Atlanta director Maurice Marable helped move ‘Woke’ from Hulu to Atlanta

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Marable’s film career began when he was attending Georgia State University in the early 1990s. There he heard that Morehouse College graduate Spike Lee was executive producer of a 1994 film “Drop Squad”, which was partly filmed in Atlanta. He begged to become a production assistant but instead became an intern.

“The producers liked me,” he said. “They asked me to drive a truck to New York to drop off some stuff. I then became a production assistant for post-production. I went from talking about Spike Lee in class to working with him in the editing room.

He dropped out of GSU and quickly traveled the world shooting music videos with Michael Jackson as production supervisor. He spent years as creative director at HBO, producing promos for TV shows like “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.” He then directed commercials but would help HBO whenever they asked. “It was like family to me,” he said.

In 2014, he shot a seven-minute comedy short featuring “Veep” star Julia Louis-Dreyfus and current Vice President Joe Biden for the White House Correspondents’ Dinner. It featured cameos from Michelle Obama and Nancy Pelosi. The buzz from that video led him to do all kinds of shows, from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” and “Insecure” to episodes of “Veep.”

“Woke” stars Lamorne Morris as Keef, a San Francisco-based black cartoonist on the verge of mainstream success who, in season one, is manhandled by the police after being mistaken for a thief. The trauma triggers his “awakening” allowing inanimate objects like beer cans, a trash can, and his marker to speak to him about social injustice. Marable is an executive producer and director.

The first season was filmed in Vancouver, which borders the ocean and has enough hilly terrain to pass for San Francisco. But the second season was filmed in metro Atlanta. The town, Marable admits, isn’t so ideal given its relatively flat terrain and lack of ocean access.

“We were very careful about where we shot,” Marable said. “Every time we found a hill, we used it. It was a challenge bro, a real challenge… We have footage from last season. I hope people will feel like they are in San Francisco.

Marable pushed for the move because he found Atlanta more reflective of American diversity. Three of the four main characters in “Woke” are black, and many writers and producers are black.

“Vancouver was a great place for us,” he said. “But the challenge I had, there was no diversity.”

Vancouver, which is about 48% Asian, is only 1% Black. San Francisco is 34% Asian while the black population is around 5%. The Atlanta metro area is approximately 33% black and 7% Asian.

Marable winks and nods to the Atlanta connection in the first episode by naming Stacey Abrams and Killer Mike attending a protest held at a park, which is actually Woodruff Park in downtown Atlanta. Atlanta.

When up-and-coming cartoonist Keef Knight has a traumatic run-in with the police, he begins to see the world in an entirely new way. Writer Maurice Marable and Keef (Lamorne Morris) of ‘Woke’, pictured. (Photo by: Joe Lederer/Hulu)

Credit: Joe Lederer

Credit: Joe Lederer

When up-and-coming cartoonist Keef Knight has a traumatic run-in with the police, he begins to see the world in an entirely new way. Writer Maurice Marable and Keef (Lamorne Morris) of ‘Woke’, pictured. (Photo by: Joe Lederer/Hulu)

Credit: Joe Lederer

Credit: Joe Lederer

Keef is loosely based on Keith Knight, a real-life cartoonist who himself was traumatized by a negative police experience and became a comic book activist focused on police brutality. “He has a keen sense of observational humor,” Marable said. “It’s based on his mind and some of the journeys he’s been on.”

The fictional Keef doesn’t talk as much to his second season inanimate objects. “He was going through trauma last season,” Marable said. “Inanimate objects helped him through his trauma. Animation became less and less important over time. By the end of the first season, there was only marker [voiced by J.B. Smoove]. It’s the only thing that regularly communicates with him: his art.

This season, Keef has become “a wake-up celebrity and the spotlight is on him,” Marable said. “How do you stay awake when people are fanning you? »

In the second season, a wealthy entrepreneur finances Keef’s initiatives. “Who do you work for and what is your program?” Marble said. “Are you changing your agenda to appease corporate dollars? We saw after George Floyd that many companies jumped on the Black Lives Matter bandwagon. Corporations co-opt revival for money. Ultimately, it was a marketing tool for many of them. We dive into it.

Morris, in a separate interview, said Keef “changes with the wind and that’s not necessarily a good thing. You have to hold on and find what excites you. Is Keef’s activism performative or not? He has the mic now. What will he do with it?

The show is neither a full embrace nor a searing indictment of the concept of “revival”. Marable acknowledges that the word “woke” was once a positive concept that has since been co-opted by conservatives as everything wrong with America.

“Every time I say the word woke, it’s weird,” Marable said. “Our goal is to satirize the idea of ​​awakening and celebrating when it’s right and calling it out when it’s wrong. Can you ever really be awake, really? What is it? What does that mean? That seems to be changing. For me, revival is the moral obligation to do the right thing. But today, it’s been twisted like the phrase “fake news.”

Keef has three close friends, all in their mid-thirties, and the second season feels more like an ensemble comedy, which was on purpose.

Gunther (Blake Anderson) is one of Keef’s roommates and a former college pal, an easy-going hippie white dude who struggles to be a supportive ally in the cause. “At the end of the day, the essence of Gunther is that he wants to be Keef’s best friend possible,” Anderson said.

T. Murph plays Clovis, his other roommate, who is both fast and super confident. The actor has worked the pandemic so hard that he ended up with a six-pack so impressive that the series incorporated it into Clovis.

“He’s trying to be the little Black Ant Man,” Marable joked. “He was obsessed with real life, so we used him.”

“I didn’t know what was going to happen,” T. Murph said. “I was preparing for the zombies. I was training on playgrounds doing pull-ups in jungle gyms.

Sasheer Zamata’s Ayana, who was Keef’s “woke” guide in season one, has her own issues in season two. Her diary stumbles for financial reasons, so she moves in with the guys. She also exhibits “woke” fatigue.

“She came out of the first season like having it together,” Zamata said. “We now see that she needs help. It’s nice to see her with cracks and insecurities. It’s real.”

WHERE TO LOOK

“Woke”, available on Hulu and “Killing It”, available on Peacock

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