‘Dear White People’ Creator Has Mixed Feelings About Show’s Newfound Popularity

Justin Simien is glad his Netflix show is resonating with viewers. He just wishes it didn't take a “series of murders by the state" for that to happen.
Blair Underwood in "Dear White People"
Lara Solanki/Netflix

Netflix’s “Dear White People” has enjoyed a surge in popularity over the last month amid the ongoing nationwide protests that began in late May, but series creator Justin Simien has decidedly mixed feelings about his show’s renewed popularity.

Simien spoke to The Playlist about the reported increase in viewership of his Netflix show and a handful of other topics in an interview published Monday. Simien noted that although he appreciates that “Dear White People” is resonating with viewers, he wished that it didn’t take a “series of murders, by the state, of black people” for the show to gain traction with new audiences.

“It has its fans and it always has a fervor when it was released, and our social media buzz is crazy. But it just doesn’t always seem to sort of (become) the center of popular culture, the way other shows with white casts, at our same level of (acclaim),” Simien told The Playlist. “So, it’s nice that it’s happening. It’s devastating that it’s happening on the heels of yet another series of murders, by the state, of black people. But also, as an artist, you kind of wonder, ‘Does anything I’m doing really even matter? Is anything I’m doing even really going to move the needle and what’s happening in the world?’ And in that regard, it’s nice to know that there’s something that we’ve made, that we’ve been pouring our entire being into, and killing ourselves to make, that’s actually meeting the cultural moment right now.”

The three-season show, which was inspired by the 2014 film of the same name, follows the lives of several black students at a fictional Ivy League University and has been a major critical success since the show premiered in 2017.

As for future installments of “Dear White People,” Simien noted that he has already written a fourth season for the show but wasn’t sure when he and the rest of the creative team would be able to begin filming. That said, Simien noted that he’s spending his downtime fine-tuning the show’s various scripts and jokes.

“I’m always working on the showdown to the final hour. I mean, we’re always working that script and working the jokes, and punching things up, and dialing things up, and dialing things down, and all that stuff,” Simien said. “So, I think if anything, we might dial some things up, but really the heart of it, the thesis of this season is incredibly relevant and of the moment, I have to say, to my surprise and, I don’t know, dismay? But I think it’ll make for a really good season.”

Check out Simien’s full interview with The Playlist here.

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