‘Dear White People’ Creator Justin Simien on Show’s Future, His ‘Scandal’ Parody and the ‘Blackish’ Spinoff

Logan Browning, Brandon P. Bell and many other cast members of Netflix’s “Dear White People” made guest appearances at the Netflix FYSee Space in Beverly Hills on Sunday to support show creator Justin Simien and Barry Jenkins, who directed the fifth episode, for the show’s Emmy consideration panel.

The politically-charged and racial subject matter in the series simultaneously won over many fans and drew much criticism, but Simien said he’s only scratched the surface.

“In mainstream culture, when you see a black person — black — that is the thing that you see but there is so much to us than just our color,” Simien said. “We’re human beings. We have many facets to our personality, so I want to keep digging deeper into our experiences as human beings who happen to be black.”

The showrunner has also been contemplating future storylines that address people who subscribe to alt-right ideologies. “I think we have our own version with the Hotep, and I want to go into that. I want to do a deeper dive in gender and sexuality issues as well.”

Dear White People” is part of a recent surge of shows that focus primarily on African-Americans. And with ABC’s “Black-ish” spinoff “College-ish” underway, Simien is welcoming the series with open arms. The upcoming comedy, announced to air on Freeform, is also set on the campus of a predominantly white university with one dormitory that exclusively houses African-American students.

“This crab in the barrel mindset where there can only be one black show about ‘x’ topic or ‘y’ topic, we’re past that now,” Simien said. “The fact that now we have my show, Issa [Rae]’s show and Donald Glover’s show all about the young black experience — but they couldn’t be more different — shows that we’re moving forward.”

While tipping his hat to other black TV creators, Simien even addressed his decision to include in his show a parody of Shonda Rhimes’ “Scandal” called “Defamation.”

“You know, in a lot of ways it’s my love language to bring in parts of my culture and parts of our experience into the show,” he said. “It was funny. I was a little scared and that was my cue to do it.”

Jenkins, who came on the series as a director after filming 2017 Oscar best picture winner “Moonlight,” also praised the rise of black voices in television.

“I knew things in ‘Moonlight’ would be applicable to ‘Dear White People’ even though they are different worlds,” said Jenkins. “Working on this show was like I walked off my set with my all-black cast, my very black film, and onto Justin’s amazingly black show and they felt exactly the same struggle. We are all sitting at the same table, which is kind of nice.

Season 1 of “Dear White People” is currently streaming on Netflix.

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