Janelle Monáe is one of the busiest entertainers working today. But the GRAMMY-winning artist said that getting the chance to star in the Amazon series “Homecoming” was an opportunity worth prioritizing.
“When I saw Season 1 and I listened to the podcast, I was a fan. When I had the opportunity to be a part of the show, I said, ‘Hell yeah!’ I moved my schedule around and I made it happen,” Monáe said at Tuesday’s Television Critics Association press tour. “It’s just been an honor to join this family and to push myself as an artist to give the best performance that I possibly can.”
Monáe will step into a lead role on the show that previously starred Julia Roberts. While Season 2 will return cast members Stephan James and Hong Chau, Monáe will play a character who wakes up in a canoe on the middle of a river with little memory of who she is and why she’s there.
But the additional ensemble, also including Chris Cooper, isn’t the only big Season 2 change. “The Stanford Prison Experiment” director Kyle Patrick Alvarez will be behind the camera for each episode on the upcoming season. And while the Season 1 arc followed the story laid out in the Gimlet podcast “Homecoming,” these new episodes gave the chance for co-creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg to step outside the government program that gives the story its title.
“This season is much more expansive in its locations and its energies. It’s much more aiming outside that narrative world and not as contained within the facility,” Horowitz said.
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“It some ways, this season goes far afield from where we were in Season 1. In other ways, it’s directly tied to the moments where we left off in Season 1 and is intimately involved with more the corporate side of what was done to the men and the consequences of that,” Bloomberg said.
Among the elements of Season 1 that will shift for these new episodes is the score. Famously, the Sam Esmail-directed first season used a unique patchwork of vintage film scores that catered to each individual scenes. Horowitz announced that “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” composer Emile Mosseri has been brought on board to write an original score that still brings the show a classic feel.
“It would take a lot for me to say that I thought we could recreate that as well,” Alvarez said of the Season 1 approach. Of Mosseri’s upcoming work, he added, “I think it brings a new quality and a different thing that people will really get a chance to dig into.”
Chau, coming off a pivotal supporting role in “Watchmen” gets the chance to reprise her role from Season 1, figuring out what happens to her after her post-credits scene from 2018’s finale.
“I look at Audrey Temple’s journey this season as a coming-of-age of a young professional, looking at why things we do. Is it because we want to do them or is it because we feel that it’s something we’re supposed to do and chase after? In the second season, I think we find out more about how she got to be in that position to cut Colin off at the knees,” Chau said.
Alvarez also reflected on the inherent differences in this season, given the number of answers that came toward the end of the show’s previous episodes.
“I think Season 1 is really driven by a mystery of ‘What’s going on?’ You have no concept of what’s happening. You spend a good amount of time in the season being shrouded. That’s the enjoyment of it, what’s going to be behind it,” Alvarez said. “This season, the mystery is generated from a different place. It’s less literal and more about how these characters get to this specific place and how they wound up here. We may or may not play with time in some similar ways. There’s quality of the use of time from Season 1, but in a very different way.”
As for what might come next, Bloomberg explained that plotting the future of the show and these characters isn’t something that they’re doing too far in advance.
“We think scene by scene. We let the entirety of the arc be informed as we go along. So we don’t have a bible that stretches out to Season 5. We let the day’s work indicate where we’re headed. At a certain point, we have to look back on what we have and then assess it.”