Inside the powerful, transformative 2nd episode of David Makes Man season 2
"That's when everything changed for David," says showrunner Dee Harris-Lawrence.
David made it to Hurston, and his time there was life-changing.
While David Makes Man jumps forward decades in season 2, the second episode of creator Tarell Alvin McCraney's acclaimed OWN series (airing Tuesday, June 29) revisits young David (Akili McDowell) to explore his time at the prestigious high school he dreamed of attending. After opening up to students during his second academic year, he has a traumatic event at the school pool that changes him forever.
"It shows you where he stopped living, where he turned himself off, where he left his younger self," showrunner Dee Harris-Lawrence says. David cannot swim very well, but when he cramps up and falls to the bottom of the pool he feels helpless, betrayed, and terrified. "That's when everything changed for David."
EW spoke to Harris-Lawrence about the time jump, how Hurston transformed David, and the stakes of season 2.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was behind the decision to jump ahead in time in the second season?
DEE HARRIS-LAWRENCE: That was something that even in the first season Tarell had discussed regarding David's arc. He was interested in going forward from David at 15 to the David who has led this whole life, gotten into Hurston, and done everything to keep his brother (Cayden K. Williams) out of trouble.
What does it do to a young man as you go forward in life in your 30s when you don't deal with the trauma that you've been through? Especially when other people in your life have moved on, but in the present you're still using the same tools you did in your youth? You could either still choose those instincts that helped you survive, even though they're outdated and you don't need them anymore, or you can find a way, go through therapy, and try to drill down on how to truly live instead of just survive.
How would you say Hurston impacted David?
The second episode [shows] you where he stopped living, where he turned himself off, where he left his younger self — in that pool. That's when everything changed for David. He's like, "I'm always gonna stay ready and never gonna let anybody come at me that way." He turned that stuff off and left his younger self there, but now [in his 30s] it's catching up to him. So it was important to show that [moment] in its entirety instead of flashing back to moments.
It impacted him a lot. It was the first time he let his guard down. He finally got into the school and found friends in his second year — the first year he stayed to himself. But being a Black boy in this world, in this private-school world where they think they can say anything and throw out the N-word, it starts to eat at David, so he starts to react the ways he used to when he was in the neighborhood.
But when his friend Luis [Julian Anthony Martinez] turns on him, and then later in the pool [his friends] leave him behind [after he loses the race], it reiterates for him that he can only rely on [himself]. As he goes forward, he thinks he's going to get out of there and best everybody and become successful, but he forgets to learn how to live. Later on, you'll see where someone asks him where his friends are, trying to understand how he went through life without any. It was based on that moment in time. He has to go back to that moment to figure out how to go forward.
We see some of David's romantic life in season 2. How well will viewers get to know Nicole?
The great thing about this season is the exploration of the women in David's life. Gloria, Nicole, Shella, and Marissa from Galvin Middle School will also be coming back into the picture. You'll have all these different women that have been in David's life when he was young and then Nicole [Brittany S. Hall] specifically, the woman in his life now. You'll see how they are with him and how they try to pull him out — because they see who he is and what he is capable of being.
It was nice to see Marissa in the flashback. Why was she the right character to include in the story of David's time at Hurston?
That will play out. It was important to show that they still have that connection of Seren [Nathaniel Logan McIntyre]. What is great is Marissa [Lindsey Blackwell] is a mirrored version of David in a way. Her competitiveness is fierce, and at the same time she knows she's better than all of them, but they have a tendency to focus on the boys. She's also a woman of color in a majority white school, so she has to work just as hard [as David]. She in turn has created her own persona. So I can't wait for everybody to see who Marissa is as she grows up.
Seren is an important character to David and is mentioned in a conversation about Gloria fostering. What is that character's legacy, and can we expect to return to that storyline this season?
Yes, all that will be answered in the season. Though we go forward in time, you will have your answers. For the most part, everybody that was in the first season will come up at some point in season 2.
Gloria [Alana Arenas] fosters kids with her partner, Robin [ Bobbi Baker], and that was a direct reaction to her time with Seren, being able to be there for kids. Seren's presence and his relationships with them when he was younger and how he affected them reverberates throughout the season — you see how things play out through the season. He had a major impact on a lot of the characters back then.
What are the major stakes this season?
David learning who he is, and not in an esoteric way. It's going to play out a lot, and you'll see who he is going forward. A major thing we wanted to show is that most people think of mental health as a luxury, whereas really taking care of your mental health and your self-care is just as important as your physical health.
Black people are often mostly surviving, not just living. It's about trying to get David to take the opportunity because he had that chance when he was a kid speaking with a counselor. Now it's about, does he take that to heart and really drill down? He's not going to be able to go forward unless he does because [his relationships] are going to start to disintegrate.
What can you share about the new characters in season 2?
I get so excited about the older versions [of the characters]. You see the younger versions, which you very rarely get to see on television, and we did a bold thing for the second season. It's so exciting to see the older versions of the characters from the Ville, but Trenise [Trinity Cidel] is a great character. You realize in that first episode that [she and David] are similar. You'll see just how similar they are going forward. She really becomes the catalyst for a lot throughout the season.
I'm excited for people get to know Nicole. Brittany did such a great job playing David's love interest. And I'm excited about Shella [Zsane Jhe] because everybody just saw her as the little kid that's always there. Now she's a full-fledged young woman who has created this whole world for herself, and she's going to be somebody that David has to really deal with, which is great.
Before the flashback pool episode, in the first episode of season 2, we leave adult JG in the hospital after he's shot. What happens next?
You will get your answers about what happens to JG [Arlen Escarpeta] and the impact it has on David.
David Makes Man airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.