A version of this story about “Lovecraft Country” star Jonathan Majors first appeared in the December issue of TheWrap magazine.
HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” threw viewers for a loop (spoiler ahead!) when the Misha Green-created horror-drama series killed off its lead character, Atticus “Tic” Freeman (played by Jonathan Majors), in the final episode of its first season. That death was also a gut-punch moment for Majors himself, who didn’t know the protagonist was going to die until well into shooting the season.
“It was kind of two-sided because I had done films, for the most part, before being in the show,” said Majors, whose movies include “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” and Spike Lee’s recent “Da 5 Bloods.” “So I thought, ‘OK, he dies. All right.’ But then my mind went, ‘Wait, this is a TV show! I signed up for X amount of years!’ But once all that ego settled down, I realized, he traveled a very long way to get to where he was and he has been changed so much over the course of those 10 hours.”
Majors is correct. The 10-episode first season of “Lovecraft Country,” which is based on Matt Ruff’s book of the same name, follows Tic, a Black man who travels across the United States in the Jim Crow-era 1950s searching for his missing father, played by Michael K. Williams, and falling in love with his childhood friend, Leti (Jurnee Smollett). At the same time, he’s battling the dark, ancient magic of white brotherhood and supernatural entities inspired by the works of author H.P. Lovecraft.
The Season 1 story reaches its climax when the powerful white sorceress Christina (Abbey Lee Kershaw) uses a ritual sacrifice to kill Atticus to harness his magic and become immortal. Shooting the scene was not a physically comfortable experience for Majors, but he was more than OK with that. “Anybody that knows me will tell you that I don’t mind being uncomfortable,” he said. “I think the best stuff happens when you’re in that state. And it’s the poetry of that moment, that there’s a man literally sacrificing himself.”
Majors notes that this actually was about Atticus sacrificing himself, not Christina murdering him. Atticus makes the choice to allow Christina to do this in order to protect his family member, including his unborn son growing inside Leti, who are there to watch him die.
“If no one else in the Freeman family was around, that moment would be a capture and murder, and Atticus would just be a dead man,” he said. “Because of the ceremony of it, because the family was there, because he willingly went there, it is a ceremony of clarity and of strength. And so Atticus doesn’t end as a murdered Black man, he ends as a martyr. And essentially, he is now the edge of the spear for his family and for the next chapter of their legacy.
“And Christina killing the Black man, that’s not new,” the actor said. “It’s actually quite sad because she’s fighting for something that she never had. These are two groups fighting against a patriarchy, in this case a magical patriarchy. So you have these two marginalized groups fighting for what they think is a way out. And it actually is a way out, but of course war can happen in that and that’s what we’re witnessing.”
Majors was “quite proud” of how his “Lovecraft Country” character dies, though he said, “It’s not over till it’s over” and “we’ll see what happens” in potential future seasons. “For me, it was a sense of calm and a real sense of peace. And I thought, that’s how he’s got to go out. The entire time, he has to be working for peace and to find calm within himself, to be resolute about what he’s going to do. And so when he meets his end, it was him achieving his objective. He’s a soldier. He had reached the end of his mission and was surrounded by the people he loved.”
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