The second day of the Sundance Film Festival served up a major treat, compliments of Oscar-winning writer, Tarell Alvin McCraney and his upcoming OWN series, David Makes Man. The show’s executive producer, Michael B. Jordan sat down with the cast and creators during the “Clips and Conversations” event hosted by The Blackhouse Foundation on Friday afternoon.
Although the star-studded crowd (we spotted Storm Reid, David Oyelowo, and Kelly Price among others) was a bit disappointed that the panel’s moderator, Oprah Winfrey was unable to attend due to illness, they all sat in awe as they previewed clips from the stirring drama that’s sure to make a major impact.
The highly-anticipated series is about a 14-year-old prodigy from the projects who is haunted by the death of his closest friend and relied on by his hardworking mother to find a way out of poverty. He must choose between the streets that raised him or the higher education that may offer him a way out. Set in South Florida, the series is inspired by events in McCraney’s own life and explores childhood trauma and the power of imagination to survive.
Panelists included Tarell Alvin McCraney, Michael B. Jordan, Dee Harris-Lawrence (showrunner/EP), and cast members Akili McDowell, Alana Arenas, and Phylicia Rashad.
Rashad spoke about her role as David’s teacher, Dr. Woods-Trap.
“She is a composite of every wonderful teacher I’ve ever had and I’ve had some very good ones,” Rashad said. “These were people who were in the classroom because there was no place else they wanted to be. They were very committed to our excellence and they insisted upon it,” she said.
“There is so much in David Makes Man. The clips you’re seeing now is just a taste. There’s an entire banquet. Not a meal; a banquet.”
McCraney explained that the series was inspired by his own experience as a “gifted” student who was forced to confront the duality of his existence at a young age.
“There’s a program called the “Gifted Program” where they bus you out of your neighborhood to a school that’s probably mostly white, and you’re the only, or one of two, and you’re in that educational process and while you’re there you also pick up some other skills. Some of them are called self hate because you’re the only one there,” he explained.
“Your education is telling you to learn things that will help you get away from where you come from or where you go home at night. I remember having these mixed feelings. I remember learning double-consciousness…I really wanted to explore the choices we make about who we are when we cross one line and who we return back to being when we come home.”
I have to use my own humanity. There’s a lot of me in David.