In Hulu’s satirical comedy Woke, real-life cartoonist Keith Knight (alongside writing partner Marshall Todd) used his own personal experiences to make the point that racism can drive any Black person insane at any given moment. Knight, played by comedic actor Lamorne Morris (New Girl, Barbershop: The Eric André Show), is on the cusp of mainstream success through the fictional comic strip Toast & Butter. Despite the popularity of the strip, our central hero refuses to tackle controversial topics and instead ops for a mostly apolitical stance.
That changes following a violent run-in with a combative San Francisco Police Department officer mistaking Knight for a mugger. Facing the trauma from the incident, he’s become highly discerning about race. So much to where inanimate objects from markers (J.B. Smoove) and paper bags (Cree Summer) to trash cans (Cedric the Entertainer) and two 40 oz. of malt liquor bottles (Nicole Byer, Eddie Griffin) talk to Knight for racial insights, he can’t ignore.
As the first season ended with Knight meeting the officer for beer and peanuts that hilariously completing his transformation into an activist against police brutality, Season Two picks up with a new question. How does one maintain sanity within activism when constantly under the critical eye of the public?
“In an effort to throw that crazy energy out there, you need to activate it somehow and you need to do something to make you feel better and to actually affect change so it doesn’t happen to other people,” explained Morris. “So in Season Two, the microscope is on you now. So it's like, ‘Hey, okay. You know what? You had all these demands. Here goes a check. Here's the platform, here's the megaphone, go speak on it.’ And you realize suddenly that maybe you're not cut out for this.”
According to Morris, understanding those levels of activism that come as pressures to become either a savior or superhero when one might not be equipped for it serves as the primary arc for Season Two.
This time, he’ll be joined by Aimee Garcia who plays the role of Laura, a corporate executive looking to help Knight. For the actress known for roles including George Lopez, Dexter, and Lucifer.
Garcia compares joining the cast to being a fan of a band and getting to make music with them before joking “and you still want the band to make good music.” Garcia mentioned that her character represents a macro effect to change alongside the issues of making alliances with individuals one may not necessarily agree with.
“Laura is so well versed in what it takes to move the ball across the goal line,” said Garcia. “And sometimes it might be involving people that you don't want to be in business with. But if you want to affect change on a national level, you might have to strike a deal with a corporate sponsor that you internally disagree with.”
Garcia’s role as Laura the hardline activist has to walk when dealing with American capitalism has always been a never-ending argument. However, Morris believes that both can co-exists.
“You do need resources to make things happen,” discussed Morris. “If you can get the manpower behind certain things, you can get a million people activated to do them, then great. But even that takes resources. You need that funding somewhere and it's just a matter of where you get it from.”
Returning for Season Two is Knight’s best friend Clovis played by T. Murph and Sasheer Zamata as agitating journalist turned friend Ayana. Both loving frenemies see character development as well according to T. Murph.
“This season you get an opportunity to understand why Clovis is the way that he is,” said T. Murph. “You get a chance to meet Clovis's father. You start to understand the dynamic between those two, and how it helped Clovis grow as a person. Or not grow, I should say.”
Meanwhile, Ayana sees herself rethinking her purpose as an editor for the fictional progressive alternative paper The Bay Arean.
“Ayana runs a very progressive paper in the Bay Area, and her goal is to talk about black issues and align with the black community,” explains Zamata. “And you see, later in the season, that, maybe, the audience isn't who she thought it was. Which is like so many things. It just puts a new lens on the work she's been doing. And is she doing it in a way that aligns with her intentions?”
With the overarching theme of not getting lost in success, look for Woke to keep audiences laughing while pondering exactly what it means to enact change.
Woke Season Two is set to premiere on Friday, April 8, exclusively on Hulu.
Ural Garrett is a Los Angeles-based entertainment and tech writer documenting the intersections of pop and digital culture. Follow him at @UralG on Twitter.