The show’s finale left us wondering what will happen with Diana Freeman (Jada Harris) and her new pet shoggoth next if the hit series is renewed for a second season. But the actress gave what was perhaps her most striking performance in episode eight “Jig-a-Bobo,” one of the creepiest and most tense installments in the series.
HuffPost spoke with Ihuoma Ofordire, the writer behind the episode, which brings us face-to-face with the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till. She also co-wrote the season finale “Full Circle” with showrunner Misha Green.
Episode 8 may have been the scariest in the series. Explain the thought process behind “Jig-a-Bobo,” starting with the title?
“Jig-a-Bobo” is a play off of jigaboo, a very racist term. And Bobo was Emmett Till’s nickname. We thought bridging those two things together would make for a more thought-provoking title. Episode 8 deals with racial brutality and the horrors of racism through the eyes of children. In the episode, we see how race affects children and how they grow up to be adults.
So we’re witnessing Diana going through her own racial trauma and how that would affect her as she becomes a Black woman in this country. We see how Hippolyta, her mom, assimilated and survived in America by shrinking. Diana is the opposite of that. She decides to fight back.
What was the process behind incorporating Emmett Till’s story into the episode, and the series at large?
With “Lovecraft,” we always make it a point to weave in historical elements as much as possible. Our story aligned perfectly with the time of Emmett Till. Our story takes place in South Side Chicago in the 1950s, and that’s where he grew up. We thought a great way to honor him would be to humanize him and show who he could have been prior to his murder, because whenever we think of Emmett Till, we think about that final image of his body. We never really think about who he was prior to his death.
There’s been this resurgence of Black history in entertainment with films and shows like “Watchmen” and “Lovecraft Country.” Why do you think it’s happening now and why is it important?
With the Black Lives Matter movement taking place across the country and more people waking up to racial injustice and the killings of Black people broadcast everywhere, there’s a veil that’s being lifted. People are demanding change. It just makes perfect sense that these will be the topics and trends that us artists are trying to express and show to the world.
Episode 8 was Misha Green’s directorial debut. What was it like working with her?
Misha is so very detailed. She has a grand vision for her storytelling. You can’t help but to want to be a part of it, expand it and bring your own things to it. It’s a very intense process because we’re dealing with real life things. This is not simply something we just made up. What happened in this fantasy world, it has real elements. It really happened to Black people. Crafting the show was very intense and challenging. It just hit me on a very visceral level to have to sit in that week after week after week — the constant reminder of the horrors that Black people are facing this country.
The episode was inspired by Wes Craven’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” What elements did you pull from that movie for it?
The three girls who are playing double dutch and singing a song was definitely inspired by “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” The long fingernails that Topsy and Bopsy had that are coated in blood, that’s very Freddy Kruger. It’s that old-school horror.
In the episode, we see two giggling girls leaving the store when Dee is alone after leaving the crowd. Was there any significance to that?
For me, the purpose of this scene was to find a way to dramatize Dee’s rage. I’ve seen some of the theories saying ‘Oh, was that Topsy and Bopsy,’ which is a very interesting take because you see these little bread crumbs of haunting that you don’t even realize we’ve weaved throughout. On a writing level, those two girls represented the start of the loss of innocence. You can’t even like have fun anymore because all of these killings and the racial horror is just too much. You can’t even be a child, enjoy ice cream and laugh.
So you all are on Twitter, reading everyone’s tweets?
[Laughs] I do get on Twitter sometimes. I like to read the theories! You guys are really smart. I love how you all are connecting things. Things that we didn’t think anybody would get, people are picking up on it.
Let’s talk about the twins. They stole the episode and didn’t say a word. How did they come to fruition in the script? What do they represent?
So in the actual book, the Dee character is actually a boy in a book. He’s being haunted by a devil doll and inanimate objects are coming to life around him and taunting him. When we adapted it for the TV show, and we made Dee into a girl, Topsy and Bopsy became a play off of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Topsy and Bopsy manifest what society does to little Black girls: gaslight us, ignore us, oversexualize us. When Captain Lancaster cursed Dee, this was a representation of what society does to little Black girls.
That was the whole theme behind these two chasing her. They are designed to get her. I even wrote that in the script, like “Topsy gets Diana just as it was designed to do.” And that is what society does to little Black girls who grow up to be Black women. Society is designed to silence us, designed to ignore us, and to make us feel not valuable in society and ignored. That’s why when Dee was being ignored by all of the adults, we did that purposely. Sometimes when we are adults and we’re dealing with our own issues and societal pressures, we forget about our children. We forget about the things that they may be going through. We can sometimes only focus on us.
In the scene where Dee’s being cursed, she is in a chokehold and says she can’t breathe, drawing comparisons to Eric Garner’s tragic death. Was that on purpose?
That was definitely done on purpose. I remember writing that line. It was just a way to mirror and parallel how these things are still happening. This could have very well have happened in the 1950s, and it wouldn’t even be crazy that this happened.
The Naomi Wadler speech was a powerful moment at the March for Our Lives in 2018. Why did it feel fitting to use in this episode?
It felt fitting because she’s a young Black activist who is standing up, who is demanding change, who’s demanding to be heard, who’s demanding to be seen, who’s saying no more. It’s just perfectly aligned with Diana, who is just like, no more. My best friend was killed. My father was killed, all by racist white people. When she looked at Topsy and challenged her on her bike, it just perfectly matched what Naomi was saying about no more. We will be seen, we will be heard, we will no longer be silenced, we will fight back. So for that to come from a Black child activist and Diana being this child who, eventually in my eyes, is radicalized by the end of the season ... it just fit perfectly.
There was a lot of criticism of the scene where Christina Braithwhite reenacts Emmett Till’s death. Why do you think that part was essential to this episode?
It was essential because a lot of people have seen the body of Emmett Till, but many don’t really know what he went through. We just see the tortured body. But when you start to see viscerally what he went through, it just speaks to you in a different way. We were very adamant about not showing that on a Black body and how fitting it would be to show it on a white woman. It just speaks to white privilege on a deeper level. You can experience what Black people are going through, but then you can go home because you have magic. We just wanted to express what that killing was and put it on a white woman’s body, and not a Black boy’s body.
What language or text inspired the spells used in Episode 8 and the finale?
We had a whole language team, so we just wrote the spells in English and then they went and pulled from various languages. I believe they definitely pulled inspiration from some African languages. The language was crafted.
If there were to be a Season 2, where would you like to take the characters? Specifically Diana?
I don’t know! That’s an interesting question. Diana has this arm and she has this pet shoggoth now ... I don’t know. It would be interesting to see what we do with her storyline. By the end of the season, Diana is radicalized. I always believe that the younger generation are the ones who will lead us forward.
When Diana says, “They still haven’t learned” at the end of the season finale, she’s done with forgiving our oppressors for what they’ve done, expecting there to be change. Instead, Diana realizes no, you have to be the change. You have to be the one to change the narrative. I’m very excited to see what we craft with Diana and who she will be in Season 2, if there is a Season 2.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.