pushing back and pushing away from these– these identifiers that are attached to us, that we are not That we are not And so, we– We are constantly having to– Before we can get to step A, -we have to undo -(LAUGHTER) You know what I mean? Before we can have a conversation in the room, we gotta undo what folks think about us -before we open our mouths -SHANNON: Yes AUNJANUE: You know what that is, angry Black women You know, all of that– all of that stuff we carry with us, without opening our mouths, before we put clothes on in a morning All of that stuff, we– we bare that We bare that We bare that within our race We bare that as citizens of this country We bear that And so, for this woman to say that, “Yeah, I’m a wife Yes, I’m a mother Yes, I’m the cornerstone of this community in Chicago Yes, I’m all these things, and yet, I don’t know who I am SHANNON AND ASHLEY: Mm-hm AUNJANUE: I don’t know who I am and it’s worth me finding out.” And what’s so– what I think is so wonderful about this, and I’m not championing child abandonment ASHLEY: (LAUGHS) We’ve talked about it -AUNJANUE: Yeah, yeah -(ALL LAUGH) AUNJANUE: You know? But what is interesting about this is that she has to find herself outside the context of her family SHANNON: Right AUNJANUE: She has to find herself outside the context of her community And that is worth it, for her It is worth it for her SHANNON: Yes, and it’s it’s this thing that, on the one hand, in the writer’s room I was like, “Well, I want her to stay, I want her to stay I want her to make that difficult choice.” But I also knew, there’s the version where it pays off for nobody but Hippolyta, and I still wanted that There’s the version of it where it’s just for her, and that’s okay But because we are telling the story about a family, and because we are talking about community, we did have to tie this in to the rest of the family, so in episode nine Hippolyta returns, she has this incredible– first of all, like, her voice is different Like, the way she talks is different I’m saying it like it’s not you, but, you, like– (ALL LAUGH) But the way she’s like, “I was on planet 504, and this happened, and this happened, and I’m going to save my daughter.” It’s like she is so different, nobody can name her anymore And that’s why she’s able to say, “I will just plug into the machine.” And she’s doing everything in her power to keep the portal open for the other characters to return, she starts to transform She’s literally becoming Orithya Blue
right before our eyes, and it’s so incredible MONTROSE: Hippolyta I don’t know where you disappeared to, but you’re starting to sound crazy HIPPOLYTA: I was on Earth 504 And I was there the equivalent of 200 years on this earth I could name myself anything Infinite possibilities, that came with infinite wisdom, and I’m gonna use all of it to save my daughter SHANNON: Can you talk to us a little bit about how you played that scene, and what it means to you, and what you think it means for Hippolyta to do this? AUNJANUE: Well, I love the fact that her daughter paints her Like, that’s just beautiful Like that is just beautiful, as a momma’s girl myself, you know, that even though she had to separate from Dee, that she still connected, connected through Orithya Blue, connected through her daughter’s imagination Which I think is really, really important That it is through her imagination that she is connected That it’s not earth born, it’s not earthen, you know what I mean? That it’s still stuff that you can’t grasp That’s communication that only her and her daughter can share -ASHLEY: Mm-hm -AUNJANUE: You know? And there’s a liberation in that I claim that as liberation And then on the practical side of that, you know, Lovecraft is weird, I don’t know how else to say it (SHANNON AND ASHLEY LAUGH) AUNJANUE: Lovecraft is weird, acting is weird, period It’s not like I come home at the end of the day and I talk to my sister, I talk to my, you know, loved ones and I say, you know, “Girl…” -‘Cause it doesn’t translate! -ASHLEY: Right. (LAUGHS) AUNJANUE: It just does not make any sense at all, even with a regular job, where I’m playing a regular person But with this, it’s like, “Yeah, so, and then the machines– the machine didn’t work, so we had to do that take again And then the–” You know, there’s nothing I can say that would ever make sense And I love that I love, I love that And like I said, I just gave into it I just gave into it I put that harness on, yes I complained about it, -you know what I mean -(SHANNON LAUGHING) It was tight, it was tight in all the wrong places, -if you know what I’m saying -ASHLEY: Yup AUNJANUE: Like… (SIGHS) (ASHLEY LAUGHING) SHANNON: Aunjanue made sacrifices for us that day She made sacrifices for us AUNJANUE: I’m just interested to see how it turns out You know, ’cause it was crazy doing it, -and it was fun doing it -SHANNON: It’s incredible It’s incredible to watch Well, we could keep you here for 17 more hours, but we won’t Thank you so much, we love you, we love Hippolyta AUNJANUE: Thank you, thank you for your time, I really appreciate it, you guys have a good day ♪ (MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ ASHLEY: That was so beautiful, I feel so full Shannon, why don’t you take us away with some references and recommendations to close this episode out SHANNON: We have The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, And the Tulsa Race Riot, by Tim Madigan I recommend doing a little research on J.B. Stradford, he was the owner of the Stradford Hotel and lots of other properties on Black Wall Street, incredible story there Also recommend researching Olivia Hooker, she was the last survivor of the Tulsa riots She passed away in 2018, also a woman with an incredible story A couple of essays that I’ve been thinking about lately, and that I think connect to this storyline as well There’s an essay called “The E-Snuff of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile,” by Courtney Baker And another one called “American Horror Story” by Ezekiel Kweku What else do we have, Ashley? ASHLEY: We’ve got Sonya Sanchez’s “Catch the Fire.” Flying West by Pearl Cleage which I really, really love Hortense Spillers’ Momma’s Baby, Poppa’s Maybe Reading Black, Reading Feminist, which is an iconic anthology of essays with works from Spillers, Hazel Carby, Zora Neale Hurston, bell hooks, and so many more ♪ (MUSIC PLAYS) ♪ SHANNON: That is our show for this week, thank you so much for listening This show is hosted by us, I’m Shannon Houston ASHLEY: And I’m Ashley C. Ford This podcast was produced by HBO in conjunction with Pineapple Street Studios Our executive producers are Jenna Weiss-Berman, Max Linsky, and Bari Finkel Agerenesh Ashagre is our managing producer Our lead producer is Jess Jupiter, and our associate producers are Alexis Moore and Natalie Brennan Our editor is Maddy Sprung-Keyser and Noriko Okabe is our engineer Original music by composer Amanda Jones SHANNON: If you like the show and you have a minute, you can review and rate this podcast via Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or anywhere else you might get your podcasts It really helps people find the show You can also stream the podcast on HBO and HBO Max We’ll be back next week for our final episode,
episode ten! ASHLEY: Oh my God, oh my God, I’m nervous SHANNON: (SIGHS) We’re gonna do it though Episode ten premiers on HBO and streams on HBO Max on October 18th, at 9 p.m. Eastern ASHLEY: See you then!