Jurnee Smollett talks to FanSided about her character Letitia in HBO’s Lovecraft Country.
We can find heroes in the most unlikely places, and they don’t always have to be wearing tights and a cape. HBO’s Lovecraft Country isn’t the type to be about traditional superheroes and villains, but the world within it surely does set up those tropes.
In this series full of horror, mystery, and lots of racism (as a result of it taking place in Jim Crow America), heroes have to emerge in the fight against scary creatures and even scarier racists. That’s where Letitia Lewis comes in, played by long-time actress Jurnee Smollett. In the series, Letitia is the friend of Atticus Freeman (Jonathan Majors), who most of the story revolves around. After Atticus finds out that his father has left to a mysterious place in Massachusetts, Letitia joins Atticus on his road trip along with his Uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) — and things get absolutely wild from there.
Before the show’s Aug. 16 premiere, FanSided caught up with the cast of Lovecraft Country and showrunner Misha Green via Zoom roundtables, including Jurnee Smollett — who was absolutely thrilled to join the show and bring the character known as “Leti” to life. Letitia, as are most of the characters, comes straight from the book Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff. And Smollett spoke on how the character transformed from page to screen.
Leti is a character, like most good heroes, who’s both strong and vulnerable. Of course, not everyone can be Superman, so it takes a little vulnerability and weakness to create down-to-Earth, relatable characters.
“It’s interesting because I remember in passing, Misha saying… it’s very intentional to lean in further to Leti’s contradictions, further than what is even explored in the book,” Smollett says. “You know, wanting to explore this woman who is flawed, who has this reputation for being a tornado when she comes in town. Who’s a wanderer who’s a drifter. Who’s traveled a lot. And through her travels, through her reading, through her love of science fiction and being the only female member of the South Side science fiction club.”
Leti surely is a fiery character who brings a lot to the table. And every moment of the series challenges her to face any fears she may come across so that she can learn and bounce back from it. But at the same time, Smollett describes her as a dreamer and as someone who can do everything that boys can do — most times, even better — all while dealing with the climate of 1950s America.
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“Her imagination has opened up into different possibilities,” she explains. “And she rejects the feminine as it was defined in 1955. But you got to remember she’s female and black. So she’s fighting against the patriarchy and white supremacy! Okay? They won’t let her drive because she’s a girl. Come on. She’s the best driver there!”
At the same time, Leti also faces healing the childhood trauma from a mother who wasn’t there. And that gets explored through her relationship as she confides in Atticus and tries to mend relationships with her siblings — including her sister Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku), who’s dealing with her own issues to sort out as well.
For the actress, just having to tap into those emotions of someone who was abandoned as a child and learning to deal with them as an adult was a challenge. She says: “You know, this role requires that I go to places and do things that I’d never done or access emotions or dark places in my life that I was trying to kind of keep shut off. You had to bring something to the altar. You did. You have to sacrifice a lot being a part of Lovecraft.”
Despite some of the challenges that come with flexing your acting muscles in Lovecraft Country, Smollett was nothing short of excited to be part of the cast. And to hear more stories from the cast of Lovecraft Country, keep up with FanSided Entertainment ahead of episode 2’s release on Aug. 23.
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