Netflix has renewed “Dear White People” for a third season, releasing a video with Giancarlo Esposito in character as the narrator to make the announcement (see below). Set on a fictional Ivy League campus, the satirical dramedy follows a group of students of color navigating life at a predominantly white university in a supposedly “post-racial” society. Based on the eponymous 2014 film starring Tessa Thompson, the show is a re-imagining of the movie, with Logan Browning in the role of radical radio host Samantha White.
Prior to the official renewal, IndieWire spoke to creator, executive producer, director, writer, and co-showrunner Justin Simien about his plans for Season 3, and the challenges of selling and marketing a comedy about racial politics.
“I feel good about it and feel like the audience…there’s just a fervor that’s new. It’s bigger than it was last year. When I started making ‘Dear White People’ the movie, there was so much skepticism for that,” Simien said. The series is a critical hit for Netflix (which does not release its viewing numbers), and the streaming giant has made a concerted effort to tout the series in For Your Consideration campaigns leading up to the 2018 Emmys.
Simien said it “still doesn’t feel like a hospitable climate” for his fresh and biting satire about race, despite the show’s dedicated following. “There are audiences willing to engage with these kind of things. It’s still very difficult to tell these stories and to convince people you know what stories you’re telling, and also marketing it and breaking shows nobody has any experience breaking…There are still a lot of minefields. I’d be lying if I said the marketplace wasn’t suspicious about what it is we’re all doing.”
[Editor’s Note: The following article contains spoilers for the Netflix original series “Dear White People” Season 2, including the finale.]
Season 2 put its six main characters through the ringer of personal challenges, ending with four of them coupled up. Simien said he was open to bringing new characters for Season 3. “I’ve thought as far as the initial core characters, where their arcs sort of net out, but there are always interesting new characters and people who pop in surprising ways. Winchester’s a fun milieu to tell all kinds of tales.”
Prior to the renewal, the cast had shared with IndieWire their own ideas for their characters’ storylines. “As an audience member, I would love to see Reggie and his dad. Whatever that entails,” Browning said. Antoinette Robertson, who plays Coco, said she wanted to “see the dynamic between her mother and herself,” after her mother was introduced in a powerful abortion episode (directed by Kimberly Peirce).
Though the actors may not have much influence on most shows, Simien indicated he was open to suggestions. “I really get a lot from the feedback that people give. I kind of talk about what I want the season to be about. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle where we make everything fit. Each season I want to try and surprise,” he said.
And surprise he does: The end of Season 2 revealed that Sam and Lionel had been tapped for a prestigious secret society called the Order of X. “I think we have to follow up what the Order of X is, what it means, what to continues to mean,” Simien said in May. “The secret thing is something I want to build upon, because it is part of the fabric of the school. I don’t know that I want that to be the focus of next season, but you can’t just run away from that storyline.”
The Netflix marketing team is certainly leaning into the potential of the Order of X, as seen in the Season 3 renewal announcement below:
Before digging into Season 3, however, Simien will shoot his second feature film this summer. Titled “Bad Hair,” it’s a horror film about a girl from Compton who doesn’t have the right look. “It’s my way of taking my frustration of what I feel like black women are going through,” Simien told IndieWire earlier this month. “We make them suffer quiet little deaths just to be seen in our culture and I wanted to translate that, in my own way, into a very weird horror-satire love letter to that experience.”
“Dear White People” Seasons 1 and 2 are now streaming on Netflix. Additional reporting by Eric Kohn and Liz Shannon Miller.