School is back in session
What do you do after a revolution fails? That’s the question facing Sam (Logan Browning) and the other Winchester University students when Netflix’s sharp satire Dear White People picks up for season 2.
“The aftermath of their failed protest is where we’re at,” creator Justin Simien tells EW. “It has repercussions for our characters that I don’t think anyone could’ve predicted.”
But there’s one thing Simien says is safe to predict: This season won’t be a repeat of the first one. “We think it’s funnier than last season, but it’s also a bit of a mystery,” he says. “There are a lot of secrets to uncover.”
To help you prepare for the new season, EW spoke to Simien and Browning about what you can expect from season 2.
Samantha White (Logan Browning)
Sam is having a hard time in the wake of the failed protest that ended season 1.
“Sam is reeling from the effects of being seen as the Antichrist,” Browning tells EW. “People see her as the reason for all the chaos on campus. She’s basically being blamed for everything going wrong. She’s feeling it from the people around her, and she’s dealing with an online bully who’s targeting her. She’s also dealing with losing Gabe [John Patrick Amedori], the one thing she had that was her refuge from the movement, which has kind of turned on her, and she’s really alone.”
All this has left Sam unsure of what to do next, especially when it comes to her radio show, Dear White People. Says Browning, “I think that she’s having a tough time knowing what to say because she realizes even more how her words really radicalize the campus, and she doesn’t know what to say anymore. Every time she tries to help, things go wrong. But she’s still an activist. She still wants to make a difference. She’s just trying to figure out what direction to go in.”
Reggie Green (Marque Richardson)
In the fifth episode of season 1, a campus security guard pulled a gun on Reggie at a party, and you can be sure Reggie is still processing that traumatic experience when the new season begins.
“He’s where a lot of black people are in America, sadly, quietly coping with the PTSD of racism so he doesn’t fall behind in this dog-eat-dog world,” says Simien. “Often so many of us, people of color, experience trauma in big ways and small ways, and they just kind of add up. We don’t have the luxury sometimes to really do a deep dive into all of the things affecting our psyche. The world isn’t terribly that interested, to be honest with you. The world at large isn’t interested in knowing, which is unfortunate, but you can see it. The world isn’t interested in knowing why being a black woman is different than just being a woman, and why being a black man is different. We go into that with Reggie.”
Troy Fairbanks (Brandon P. Bell)
The first season ended with Troy throwing a brick through the window of a campus building, shattering his golden-boy persona in the process. In season 2, he’ll be picking up the pieces of his identity.
“Troy’s gotta figure out who Troy is,” says Simien. “He goes on a real, actual spiritual journey this season to figure out who he even wants to be now that he’s publicly broken open this image of who he’s been.”
Lionel Higgins (DeRon Horton)
“With Lionel [pictured on the right], we see him continuing to step into a new world, both personally in terms of his sexuality and exploring that in the world of Winchester, and also professionally in terms of this is an Ivy League, so you can’t just kind of mope around being undecided,” says Simien. “You gotta know what you are, who you are, what your career is going to be, ASAP. So Lionel is kind of taking those steps of discovery into areas that he’s never had to go into before.”
Simien adds: “Brook and Lionel’s rivalry continues and leads to a few surprises.”
Joelle Brooks (Ashley Blaine Featherson)
“Joelle is out here in these streets being black, brilliant, and beautiful but wondering why some of these dudes can’t seem to keep pace,” says Simien. “She’s still got her eye on Reggie, but in the wake of things between Reggie and Sam, she’s also not about to be anyone’s second choice.”
A story of sisterhood
Browning’s fondest memory of shooting the season was the sisterhood storyline that developed between Sam, Joelle, and CoCo (Antoinette Robertson).
Says Browning: “Sam’s storyline is not light by any means, but what I did very much enjoy about the season was the sisterhood storyline throughout. I loved doing scenes with my amazing costars because it’s real bonding. I’m happy that we’ve time-capsuled some amazing relationships. Similar to real life, when things can go wrong, if you have good friends and, especially as a woman, good girlfriends, it allows you to enjoy more and not worry about so much. We need that bond as women, and as black women.”
Grappling with the past
The adjacent image is from one of season 2’s many vignettes that dives into Winchester’s probelmatic history, which ties to Simien’s interest in exploring the past and how it affects our present.
“This season is really about the unconscious,” Simien says. “It’s about the things that we don’t know. It’s about the things we have forced ourselves to forget.”
He continues: “The reason why we’re so surprised when we see how racist we are as a country is that we keep forgetting what this country is and how it was founded and how it works. Similarly, in our personal lives, things that are inconvenient to us we just stuff in the back of our minds in our unconsciousness, and we can’t fully deal with the problems of the present until we explore the stuff that we’ve forgotten and the stuff that we don’t know. All of the characters are dealing with that in their personal lives, but there’s also a plot that goes across all of the different characters’ lives that is also dealing with the past and the things we’d rather forget, doing the difficult journey of digging through the muck and figuring out what you missed, because clearly we’ve missed something. We’re all trying to figure out how to get out of this moment, how to talk to each other better, how to get past this thing called race, and how to get past prejudice and bigotry.”
Dear White People premieres Friday, May 4, on Netflix.