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Exclusive: Justin Simien and Jaclyn Moore talk about adding musical elements in Dear White People Season 4

Production still from Dear White People
Dear White People Season 4 has a musical twist. Pic credit: Netflix

Fans are in for a wonderful surprise when they tune into the final season of Dear White People, airing later this month on Netflix. As teased in trailers, the show’s highly-anticipated fourth season will adopt a musical tone as members of the Winchester community bust out into 90s-styled musical numbers.

First coming to the big screen in 2014, the Dear White People franchise began as a movie. After a successful release, the movie was transformed into a television show that took a deeper look into the lives of the beloved original characters: Samantha White, Lionel Higgins, Troy Fairbanks, and many more. The Dear White People series has been airing on Netflix since 2017 and welcomed the film’s creator Justin Simien to tackle this new production format.

Many were devastated to hear that this upcoming season, Season 4, will be the final installment in the Dear White People series. However, Simien has expressed that it was time to say goodbye. Speaking to Monsters & Critics, Simien shared, “It is bittersweet to say goodbye to it, but I feel quite satisfied. I moved through this with my whole body, with my whole mind, with my whole heart.”

The director, writer, and co-producer added, “I felt everything, and I’m really proud of it. It’s sad to see it come to an end. But at the same time, you know, it’s not that hard to let it go. It’s like, at the end of a marathon, it’s okay to stop.”

Monsters & Critics had the opportunity to chat with creator Justin Simien and producer Jaclyn Moore ahead of the final season of Dear White People. In our conversation, we focused on their decision to add musical elements to the season.

Simien on creating a musical

Adding musical elements to the Dear White People Universe isn’t as big of a surprise as it could be. The show often challenges traditional storytelling through its creativity and narration. Simien told us that he decided to make the season a musical as a “source of inspiration.” He shared, “I’ve been wanting to do a musical story, really, as early as I can remember. Honestly, all of my first early cinema memories have to do with musicals.”

Adding some more insight, he continued, “The show has come really close to bursting out in a song a few times. It’s a very surreal show. It’s really crazy, hyper-real things happen, which I think make it okay for us to get into some of the really tough issues that the show gets into.”

Simien described having a tough time getting started with the new season, and throughout that battle, he was able to find joy through musicals. He said, “Musicals were speaking to this experience of there’s an outside me and there’s an inside me, and they’re not always meeting in the middle. And sometimes you just need to bust out.”

Moore on her first impression

After coming up with the idea for the season, Simien brought it to producer and writer Jaclyn Moore. While Moore describes herself as a “musical theater queer,” she was initially taken back by the bold decision to tell Dear White People Season 4 in the form of a 90s musical. She said, “I was like, that seems like a really hard thing. This is my first year show running a show. Cool, cool, deep end of the pool.”

Another challenge arrived as the coronavirus pandemic hit. Moore explained, “Producing it during COVID ended up to be the deeper end of the pool. But that said, to be honest, it was the most cathartic and wonderful experience.”

Moore continued to add, “There were plenty of times on set, during COVID and during this so stressful time, where Justin and I would look at each other and be like, ‘can you believe we’re doing this right now?’ Like, we’re about to film a giant musical number on the campus of UCLA. Like, that’s cool.”

Although Dear White People is coming to a bittersweet end, fans have much to look forward to in Season 4. As expressed by both Simien and Moore, this season has a lot of heart in it (and many snazzy musical numbers).

Check out our full interview below.

Dear White People Season 4 premieres on September 22 on Netflix.

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