Jurnee Smollet: ‘for Too Long, The Gaze Has Been Limited to a Cis Straight White Male’

by Shine My Crown Staff

‘Birds of Prey’ actress Jurnee Smollett currently stars as Leti HBO’s new series ‘Lovecraft Country,’ but she says that her new role is crucial in honoring the powerful legacy Black women.

‘Lovecraft Country’ centers on Atticus Freeman (played by Jonathan Majors), his friend Letitia (Jurnee Smollett) and uncle George (Courtney B. Vance) who embark on a road trip across 1950s Jim Crow America in search of Atticus’ missing father (Michael Kenneth Williams), per The Hollywood Reporter.

The show sees the characters have to fight for survival against the racist terrors of white America and monsters that could be “ripped” from pages of a Lovecraft paperback.

According to Smollett, Hollywood has been focused solely on cisgender males, and that needs to change. It’s time for the voices of Black women to be heard, seen and felt in a much more authentic way.

“For me, it’s a privilege to be a part of projects in which we are — just through storytelling, just through art — doing our part in dismantling the lies,” Smollett says. “I think representation matters. I think that for too long, the gaze has been limited to a cis straight white male. And by doing that, you leave out an entire population of people who are hungry to see themselves reflected in story because every person who’s been born loves some element of storytelling, right? Whether it’s music or books, theater, film, art, whatever, storytelling is innate, right? It’s primal.”

For inspiration, Smollet had to look no further than her own grandmother. Although she never met her, the legacy of “Showtime” lives on.

“My grandmother was not treated well by the people who employed her. She worked cleaning white folks’ homes. And I always heard stories about how they just mistreated her. And yet she would go to work every single day with her dress ironed, with her hair done, with her lipstick on because she knew she was a walking example of the dignity and the pride of her race,” Smollett told SyFy.com. “There was a real mission to be educated. To be an example of the best of who you come from could be, right? And so I love that. I admire that. We come from kings and queens and regardless of how we were treated, we cannot be robbed of our dignity.”

The first episode of ‘Lovecraft Country’ airs August 16.

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