Ihuoma Ofordire Is the Creative Force Behind Lovecraft Country’s Jig-a-Bobo Episode

We had the opportunity to chat with the incredibly & talented Ihuoma Ofordire. She has worked on FX’s Snowfall, and is currently working on the Mega hit HBO series, Lovecraft Country. The show follows Atticus Freeman “Jonathan Majors” joined by friend Letitia Lewis “Jurnee Smollett” and his Uncle George “Courtney B. Vance” who embark on a road trip across the 1950’s Jim Crow America searching for his missing father. This begins a struggle to survive and overcome both the racist terrors of white America and the terrifying monsters that could be ripped from a Lovecraft paperback. Lovecraft Country is a thrilling take on Lovecraftian lore that proves the Elder Gods are not the only thing that goes bump in the cosmos. One of the most recent episodes Jig-a-Bobo was written by Ihuoma Ofordire. We were lucky enough to get a glimpse at her creative process.

BCN: Thank you for taking out the time to speak with us today at Black Cinema Now. We really appreciate it.

IHUOMA: Of course. Thank you for having me.

BCN: First, I wanted to tell you how proud I am of you being a woman of color in Hollywood. Writing in those writer's rooms. My first question, what progress do you think Hollywood is making towards diversity in this area?

IHUOMA: Not enough progress, I would say. If you look at the numbers, the numbers are disheartening. If you are a black woman or a person of color trying to break into the industry, it is disheartening. I think things are changing and the dialogue is there. The conversation is happening, but there is not nearly enough being done to make sure that our stories are being expressed and told from people who resonate with those stories.

BCN: You are correct! How important is it for women of color to have a voice behind the camera and in the writing room?

IHUOMA: It is especially important. We have things to say, because we have our own experiences. We have our own tragedies that we want to express and show to the world. And a lot of times, in everyday life, black women are marginalized and silenced, or ignored completely in America's society. Our voices, our stories are deeply needed in this space. All that needs to be shown instead of what is typically shown, which is very stereotypical at times.

A lot of people resonate with black women, our struggle, our power, or vulnerability.”

BCN: You are speaking to the choir. I know exactly what you are talking about because that was my life a few years ago. Being in those spaces where you are not represented, where you feel all alone. I understand that. Now, you are an actress as well as a writer, right?


BCN: I also see that you are a producer as well.

IHUOMA: In the past I have produced some of my own projects which includes short films and a web series.

BCN: How have these projects fueled your creative juices?

IHUOMA: Well, producing gives me a sense of control and creativity. This allows me a way to express myself through my art.

BCN: Oh, yes!

IHUOMA: Now acting for me has always been an extension of my writing.

Writing is the foundation of my artistry, and acting was born out of that.”

They are very closely related in terms of my creativity. Acting is fun. Acting is a different form of expression that I typically do not get a chance to use.

BCN: When I watched your episode of Lovecraft Country, which I'll ask you a few questions about in a bit, I could tell that you were an actress because you write like someone who is writing to give someone great direction. You understand the process. I saw that in your cues you use within the episode. The episode that you wrote, Episode Jig-a-Bobo, was great. Why did you choose to have the episode reference Uncle Tom’s Cabin?

IHUOMA: You know this series is based off an adaptation of a book, Lovecraft Country. In the book, they have a devil doll, but I knew in creating for the show, I wanted a doll to be a particular kind of way. I wanted it to represent Jim Crow, pickaninny, just that mensural kind of feel. One of the other writers suggested Topsy! Immediately when I saw Topsy, I was like that is it! That is the representation I want for this devil doll. Just Topsy alone, how stereotypically she was written. She was a direct representation of the black world at that time; I thought that it was perfectly aligned with Diana and her story.

BCN: So, what inspired the creation of Bopsy? Two of them?

IHUOMA: Even though in the book, there is only one devil doll. Misha Green gravitated toward that idea of Bopsy. She loved the concept of there being two instead of just one. You know, double the trouble, double the haunting, and it worked out effortlessly.

BCN: It did. For this episode, what was your writing process from page to screen?

IHUOMA: This episode was difficult because we were dealing with true historical matters, that still hit you in a visceral l way even though this happened over 60 years ago. For me, it was essential that I honored Emmett Till, as well as his mother, Mamie Till. Just because she was so brave. She was fighting for something bigger than just the murder of her son. I actually carried a picture of her over the casket crying, because I wanted to keep her in mind as I was crafting this story.”

BCN: I promise you that you are a jack of all trades when it comes to your writing because this episode covered every genre. Some of everything happened in this episode. Even the huge battle at the end. Wow, so kudos to you.

IHUOMA: I do not want to take all the credit. I did co-write this episode with Misha Green, you know, we sat in a room together and we just broke this episode.

BCN: But you were a part of that process. I know how it is sitting in front of that blank screen, and you are like, what are we going to do? I do not know, but something must come out!

IHUOMA: Yes, for sure.

BCN: So, with everything that is going on in the news today and the pandemic and everything, how have you kept yourself busy when the country had to quarantine?

IHUOMA: That is a good question. You know what? I was able to mend a lot of my relationships. It was a very surprising thing. There are some people in my life, that I fell off with. We lost contact during the quarantine. There were other relationships that just grew and moved to a more authentic state. That has been one of the best things that happened for me during this quarantine period. The real were able to rise to the surface.

BCN: That was a time for people to really get to know themselves because we spent a lot of time with ourselves. You may have found some things you needed to work on or found some things that annoyed you.

IHUOMA: Absolutely. Absolutely for sure. A lot of reflection time!

BCN: So, which writer or director inspired you in the industry to take this path that you are on now.

IHUOMA: I would say now, Cary Joji Fukunaga, who did True Detective. I have been following his career since his independent days when he did Sin Nombre. He is a big hero of mine, and I would say a female director that I really like watching and am inspired by is Regina King.

BCN: Oh, yes.

IHUOMA: I love her transformation throughout her career; she started off as a child actor, she got prominent, now she has moved into directing.

BCN: From "227" to superheroes, "Watchmen."

IHUOMA: I am impressed on how she elevated her career. She is so multitalented.

BCN: The Boondocks, she did Riley and Huey's voices. Oh my God!

(Mutual laughs.)

IHUOMA: Even today, the fact that she did The Boondocks is amazing!

BCN: Just to see her do Riley is like wow!

IHUOMA: I know! It is so incredible.

BCN: Do, you have a writing routine? And if so, can you share it with us?

IHUOMA: My writing routine is probably having a good music selection. It is what really helps me get into my creativity, and it just depends on what I am writing. Typically, I would put on Donny Hathaway, Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield. These are artist that I can put on to get my creative juices flowing, especially if I'm stuck in a part of my writing process where a scene is not going right, or I'm losing the characters motivation. I will just throw on Sam Cooke, and I am like, “ok, I feel good.”

BCN: In those moments, I find that when you are stuck, just do not stop moving. Write anything that comes out. Just get it out because you must.

IHUOMA: Absolutely!

BCN: Growing up in a big family, was writing a way to escape and create personal time for yourself?

IHUOMA: Yes! Writing was like my escape. I had a very dynamic and traumatic childhood growing up. My younger brother was involved in a near-death accident when I was six. So writing was like my escape. Writing, reading, and art was my escape, and it helped me heal. That was my thing. I would read like 5 to 6 books a week.

BCN: What?!

IHUOMA: Yes. I am a very avid reader. I would read a lot. I have an extremely sensitive nature, and my family is loud and dynamic. You know, all my siblings are close in age. We are like one or two years apart.

BCN: You grew up in D.C., Chocolate City, and attended an HBCU; how did that impact your viewpoint on how successful you could become in this industry?

IHUOMA: Growing up in D.C., it was chocolate city. It is not anymore. D.C. is so rich with culture and music and jazz, and black history and art. Duke Ellington, those were the kind of people that had an influence on me growing up. And of course, the HBCU - North Carolina A&T was the first start of the civil rights movement. The start of civil rights with the Greensboro Four who sat in at the counter. I love Black History. Going to an HBCU provided me with an enormous amount of exposure of past, present and future black history makers.

“Anybody who knows me knows how much black history speaks to my soul.”

There is something about it that just so rich and soulful and poignant and deep. I love it. Growing up in D.C. and going to an HBCU that both have rich histories and black culture and black art completely influenced me.

BCN: I'm so glad that you are crafted by that, that you carried that with you, all of that richness, to where you are today, because in these spaces, you need all of your ancestries, you will need everything. I remember some of those days being in the writer's room, being the only minority. You know how they come to you with that crazy stuff because maybe you could do this or so that. I am just glad that you had that support, a very well-rounded person, very creative, very blessed. Thank you so much for giving us the time and doing the interview with us!

IHUOMA: You're welcome. Thank you for having me!

Written By: Lamarr Williams