Jonathan Majors breaks down Atticus' fate in the Lovecraft Country finale
Lovecraft Country came full circle in its season 1 finale.
In the HBO horror show's second episode, Atticus (Jonathan Majors) was strung up and used as a sacrificial lamb in a Son of Adam ritual — and that's where he found himself once again in the season-ender, "Full Circle." Unfortunately, though, he wasn't as lucky this time around because Christina's (Abbey Lee) immortality spell did indeed kill him, like the Book of Names said it would. And according to Majors, he's actually dead.
If there's one bright spot to come out of this tragedy, it's that Christina's immortality didn't last for long. Leti (Jurnee Smollett) used a spell created by Atticus' ancestor Hannah to take magic away from every white person in the world. "Magic is ours now," said Leti to Christina, who was trapped under some rubble. Then in the final moment of the episode, Diana (Jada Harris), with her pet shoggoths in tow, killed Christina using the fancy new mechanical arm her mom Hippolyta (Aunjanue Ellis) gave her.
Below, EW chats with Majors, the show's fallen hero, about Atticus' fate, the finale's musical interlude, and more.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How dead is Atticus right now? Is he really dead?
JONATHAN MAJORS: He’s dead. Yeah, he’s dead.
Did you know this is where the story was heading when you signed on?
No, I didn’t. But when I got [the script for] episode 10, we’d already been shooting for five months — we only shot for seven months — so it hit me mid-stride. I was like, “Oh…ok then…This is how it’s going to go.” So, this is a bit of a surprise to me, as it was to the audience.
How did you feel when you found out Atticus was going to die?
I was a bit heartbroken. I thought, “Aw man! Okay cool.” That reminded me of one of the things I really thought of early on playing Atticus: What is a hero? And the hero is he or she who allows their heart to break. So, I thought that’s the way it should be. It is the most organic ending to Atticus in a way. It’s interesting because I remember I thought while shooting it, “This is the episode where he’s at peace for the first time.” He’s tormented this entire time by this impending doom, this idea of death.
But yeah, it shook me up, and all of that kind of evaporated when we began shooting it because I thought, “This is the way it has to go,” because it’s all in there. At least I have a line that says, “I don’t want to die, mama,” and she says, “It is what you have to do. It is your position because of fate, because of our legacy, because of our family.” And he passes it on. It’s living in Leti. It’s living in baby George, potentially. Then, I task my father [Michael K. Williams] with it — of how to live better and don’t make the same mistakes we did. So he lives on, like all people do, through other people.
So you found this episode pretty satisfying then?
Yeah, from Atticus’ perspective, absolutely. Me, the actor, I go, “Aw man, f---!” [Laughs]. But it’s all good.
While you were shooting this episode or reading the script, was there a moment where you realized that Atticus was at peace?
In the shooting of it, I think it was the scene with his mother and she breaks it down. It’s the only time he fights it with language. He says, “There has to be another way. I don’t want to die.” Only someone from the spiritual realm can understand death and understand that and what he’s feeling. The way she broke it down, I think he understood and took that as his charge. That doesn’t mean he wasn’t nervous about it.
You know the scene in church where he’s antsy? It’s weird because I’m a man of faith — I believe in all types of things — but Atticus is not. Atticus is a humanist. He believes in people. He believes that he can do it. It’s not that he’s against a god, but it’s just that he doesn’t have a relationship to that, which is a very interesting thing. So when he’s in that church, I remember working that scene and [thinking], “I wish Leti would just say, ‘I got this.’ Like I can trust in you more than I can trust in this other thing that I’m unfamiliar with.” But the scene with his mother is when it really gets clear.
Being a man of faith, did you find it challenging to understand Atticus’ lack of faith?
I feel as a person of faith I can easily understand the other way, because there are times — just think about the time right now — [when you wonder] “Where is God? Where is my God?” You can feel that. Then after a while, there’s also times in your life when you’re moving so fast that you’re not really thinking [or] connected to wherever you got your faith from, so it’s missing you. And it’s in those moments where you do end up feeling a bit untethered. When we say faith, I’m not speaking of a Christian God or Islam, or anything like that. It could be the universe. When you get detached from something like that, you feel lonely. I think that’s one of the things with Atticus: He is a loner by nature. But also because of his loneliness, he does believe in the family more than anything else because that’s the one thing that makes sense to him.
Speaking of family: I thought the scene in which the whole gang sings The Chords’ “Sh’boom” while on the way to Ardham was rather delightful. Was that as fun to shoot as it looked?
It was probably more fun. It’s funny, I just spoke to Jurnee because she saw it yesterday [at] a drive-in [screening] in Los Angeles and we were both talking about that scene. For me, that’s the most human scene. We’re not dealing with magic or anything; we’re actually dealing with human connection. I remember saying, “Uncle George is here,” during that scene because we’re in Woody. It’s quite beautiful.
But it was surprising for us, too, and very much needed because we shot 10 straight through. We weren’t doing any overlaps [with other episodes]. So that was the world we were in for two-plus weeks. You get to see another part of Atticus in that way, too. You get to see another part of everybody in that moment, because they know the song. They aren’t just humming along.
Shortly after that, we get to the ritual scene. How did it feel to be strung up for that entire sequence?
Man, all types of religious and social and political spirits were in that space. It was such a bizarre and strange thing. I didn’t come off it. I stayed on as much as possible. If they had to move it and couldn’t do it with me on it, I would get up respectfully, but other than that I stayed. I really wanted to stay in that moment, in the vulnerability of that moment with your entire body stretched out. The thing about Atticus is that he is so strong, quick, and his brain is incredible. His brain informs his body and he can make things happen, but the feeling of being stuck, being sacrificed, that was a very odd and unique experience — because remember, the thing with the ritual is that he has to willingly go there. So the whole time I kept saying to myself, “Surrender, surrender, surrender.” Then just the ancestral trope of it. You know, Black man up there being taken to all these white people, be it North Africa, America. It’s a very visceral, ancient position to be in.
Did that scene rank among one of the most challenging ones on set?
I would say yes, insofar that you had to let it happen. And that’s always the job: Surrender to the work, surrender to the moment. In that moment, to let all of that come through you was surprising. I remember when I started working on Atticus I thought, “What parts of me will I have to use that I don’t use on the regular?” I thought, “Oh, this reptilian, spiritual darkness is something I’m going to have to reach in and bring to the forefront in playing Atticus.” There in that moment, it was all there and it was battling with the love he has for his family. Yeah, I was vibrating, my body was doing crazy things while I was up there.
It’s also episode 10, like this is it. The athlete in me says, “This is fourth quarter. You gotta let them have it,” whatever that means. And I think we did alright.
The finale ends with Leti declaring that she’s taken magic away from white people. What did that ending mean to you?
Well, we kept trying to put the protection spell on her. That was the whole objective, protection, protection, protection. It just so happens that the adversary in the 10 episodes happened to be white. The things we were experiencing as a family and as a culture coming from these white folks wielding magic, and so the tribalism came all the way out in the violence. What I appreciated about the ending is that we didn’t kill all the white people, you know what I’m saying? We simply took away something they’ve abused in [the show’s] world. The connection to the real world is that we’re all watching, we’re all waiting for November. It’s two white guys, but we’ve yet to see if Mr. Biden will use his power, his magic, for evil. So we kind of put the white folks on probation [on Lovecraft Country]. “That’s enough of that.”
Lovecraft Country hasn’t been renewed for season 2 yet, but if it is, would you want to return if Misha Green called and said she had a way to bring Atticus back? Or have you made peace with it?
Both. I could never have planned to play Atticus Freeman and to be at the helm of this beautiful story. So if the angels that be see fit that I continue in some twist, however they’re going to do it, then that’s what they’ve ordained and that’s what I would do. But I’m very at peace with where it is now. I feel like we’ve really told something great. That said, if they even creak the door open, I’d bang that bitch down to get back into this world and play with this family.
The complete first season of Lovecraft Country is available to stream on HBO and HBO Max.