Justin Simien Interview: ‘Dear White People’ creator
“Dear White People” creator Justin Simien feels that some of the vitriolic responses to the show when season one premiered in 2017 were “a direct response to [Donald Trump‘s election] win, and it illuminated for me an urgency about these issues.” So going into production on season two, “I felt like more people were ready to engage and talk about what was really going on.” In that way the Trump presidency “turned up the heat” on the show, motivating Simien to dive in deeper to “diagnose why we’re having so much trouble trying to talk about race.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Simien above.
But while Trumpism hangs like an orange cloud over fictional Winchester University where the series is set, Trump himself is seldom mentioned. “I’m tired of saying the same things about him over and over again. I feel like that’s how he won in the first place,” Simien explains. “My philosophy was, if we don’t have anything new to say about him, then let’s not talk about him. Let’s talk about the conditions that brought him about.”
Many of those conditions are historical, so while further exploring the lives of Winchester’s students Simien also flashed back to the history of the university itself, and by extension the history of America. “We’re taught about slavery and its abolition and the reformation period as if these things happened one day and now it’s over,” he says, but “we never really put the country back together.”
But Simien doesn’t just want to look back, he also wants to look forward. The story up to this point — from the 2014 feature film to the two seasons of the series — has covered a period of only a few months. So if Netflix renews the show for a third season he would like “to bring us a little further into the future.” So the next season of “Dear White People” could bring us to the next semester at Winchester.