The cast of new Hulu show ‘Woke’ talks Blackness and success

A new Hulu show explores what happens when a Black artist develops a social conscience

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Being ‘woke’ is basically a Black right of passage. Woke is a consciousness, a third eye open experience where you’re able to see social and racial injustices mainly because it’s your experience in the world. Being woke is about having fun; it’s about seeing the world for what it is. And once you are woke, it’s impossible to sleep peacefully, or ignorantly, again. 

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Woke is also a new show on Hulu starring comedians Lamorne Morris, Sasheer Zamata and T. Murph. Morris’ character Keef Knight (inspired by real-life artist Keith Knight) suddenly and vibrantly wakes up.

As a Black cartoonist, Knight’s spent most of his life trying to keep things “light” by avoiding the heavy stuff most Black folks carry around on a daily. It works for him for a long time, until a racially-charged incident changes his perspective.

After Knight is manhandled by police as a result of mistaken identity he realizes that no matter how much he wants to be seen as just a man, the world perceives him as a Black man first.

Knight’s mindset changes and so do the cartoons that he draws. In this part fantastical, part way-too-real comedy series, we’re allowed to explore the weight of being woke.

Since we’re all still sheltering in place and socially distancing, Hulu invited theGrio’s Danielle Young to a virtual press junket, where she asked the cast to share stories of their own racial awakenings. 

Though Morris is used to being the only Black person in various spaces, he told theGrio about a time when he was playing the lead singer in a band. He was the only Black person in the room and the director kept telling him, and him only, to smile. “Let’s see those teeth,” the director said, though his fellow actors weren’t made to do the same.

“As soon as I walked off, I started crying,” Morris shared. “Oh, they want me to smile because it’s less threatening when I smile.”

“A time, you say?” comedian T. Murph jokes. Growing up, he says he spent a significant amount of time in private school and when he returned to public school, he realized that he talked differently and it was an issue for the public school kids.

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Zamata says it was the back to back murders of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in July of 2016 that made her recognize how important social justice efforts were and would continue to be.

“I was already feeling angry,” Zamata says. “Because we had a litany of deaths before that. I heard this quote that once you know a new thing, you can never go back to the person you were before.”

As becomes apparent on the show, Knight most certainly cannot go back once he becomes woke though he has no idea how to handle the awakening and it starts impacting his life and career. Woke debuted this week and all episodes are now available on Hulu.

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