(KGET) — Oscar-winner Tarell McCraney told a complicated story of David, a teenager trying to survive in a world that is designed to push him toward failure, in the first season of his OWN series “David Makes Man.” That was only the start of the tale McCraney wanted to tell.
The second season – that starts at 9 p.m. June 22 on the cable channel – makes a leap into the future to look at how David’s early years have influenced who he has become as a thirty-something. David (Kwame Patterson) is a businessman with a bright future who is facing an opportunity that will change him and his community forever. He must choose between the instincts that helped him survive or finding a new way to truly live.
McCraney is certain that David’s story would have been incomplete if there had not been a second season.
“We always pitched it as at least two seasons,” McCraney says. “The first season was really important for us to set up just an introduction to what David goes through and is going through and how his imagination works.
“It was to introduce the world to his super powers which is his brilliant imagination that helps him survive many of the circumstances that he is in.”
At first glance, “David Makes Man” looks like a standard drama about family and friends. McCraney has elevated that by the depiction of how David thinks.
A scene as simple as David and his friend waiting outside the principal’s office is presented with a fantasy brush by having the pair communicate by words that magically appear in the air. There is great mystery around those surrounding David as to whether they are real or just manifestations of his emotional moments.
It is the collision of the real and the surreal that is the core of the show. That was done so well in the first season that “David Makes Man” was presented a Peabody Award, earned a Critics’ Choice Award nomination for Best Drama and was named to several critics’ 2019 year-end “best of television” lists.
It wasn’t just the critics who have embraced the show. It was the second highest rated series in its time period across all cable with African-American women and reached over 4.1 million unique viewers on OWN during its first season run.
The story that will be the lure this second season is the examination of what a person believes is their super power can end up being a weakness.
McCraney says, “We were always wanting in that second series to look at how you could get so use to trying to survive that you forget to live. We wanted to show how defense mechanisms show up later in your life and how they can sometimes be hard to see.”
If this design for “David Makes Man” sounds slightly familiar, that comes from McCraney also being the writer of the 2016 feature film “Moonlight.” The film – based on his script “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue” – told the story of a young black man in Miami through three chapters in his life.
McCraney’s other works include “High Flying Bird,” “The Brother/Sister Plays” and “Choir Boy.” He is the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant, the Whiting Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, the Evening Standard Award, the New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award, the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, the Windham Campbell Award, and a USA Artist Award.
The past work by McCraney has either been a film where the whole story is told in a two-hour window or a play where the story is repeated nightly. “David Makes Man” is his first opportunity to tell a story over multiple episodes.
He says the structure of storytelling is different but the process is the same.
“They are all kin to each other in some weird way,” McCraney says. “I think it is mostly about the collaboration. One of the things film doesn’t allow you to do as much as series or plays is that you really get to keep working with your company on different ideas.
“That’s the compelling part that is delicious to me.”
When McCraney met with Oprah Winfrey to talk about the project for her cable channel, the big question for him was how the story would continue. Hearing the person who would eventually become an executive producer on the project talk in those terms made “David Makes Man” executive producer Dee Harris-Lawrence very happy.
Before taking on “David Makes Man,” Harris-Lawrence produced a variety of other projects such as “All Rise,” “Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.,” “Shots Fired” and “Saving Grace.” “David Makes Man” presented major creative challenges to bring McCraney’s to life and Harris-Lawrence felt a deep obligation to make the magical realism of the show work.
“Music. Magic. Seeing how you can bring a child that grows up in this urban world and have his imagination just fly. It was something that I always wanted to incorporate,” Harris-Lawrence says.
If you missed the first season of “David Makes Man,” it is available through the streaming service HBO Max.