It’s hard to talk about HBO’s new genre-bending series “Lovecraft Country” without thinking of the controversial, legendary sci-fi/horror author H.P. Lovecraft himself, given the fact his name is, well, baked right into its title. This challenge is not lost on series creator Misha Green, who is well aware of the “blatant racist things” in Lovecraft’s stories.
And to Green, what mattered most when adapting “Lovecraft Country” from Matt Ruff’s novel of the same name into an HBO series was not shying away from the “racist” elements of Lovecraft’s work, but “reclaiming” them.
“I was familiar with Lovecraft, I also was familiar with his history as a person,” Green, who executive produces “Lovecraft Country” alongside J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele, told reporters during a virtual junket Wednesday. “So I had read his stories but I wasn’t bananas like I think that a lot of people get bananas. I was like, they’re good and I can definitely see the influences — but I can definitely read them and see the parts where you’re being racist right there in your own stories. So for me, it was hard to divorce those two things, especially when I can go and read horror that doesn’t have blatant racist things happening right in the text. So I didn’t feel any kind of sacredness to H.P. Lovecraft in that. I was like, ‘Lovecraft Country’ is a dope-ass title though.”
Based on Ruff’s book, “Lovecraft Country” follows Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors) as he journeys with his childhood friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and his uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) on a road trip from Chicago across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of his missing father Montrose (Michael Kenneth Williams). Per HBO’s description, “Their search-and-rescue turns into a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and monstrous creatures that could be ripped from an H.P. Lovecraft paperback.”
Green says she took a cue from what Ruff did in the novel when writing the series, by weaving together Lovecraft’s horror fiction and the realities of racism in a way that appreciates Lovecraft’s work without glorifying it.
“I think it was that thing that Matt was doing that I was really intrigued about, which is this idea of reclaiming it and not saying that we’re going to honor all of your contributions to this genre — and there are many — but we’re going to take that, we’re going to acknowledge who you are as a person, as well, and we’re going to move forward.”
She added: “And how we move forward is acknowledging that, celebrating the good stuff, taking the good stuff and then building on the good stuff. That was exciting to me and why I had no problem doing it — because it was like moving forward.”
“Lovecraft Country” premieres Sunday at 9/8c on HBO.