Almost a month after the finale of its first season, we are still reeling from OWN’s critically-acclaimed drama series, David Makes Man. The series, executive produced by Michael B. Jordan, is from Oscar-winning Moonlight scribe Tarell Alvin McCraney. Shadow And Act recently spoke with S&A RISING Award recipient Lucien Christian Adderley who talked about one of the series’ most complex relationships, the show’s magical realism, that trippy final scene and more.
In the final scene of the last episode of the season, everything seems to be great for David (Akili McDowell) and The Ville, but it seems like David can sense that something is off. There have been theories on social media that this could be a dream sequence, but Adderley set the record straight. “It was real. It’s funny because on Twitter a lot of people were like, ‘Was that real!?’ I can definitely confirm that it was real,” he said. “Dr. Woods-Trap (Phylicia Rashad) made that call to admissions for Hurston. He was able to clean up the neighborhood. It’s almost like a moment of Simba, you know, coming back home, ridding [everything] of the evil and then sitting there and realizing how beautiful the kingdom was on Pride Rock. If you look back at the first episode, this is a huge difference between when he was sitting on that transformer and he’s talking to Sky when the rain is falling down and he’s having that big argument about everywhere he will do, about where he is in his life, and when he’s sitting there and everything is bright and sunny.”
But, David’s sense that something is off is rooted in his trauma. “So, this character has come a long way,” Adderley added. “However, there are still things that this character is going to face because there are so many different things when it comes to the trauma that haunts us continuously and we don’t know it within those moments. And it’s just where we think that things might be okay or something else triggers you and you realize, ‘Oh, I’m not out of this yet.’ [But] it was definitely real and that is is a part of the beauty of where we can take this story.”
As our review of the series noted, David Makes Man “functions more like a scrappy arthouse film that is more concerned with creating complex characters than tying together cyclical, serialized storylines, making it different from any other show on television right now.” Adderley explained that the show works this way because of how it was conceived. “Oftentimes when we were in the writers’ room, we spoke about this as a 10-hour film. So we would tackle each episode as the next portion of this film and the development of this character, David. That’s the reason why you’ll see a through-line through these different episodes that are telling you a complete overall story in a way that you don’t necessarily get in other shows. We didn’t want to just leave you off with these cliffhangers that just were trying to get you back to next week. It was more like, we’re trying to give you a complete understanding of where we are within this film, so when you come back next week, you can take the journey further,” he said.
While the series is full of complex relationships, notably David and almost every other person on the show, one, in particular, that is highlighted, especially in the last few episodes, is the relationship between David and Raynan (Ade Chike Torbert). We asked Adderley how that relationship could evolve if the show comes back for a second season. “For Season 2 we won’t necessarily talk about that, but I will say Tarell has a lot of ideas in his head, some of which he’s expressed to us and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the way that his mind works, and we all know that he comes up great stories,” he explained. “But within the first season, there is a lot to dissect between Raynan and David, simply because we find out early that David was the son to Sky that Raynan in a way wasn’t. Raynan has an affinity for David because of the fact that his dad saw something special in David and he wanted to figure out what is that thing. Like, ‘What is this thing about you that everybody is going crazy about? What is it about you that makes, that made my dad get closer to you than he would to me?’ There’s a bit of anger and jealousy there. There’s a bit of intrigue on multiple levels. And then you see the story flips, where he sees those things when he least expects it. Those things come to life as Tio Teo (Elvis Nolasco) says, in episode two, ‘You don’t know which way this one moves; pawns become kings.’ This whole thing was a chess match. And sometimes Raynan had to understand that, ‘Hey, you might be a better man than me.'”
Another crucial component of the series is its use of magical realism, particularly in the dream sequences that David has. “A lot of times when you talk about, the traumas that these characters are dealing with, we talk about that imagination being an escape. But we also talk about how sometimes those beautiful images of imagination are still cut short from those moments of PTSD that bring you back to reality. You also see that he’s inherited a lot of these things from his mother. So, looking at episode four, Gloria (Alana Arenas), is there, daydreaming in the same way and even Mx. Elijah (Travis Coles) says to her, ‘You’re doing that staring thing David does.’ So we get a chance to kind of see where he got that from. But these moments were these times in their mind where sometimes they want [life] to act out in certain ways or sometimes they are almost like nightmares,” he continued. “And I know in the season finale, so many people were happy that that scene between David and Gloria wasn’t real. We often talked about that moment [in the writers’ room] and whether or not it’s actually in David’s mind or whether or not it’s actually in Gloria’s mind. So that was an interesting dynamic that was discussed. Then we have to remember that even those moments with Sky are magical realism too. Even that beautiful scene of Sky, sitting down when David is asking them those questions about what he would’ve done with his life and everything else like that. [You think about it] in terms of being able to let him [Sky] go and the growth that he’s had as a character in the development of it. These moments were needed. A lot of these magical realism moments were and are needed and not necessarily just thrown in there just because they were dope.”
The first season of the show also left a big question mark in regards to the fate of Seren (Nathaniel Logan McIntyre) who, with the assistance of David and Mx. Elijah, left his abusive home. Adderley assured us that there would be more of Seren in a potential second season of the show. “Seren is definitely not off the canvas, from what I know,” he said. “Tarell has a beautiful mind so he’ll have to give some direct information on all the ways he imagined things. But I definitely know that one thing we talked about is that Seren isn’t off the canvas, and we’ll just say it like that.”
He continued, “It [Season 1] was about solving those things that happened throughout the course of this 10-hour film. We got answers on a lot of different fronts that we needed in order for us to be like, ‘OK, cool. I’m all right with this portion of the story. I’m alright with this film being wrapped up in this way.’ However, it’s just like when you watch a really, really good movie that has multiple parts to it, you’re like, ‘Ah, here we go. Now, this next part.’ Because realistically it’s like, okay, David Makes Man, but what happens when David becomes a man?”
For Adderley, the biggest theme of the season was healing. “I think that is the main thing is that [the show] is talking about, that healing, talking about where and when things happen in our lives, even from the earliest moments that we don’t tend to know. We tend to live our lives and question and try to go back and dissect and investigate those things and try to make sure that we haven’t just packed something away that is essentially still eating away at us. We talked a lot in the writers’ room about how trauma and things like anxiety move your heart. They move your heart and make your heart work so much more. It’s like those things are triggered in a situation in which you’re being chased by a bear. But what happens when you’re not being chased by a bear, but your heart still believes that you are? It’s about these moments and how they affect you and can ultimately end up making your life go a lot faster. It’s that healing and that understanding. That we need to make those investments, we need to do that investigating and find the healing for ourselves rather than just trying to pack it away because it’ll, I mean, essentially it’ll eat at your life. That’s what drew me to the story in general, tying it into South Florida and being from Miami myself. I was like, ‘Yo, I can relate to this in so many different ways.’ In the writers’ room, we talked about it often, how we are David in some way, shape or form. We’ve all dealt with some of the things that are throughout the script. It’s just one of those stories that you hold dear to your heart because you find that as you’re writing it or as you’re discussing it, you’re discovering things about yourself. And I think those are some of the most beautiful stories to tell, where you can discover some things about yourself on the page and realize, ‘Yo, like here it is..like this is the start of my healing process.'”
You can watch the first season of David Makes Man now via OWN on-demand.
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