Lovecraft Country: Jonathan Majors shares how he brought Atticus Freeman to life

Jonathan Majors in HBO's Lovecraft Country Season 1 - Episode 1. Photograph by Elizabeth Morris/HBO.
Jonathan Majors in HBO's Lovecraft Country Season 1 - Episode 1. Photograph by Elizabeth Morris/HBO. /

Jonathan Majors talks to FanSided about becoming Atticus Freeman in HBO’s Lovecraft Country.

HBO’s Lovecraft Country is the newest TV show creating a lot of buzz out there. The series, most notably, is being executive produced by Jordan Peele and J.J. Abrams, which gave the series a huge boost before it even came out.

But not just that, the series features a wealth of talent, including showrunner Misha Green (Underground), and an all-star main cast featuring Jonathan Majors, Jurnee Smollett and Courtney B. Vance, among others. The three star as Atticus Freeman, Letitia Lewis and Atticus’ uncle George respectively, who go out to find Atticus’ father and unravel many more mysteries and horror than they could anticipate along the way.

Ahead of the show’s premiere, which aired its first episode on Aug. 16, FanSided chatted with the entire lead cast and the showrunner via Zoom roundtables to learn about the process of creating the series and what they enjoyed most about it. First up in the series of interviews is Jonathan Majors, known for starring in Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods, which was released earlier this year on Netflix.

The possible challenge (or gift) that comes with playing Atticus is that he’s already an established character: Atticus Black, from the Lovecraft Country novel by Matt Ruff. So did novel-Atticus have any influence on TV-Atticus? And what advice did Majors get on playing the role with that in mind? For this actor, he reveals, there’s a wealth of advice and experiences he brought into playing this lead role.

“Well, the approach to playing the role came from just my upbringing, you know?” Majors says. “A few things my grandfather would say to me: ‘Slow and steady.’ It’s like, both my maternal and paternal grandfather both said that phrase.”

On set, Majors received another bit of advice, this time from co-star Courtney B. Vance. (Vance, of course, is a legendary actor himself. So when Courtney B. Vance gives you advice, it’s probably best to take it.)

“Courtney B. Vance said something to me our first few days of shooting,” he explains. “And he said, ‘Bit by bit.’ You know? ‘Bit by bit. Bit by bit.’ And he would say that literally after every single rehearsal: ‘Bit by bit. Bit by bit.'”

The advice from Vance and his family seems to have worked, seeing as — in the first five episodes we reviewed for — Majors looked absolutely comfortable in the role. And not only that, but for his first time in a major television series and a lead role, it’s evident that he’s got what it takes to be among the next best actors in Hollywood. (And honestly, at this point, we can probably skip right to him being among the best right now.)

As for transforming the character from page to screen, he accredits a lot of that work to showrunner Misha Green, who also was a writer for the entire series. He describes her work as making Atticus more “H.D.”, taking the Atticus Black from the novel and adding more depth and dimension so he can become Atticus Freeman.

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The directors, too, gave him the tools he needed to conquerer each scene. And if he hadn’t had enough phrases in his toolbox already to keep him motivated, director Yann Demange came by with one more.

“The director Yann Demange, said to me early on, ‘Morsels,’ right?” he says. “You just give him morsels in the scene. Just given morsels as you move through it.”

That, as he explains, is the key to creating television. You give the audience a little over time to work with because you have so much more room to play compared to your standard 90-minute or 2-hour movie. But, in line with that, Majors also revealed that when it came to filming scenes, his favorite part wasn’t necessarily the monsters, action or any of that, it was working with the people behind the scenes.

“The dopest thing, I think, was the fact that there were so many sisters that came in,” he reveals. “Right? Cheryl Dunye came in and directed us. Victoria Mahoney came in and directed us. The two queens. I had not worked with so many female directors in my life — Helen Shaver came in and directed… So, kind of going through those genres with all these different energies. That was the most exciting thing to me.”

To top off all that, Majors reveals that he was always impressed with the scripts, and each one seemed to out-do the others in a different way. Fans have already gotten a taste of the series in the premiere episode, which means there’s so much more to see from this 10-episode series in the weeks to come. And to learn more about the making of Lovecraft Country, continue to keep up with FanSided as we release more interviews from the cast of Lovecraft Country.

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