Major changes are afoot in “David Makes Man.”
OWN’s coming-of-age drama (Tuesdays, 9 EDT/PDT), which follows David (Kwame Patterson) as he navigates life in South Florida, returned for Season 2 last week after a 20-month break with a difference – David has “made” man and is an adult, no longer the teenage boy (Akili McDowell) of the first season.
“It was really cool to fast forward and to be able to see everything play out,” says Michael B. Jordan, who serves as an executive producer of the series, in a recent interview. “Usually with shows, you have to wait (for several seasons) to get any type of real maturity and see any type of real transition between characters, but on this one, we have an opportunity to pop into the older versions of themselves.”
David, his younger brother JG (now played by Arlen Escarpeta), his mom Gloria (Alana Arenas) and more of their Homestead Village (or “The Ville”) cohort have made the time jump to the present. David is now in his early 30s, working in strategic marketing; JG is a police officer; and Gloria is 15 years sober and a foster parent for queer kids.
David is seemingly in the throes of a midlife crisis – stepping up as the man of the house despite being just a child shaped who he thinks he has to be.
“What do you do when you look around and (realize) this is my role, and that role is outmoded?” creator Tarell Alvin McCraney says David asks himself. McCraney says the idea that “I can just be and still be of great value” isn’t talked about enough, especially for David. “We’re taught that we have to be twice as good, work twice as hard, show up twice as early.”
The new season is not the last viewers will see of young David, as he pops back into his adult version’s psyche and final teen years at the Hurston prep school play out in a flashback episode.
“We wanted to make sure people remembered deeply what David did as a young person, and then to be able to go … ‘Oh snap, you are still doing that right now, you’re still 15 years later … engaging the world like a 15-year-old,’ ” McCraney says.
McCraney, known for his thoughtful meditation on Black masculinity and queerness in his screenplay for 2016’s Oscar-winning “Moonlight,” and executive producer Dee Harris-Lawrence bring similar ruminations into “David Makes Man.”
Harris-Lawrence says the writers room became a safe space to tell honest stories infused with sexuality and identity in a natural way.
McCraney says he wants to explore how trauma “keeps showing up, how it doesn’t go anywhere, or how it can kind of calcify and make you think, believe (and) feel like you are actually moving forward when … you’re not actually swimming, you’re just staying afloat.”
David often struggles with code-switching – changing his behavior and language to fit in at school, at home, in The Ville – a game that doesn’t seem to get easier in adulthood, despite lettinghis routines and internal monologues walk him through every step of his day.
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“We’ve had some levels of code-switching; I think it’s a defense,” Jordan says. “Sometimes we do that to almost make other people feel comfortable, to kind of tone down certain things or to lean into one aspect,” he says.
In Season 1, David began working to address his inner trauma, caused in part by the killing of his father figure Sky (Isaiah Johnson), which he witnessed.
“I think the women had a lot to do with” helping David cope with trauma, says Harris-Lawrence. “You see the journey of all of the things that he usually does in maneuvering through life that (are) not working as well anymore. And the women are calling it out that (he doesn’t) need it anymore.”
Whether adult David will reach a breakthrough is yet to be seen, but he grapples with what it means to be successful and safe: In Season 1 he was just trying to live, but the second season questions what he will do when he’s granted more breathing room to thrive.
“We see flashbacks of how his present situations are affected by his past, (and) it’s not all figured out; everything’s not buttoned up,” Jordan says.
McCraney says the season unpacks how David is “missing vital parts to living: missing the luxury of peace, missing the intimacy of relationships, the joy of family. And he finds himself wondering ‘How?’ after doing all the things that he needs to do to survive.”
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As the latest season tackles lingering trauma head-on, the network’s founder comes to mind: Oprah Winfrey has spent much of her career bringing previously taboo issues to light, and her latest book, tour and Apple TV+ series “The Me You Can’t See” all focus on overcoming trauma.
“You don’t get a show like this on the air without someone like Oprah showing up and saying, ‘Hey, this is a critical conversation that I’m beginning in my own personal life and my own personal work on other platforms,” McCraney says of Winfrey’s impact. “This is a conversation that I want people who look like me to show up and see that they can be a part of.”