“David Makes Man” Adds New Color and Complexity

By Kiki Camille, Chicago Defender

Oprah and Michael B Jordan’s Outlier Society have partnered to executive produce a new OWN Network drama ‘David Makes Man,” in what hopes to be one of many collaborations from the super accomplished duo. 

“David Makes Man,” whose name was derived from the storyline of the pilot centers on a 14-year-old prodigy from the projects, haunted by the death of his closest friend, and relied on by his hardworking mother to find a way out of poverty. He must choose between the streets that raised him or the higher education that may offer him a way out.

Inspired by the childhood of Oscar-winning screenplay writer of “Moonlight,” Tarell Alvin McCraney, the compelling, hour-long drama also calls to mind the Academy Award-winning movie in the vividly colorful cinematography and somber musical scoring. 

Growing up in an apartment complex that looks nearly identical to the projects shown in both the series and “Moonlight,” McCraney was bused to a magnet school after being displaced by Hurricane Andrew. This, he recalls, is how he ultimately developed the story line for the show’s protagonist, David (played by Akili McDowell). “I would come home to the projects and I would go to this very elite school. I just wanted to really talk about the lessons I learned in both places.”

In what is the first television production for McCraney, David stays true to his cinematic styling in that it watches more like a 10-episode fil, rather than a television show. The topics explored in only the first episode were also deep, multi-layered and complex; skillfully and intentionally dissecting the duality of a young black male attempting to survive while balancing duty with the desire to excel beyond the confines of his project community. 

Joining OWN Networks’ roster of accomplished African American dramas, the coming-of age show tackles head on the conversations of code-switching, complexities of growing up in a single mom-household, being a single mother, drug addiction, recovery, mental health within the black family, sexual abuse, and the varying faces of black male masculinity, ( “David Makes Man” fills a gaping void in the black narrative. 

Freely exploring the varying sides of the black narrative was not the only reason “David Makes Man” can now call OWN home. Actress Alana Arenas, who plays David’s mother Gloria in the series, recalls her experiences as having often been the only woman of color in a cast or ensemble and the resulting struggles of not always feeling seen or celebrated as such.  

“There were times in my career where I didn’t feel like it was okay to be unapologetically myself.” says Arenas, “But in doing ‘David Makes Man’,’ my makeup artist was a woman of color, my hairdresser was a woman of color and so was my stylist. It was literally the first time I’ve gone to work and felt celebrated. I told Tarell this is one of the greatest gifts the show has given me already. “

For these reasons, despite receiving a “yes” from every network McCraney and his team pitched, receiving a “yes” from Oprah and her team meant so much more. Luckily for McCraney and team, the show can boast that it was the best pitch Oprah has ever heard and was a no brainer for the mogul to sign on.

“David Makes Man”  premieres Wednesday,  August 14th on OWN. In the meantime, you can watch the trailer.

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