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‘Dear White People’ Cast Talks Backlash, Political Climate’s Influence on Season 2

Something major happened between filming the first and second seasons of “Dear White People.” That something was President Donald Trump.

“We ended Season 1 when Trump was elected, so he didn’t exist in our Season 1, even if it may seem that way when you watch the show,” Logan Browning told Variety. “So Season 2, the writing is filled with that energy and how everyone’s affected by it.”

Politics were a hot topic at Wednesday’s Season 2 premiere of Netflix’s hit satire about a black student body attending a fictional predominantly white Ivy League college. In Volume 2, Browning reprises her starring role as Sam, who must face constant cyber-bullying in response to her radio show, “Dear White People.” Browning and her cast mates connected much of the intolerance showcased in Season 2 to the current political climate.

“The online troll that’s on campus is kind of directly correlated to Trump and that bombarded presence that you’re feeling when you’re constantly on your phone, and getting these alerts, like, he said this, he said that,” Browning said.

The backlash Sam faces also reflects the real world alt-right reactions to Season 1, which targeted members of the cast and crew, calling the show and its creative team “anti-white,” according to show creator, writer, and director Justin Simien.

“I understand cyber-bullying, but when people I care about — my friends, my bosses, my coworkers — told me that they were dealing with people saying things like calling them ‘monkey’ and saying, ‘You should die,’ things like that. It really hurt me,” Browning said. “It affected me in a way that it was very difficult to perform that stuff.”

Simien said the racist and negative responses to Season 1, as well as the “weaponized rage” sweeping over the country’s politics, has made Season 2 more exigent. In his view, the conflict also indicates that “a lot of folks who were not awake to the same issues are suddenly talking to each other.”

“The show is talking about something that we are really in the midst of right now, and conversations about race and identity on all sides, all angles of it, are part of the zeitgeist,” Simien said.

Though the show is political in nature, Antoinette Robertson, who plays Coco, said she thinks the series’ commentary on specific figures could be more direct. “I’d love us to take some jabs at the biggest troll in the United States,” the actress said.

While many cast members agreed Simien and the writers’ acute social awareness has covered an extensive amount of social justice issues in the second season, there are still some topics that could be explored further. Brandon P. Bell, who plays Troy, said he would like the series to show more of the characters’ extracurricular lives beyond politics.

Ashley Blaine Featherson, who plays Sam’s best friend Jo, would like to see “Dear White People” tackle millennial activism, citing youth involvement in the March for Our Lives campaign. Browning also hopes the show can eventually expand its representation to more communities of color.

“The world is so black and white, right? That’s kind of what our show is talking about — blackness and whiteness in America,” Browning said. “But once we tackle those topics, I’d love to dive into Indians, Latinas, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and how they relate to whiteness and blackness, because I don’t think that’s talked about as much.”

Season 2 of “Dear White People” will begin streaming on Netflix May 4. Other attendees at the premiere included cast members DeRon Horton, John Patrick Amedori and Marque Richardson, as well as Lena Waithe, who makes a guest appearance in Season 2, and Netflix’s chief content officer Ted Sarandos.

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