Dear White People, the film (and now the Netflix series) have both been very controversial for shedding light on ways racism manifests in subtle ways. The storyline shows that even in modern times, racism describes a system of disadvantage based on race. Like the movie, the tv series takes place at a fictional predominantly white ivy league school, Winchester. While on campus it introduces the black collegiates rooming in the Armstrong Parker dorms. Dear White People gives off a nostalgic 90’s vibe, that reminds you of classics such as A Different World and Higher Learning. The dialogue, framing and overall vibe is fun, dramatic, and hilarious while effectively conveying meaningful messages to the audience.
I had the pleasure with speaking with cast members Brandon B Bell (Troy), Justin Simien (Director), Ashley Blaine Featherson (Joelle) and Antoinette Robertson (Coco) on the controversy surrounding the show and what we can expect during the upcoming series. We had a chance to discuss their roles, get up close and personal, and vibe with the cast.
How were you to able to naturally project yourself into your role/ character and connect with them?
Justin-Just as a writer, trying to tell the truth and be as honest as I would be. I mean listen, It was a hyper reality, it was a satire. It was trying to be as real as I could be with these issues and try to get the dirt under the fingernails. In every episode, these characters are dealing with things that honestly they rather keep private. If the camera was on them, they wouldn’t want you to see it. (Lol)
Ashley– That’s so true.
Justin– It was definitely a goal of how we can tell story that people can feel, think, and talk about in private, but have never quite seen in a show before.
Brandon– I think for me, I went to a predominantly white school. So Troy are not to far off as far as term similarities I have. As an artist, being apart of rich storytelling, complex characters, that’s the crème de la crème…you know what I mean? That fit with my experience. If not my exact experience, it’s definitely not too far off. I think for me as a black actor, the diversities of our experiences presented on screen are rare. The opportunity to present something I haven’t really seen before, it just made so much sense and it was just so familiar in so many way.. all of the characters. I see myself, there is little bits of me in each character. Troy being a black man, at a predominantly white school having just expectations, It felt like revisiting different parts of myself. It was easy in that sense and fun and exciting to be apart of something I haven’t really seen too much before since like a Different world.
Antionette– There is also so much heart and these characters are so layered and multi dimensional, that it’s so real…that there is no way we couldn’t do it justice. We want people to identify with them, but the most important thing was we were having these moments…We were really having these moments! These relationships are cultivated in such a way that you identify with someone and it resonates with you..so I feel that it was easy! This gentleman (Justin) and Our group of writers, they are so good and it’s so well cast. We just gelled together in a way, that it felt so real in every moment..that when you feel it that there are going to be moments when you’re going to be like aww or omg I would it! You’re going to have this real experience, I can’t wait for you guys to see all of it.
Brandon– Everyone knows a Troy, you know a Coco, you know a Sam, you know a Lionel…for sure.
Antionette– you know one.. (everyone laughs)
Ashley– Definitely..Definitely do.
Now you talk about the controversy, like far as the name, What would have been the second alternate name, instead of Dear White People?
Justin: The first title was 2 Percent. It was called 2 Percent because is about the population of black kids at the white college. I felt that it was too sleepy of a title to be honest and Sam in the movie had this radio show called dear white people. I started this twitter account to test out her jokes and I was just was like, I think I this is the title. People are going to respond to it and it’s going to be a knee jerk reaction for some people, but they’re going to be talking. Like when the so called controversy and quote on quote boycott happened, which wasn’t real either…over the teaser announcement. The truth is more people knew about that show because of the quote on quote controversy than they would of the title 2 percent because it’s a little sleeper there. From the minute you hear that title, you have an emotional response. Even if that emotional response is; I’m not watching this, that’s all part of what the show is about and trying to say. Alot of people who love us go the YouTube comment and are like… ok I already knew this show need to exist, but now I know it really needs to exist. It works on another level in a way that I think it’s worth whatever controversy comes from it. I stand by that title.
Whole cast– That it does..it really does!
It works on another level in a way that I think it’s worth whatever controversy comes from it. I stand by that title.
Me:-Love it, Love it.
So I have one more question for you guys..so just like with the black face that happened in the show, is there anything else like far as any big controversial, traumatizing things that may happen or that you want to tackle?
Justin– I’m not telling (LOL)
Ashley– * sings I will never tell
Justin-I will tell you this.. There’s a lot of stuff we didn’t get too this season and I’m dying to get to it. I personally interested in the dynamics on the faculty level on this campus, I want to learn about the black kids that don’t live in Armstrong Parker, and also.. That’s all I’m going to say, you’ll just have to wait and see.
I hope you enjoyed this interview with the lovely cast of Dear White People and check out the first season now streaming on Netflix. You will not be disappointed. Until next time!