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Listen: Tarell Alvin McCraney on the Importance of ‘David Makes Man’ Narrative

When Tarell Alvin McCraney first brought the idea of “David Makes Man” to the Oprah Winfrey Network, OWN wasn’t looking for stories with the narrative of a 14-year-old genius, shaken by the death of his friend, and must decide to either pursue higher education or the streets to bring his family out of poverty. Though, with the addition of other dramas like “Queen Sugar” and “GreenLeaf” to the network’s slate, “David Makes Man” fits in perfectly with its Wednesday night lineup while maintaining a story that sets it apart from the rest.

“With the opening up of narrative and fiction, and drama on the network, we get a chance to be apart of a deeper conversation about community, about healing, about issues that are very specific to community and it doesn’t stop anyone else from watching it but it does allow us to be next to. We want you to be able to see the life of that wonderful family and the life of this wonderful family and that they’re completely different. Yet, they share the same skin tone and color and those are different experiences and are under the umbrella of this network,” the Academy Award winner told Variety‘s “TV Take” podcast.

Based in part by McCraney’s personal “latch-key kid” upbringing, the show depicts some of the realities that young black children in David’s position would learn, not only as conversational skills, but sometimes as a means of survival in outside situations. Unlike “Moonlight,” code-switching is a major theme in the series as David navigates his way through his magnet school and his neighborhood.

“The border that David goes to school, he walks a borderline from Homestead village to the Redlands, which is a white southern farming neighborhood that has built this border so that they keep the project folks away from the white folks. That level of proximity is completely different.” McCraney said. “The lessons in that, the thinking in that, the code-switching, the double consciousness that one engages is important to me and happens to young folks in David’s situation.”

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