Entertainment

Everything We Know About HBO's 'Lovecraft Country'

Misha Green helms and Jordan Peele produces the highly anticipated new series.

lovecraft country
HBO

On June 3, in the midst of ongoing national protests demanding justice for the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless other Black Americans at the hands of police, HBO released the second teaser for its upcoming series Lovecraft Country. The timing of the drop was pointed. As people in all 50 states (and many countries) rose up in support of Black Lives Matter and against systemic racism and a police force that has persistently targeted Black Americans, the footage teased a story where the monsters of white supremacy and the monsters of Lovecraftian fiction work in tandem. The series is easily one of the most anticipated offerings from the network. Here's what you need to know about it. 

What is Lovecraft Country?

The series is based on a novel of the same name by Matt Ruff that was published in 2016. It takes place in the 1950s and centers on Atticus Black, a Black veteran of the Korean War, who loves science fiction stories by the likes of Ray Bradbury and the book's namesake H.P. Lovecraft, despite the latter's overt textual racism. Atticus gets a letter from his father that says: "You have a sacred, a secret, legacy, a birthright that has been kept for you." His father asks him to come with him to his mother's ancestral home, a place known as Lovecraft Country, which they discover is located in Massachusetts in Ardham -- just a letter away from "Arkham," the setting of some of Lovecraft's works. 

Who is behind the show? 

The marquee name here is Jordan Peele, and Lovecraft Country's melding of real and invented horrors put it perfectly in his wheelhouse. But Peele isn't the day-to-day presence guiding the storytelling on set: That would be showrunner Misha Green, who developed the project. Green is best known for her work on WGN's Underground, focused on the Underground Railroad. Peele has his name on two upcoming projects, this and Candyman, both helmed by Black women, Green and Nia DaCosta. J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot is also producing Lovecraft Country.

Who stars in Lovecraft Country

Adult Atticus, the lead on the show, is Jonathan Majors, who gave an incredible performance in last year's underratedThe Last Black Man in San Francisco, one of the best movies of the year. He also stars in Spike Lee's upcoming Netflix film, Da 5 Bloods. Atticus' uncle George is played by the legendary Courtney B. Vance, while The Wire and Boardwalk Empire's Michael K. Williams portrays his father Montrose. Underground's Jurnee Smollett-Bell, most recently of Birds of Prey, is back collaborating with Green as Atticus' friend Letitia Dandrige. Abbey Lee of Mad Max: Fury Road and Tony Goldwyn of Scandal will play the racist antagonists the Braithwaites. 

When does it premiere? 

August 16. 

What other historical themes does Lovecraft Country riff on? 

In the novel, Atticus' uncle George is the author of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, a fictionalized version of the The Negro Motorist Green Book, which allowed Black people to know which towns and businesses were safe to stop in during the Jim Crow era. The area where "Lovecraft Country" supposedly exists is described early in the book as a "sundown county," an expansion of a "sundown town," where white residents used violence and terror to keep Black people away, especially at night. 

How does this relate to H.P. Lovecraft? 

Lovecraft is one of the foundational figures in horror writing, known for "cosmic horror." His influence has been felt through the decades. Sprinklings of Lovecraft can be found in the works of Guillermo Del Toro and Neil Gaiman. There was just recently an adaptation of his short story The Colour Out of Space. He was also a known racist, anti-Semite, and white supremacist, and in recent years, writers have tried to reckon with his legacy: The creations that inspired future "weird fiction" artists and the beliefs that make him repugnant. Lovecraft Country deliberately melds these two ideas. 

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Esther Zuckerman is a senior entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @ezwrites.