Black Dynamite is back! Based on the cult film of the same name, Black Dynamite is part-parody, part-satire, an animated series that imparts smart social commentary by taking on some of the 1970s biggest pop culture cornerstones. This Saturday, the second season premieres on Adult Swim with a nod to the mega-mini-series Roots.
Earlier this month, we met with Carl Jones, who writes, directs and executive produces the series, along with stars Michael Jai White (Black Dynamite), Kym Whitley (Honey Bee), Byron Minns (Bullhorn), and Tommy Davidson (Cream Corn). All appeared immensely proud of the work they have done.
“This is one of the hippest trips,” says Davidson, who has been pushing the boundaries of comedy since his days on In Living Color.
Whitley rattles off a list of things she can’t wait to see in the second season, amongst them “more fighting.” The action sequences in the show are fast, beautiful and fantastic—a real treat. And we have five more reasons to check out Black Dynamite this season.
Michael Jai White says that Black Dynamite will be a little “racy” in its second season. “We want to give the viewer something to watch. Something that they haven’t seen before,” says White.
Black Dynamite isn’t a show that shies away from controversial subjects. This time around, though, they’ve upped the ante.
“We picked some pretty big targets this season,” says Carl Jones. “We deal with white slavery.” Byron Minns clarifies, “Not white slavery, as in prostitution.” Jones adds, “White slavery, as in, white people enslaved by the black community.”
That’s actually what happens in the season premiere, and it’s a good one—a fast-paced, action-packed ride that takes on everyone, from Woody Allen to Al Sharpton.
Jones reveals that they have a Bill Cosby episode, and a Bob Marley one on the way. There is also a Wizard of Oz parody, “The Wizard of Watts,” which Jones says will be the season finale.
Black Dynamite was initially a live-action, feature-length parody of Blaxploitation films that were popular in the 1970s. Even in its animated form, the adventures of Black Dynamite and friends retains a lot of the look and the sound of that decade. However, it airs on a network that caters primarily to viewers who likely weren’t born during the era.
“The first season, we were trying to maintain the integrity of the film, and figure out what we could do to make it contemporary for younger audiences not familiar with Blaxploitation,” says Jones. “I think watching the reactions and seeing the responses to the stories in the first season, we kind of learned where the hot spots were, and some of the things that worked, and some of the things that didn’t work.”
Going back to that first season, Jones cites the premiere episode, “Just Beat It or Jackson Five Across Yo’ Eyes” as a highlight. “I thought that was the best example of doing something that was true to that particular era of time, and still was contemporary,” says Jones. “We were able to lampoon Michael Jackson in such a loony way, that it wasn’t offensive.”
Byron Minns, who plays Bullhorn, says that kind of serendipity is hard to recreate. “It would be impossible, because you have the most famous modern-day pop icon who actually was a ‘70s character as a child,” he says. “The two worlds came together perfectly in that.”
But, Black Dynamite is still linking together the past to today, with celebrity spoofs and pop culture references that will make sense to modern audiences. Jones notes that there will be a Jaws-inspired episode—one that he says is “kind of true to the Blaxploitation culture”—as well as other episodes that play on popular movies of the day.
Black Dynamite is gorgeous. The sunlight glows in the background. The action sequences are beautifully choreographed. “The backgrounds are paintings,” says Jones. “They’re like pieces that you could hang on a wall.”
Jones points out that they use between 650 and 700 scenes in each 22-minute episode. That’s a lot, but it’s necessary for the kind of show that they’re making. “We’re doing a lot of cinematic storytelling,” he says.
“From the very start of this, Carl had his vision,” says Minn. “He was clear from day one, about what he wanted, and how he wanted it to be told.”
What’s it like to voice characters in a series with so much action? “Everybody has their style,” says White. “It helps to be pretty animated while you’re doing the voice.”
Sitting next to White is Tommy Davidson, who talks fast, his voice filled with excitement; he moves his hands a lot. At one point during the interview, White starts to mimic Davidson’s gestures. “I would love to see the footage of Tommy [in the booth],” says White, “if he can be more animated than usual.”
Davidson says that working in the booth is his “favorite thing ever.”
“For me, it’s total freedom,” says Davidson. “I don’t have to care how I look. I can just get to what I need to get to.”
Get ready to play “Name that Voice” when you’re watching Black Dynamite this season, because there will be plenty of guests stars. Orlando Jones and Cedric Yarbrough are in the season premiere. Carl Jones and Byron Minns mention a few more who are set to appear this season, including Erykah Badu, Tyler the Creator, Sean Kingston, Mel B, Chance the Rapper, Tichina Arnold and Samuel L. Jackson.
Liz Ohanesian writes about pop culture from her base in Los Angeles. For updates, follow her on Twitter or Facebook.