Jonathan Majors reflects on his post-cancellation Emmy nomination for Lovecraft Country
Lovecraft Country (TV series)
See, the 31-year-old actor has been living in a state of limbo with the supernatural HBO drama, which followed Atticus and his family as they fought both real and imagined monsters in the 1950s. The season 1 finale, which aired in October, ended with Atticus' death, and while Majors had made peace with it, he still spent the proceeding months waiting to find out if he would be back in a potential second season. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed in early July when news broke that the network passed on renewing the Misha Green-produced show. Thus, Majors believed his Lovecraft journey was truly over. But then, almost two weeks later, he was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series, which was one of 14 nods the show earned.
"By the time I got to metabolize the end of it, this happens," said Majors in an interview with EW a day after his surprise appearance on Disney+'s Loki. "When I got word [of the nomination], it was like, 'Can that even happen?'"
Below, Majors opens up about his Emmy nod and looks back on his Lovecraft journey.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did it feel to get nominated after learning Lovecraft Country was canceled?
JONATHAN MAJORS: I was in a strange situation because I had no assurance that Atticus was even going to be in a potential season 2. I had made peace with not being with my Lovecraft family again. [So being nominated] is a Lovecraft-ian situation, to be living two realms with it. But all in all, I'm most excited the work is being seen and appreciated and honored with the nominations, not just mine but everyone else's.
Misha shared a photo of the bible for season 2, which listed Atticus. Had there been any discussions about you returning in a potential season 2?
There's always chat. There were iterations of the end of the first season, in which the tag was Atticus coming back [to life]. [But] we changed that. For me, that was heartbreaking. And then, so I've metabolized this, the ending, the death of Atticus, a few times. We [also] had a chat over dinner once — actually me, her, and Jurnee [Smollett] — and it was a bit of a what-if situation, but none of the details were really discussed. But yeah, of course, there were whispers here and there on both ends, so I kind of stayed in limbo with it.
Did you actually shoot that tag or was that just a draft?
It was a draft. The first draft that I got, it was there. And then when we came back in, well, you get rewrites, and there weren't many rewrites, except for that tag was not there. So I was like, "Oh s---."
When you look back on season 1, what are you most proud of?
Artistically, [learning] what my instrument [can] do when you have to perform in these very high-stakes situations and then grounding all of that in the day-to-day. Lovecraft Country was the greatest jungle gym for my imagination — and for my approach to the craft of acting — that I think I've ever experienced. Lovecraft Country really gave me the confidence and ability to kind of move forward in the industry.
For you, what was the key to grounding Atticus amid all of the supernatural chaos he was facing?
The things I latched on to were Courtney B. Vance, Jurnee Smollett, Jada [Harris], Aunjanue Ellis, Abbey Lee, Jamie Chung, and Wunmi Mosaku. That's how you lead an ensemble. You have to pay attention to the people you're with, and they ground you. And then there's the element of, "Okay, what am I here to do?" With every character, you have an opportunity to show, to tell a secret. What was the secret I was trying to tell with Atticus? What is a hero? That's [what] I was wrestling with.
I think my super objective for Atticus was, here is a flesh and blood human being that loves, hurts, fights, and has so much nobility and dignity and rage and love inside of him. And he is a Black man. He is living in this Americanized patriarchal world and is capable of surviving and thriving in it. And that gives hope, Atticus is hope. Atticus is a character that we meet in the dark, and he moves all the way through it and becomes completely reborn, multiple times throughout the series.
Which episode are you thinking about submitting for the award consideration?
I really love episode 6, but I love it for me. Atticus is one of my best friends, and I love it for the part of him I get to see in that. And yet, I think the pilot might be the place to go. But then there's episode 2, which has one of the most heartbreaking parts of the whole series.
Why were you waffling between episodes 1 and 6?
I think in the pilot we see the beginnings of every element of Atticus. It's all there. And then the part that we don't get to really dive into throughout the rest of the piece is episode 6 because my take on it is as follows: No one knows Atticus, everybody knows Tic. So Tic is in episode 6. That's what we see. And so the audience and Uncle George and Aunt Hippolyta, they are now witnessing Atticus [in the pilot]. They still call them Tic, but this is Atticus. That's what he calls himself with the other woman at the bus station. "What's your name?" "Atticus." And that's like the birth of him. He's just starting this journey.