Black cartoonist Keef Knight, played by actor Lamorne Morris, is on the verge of mainstream success. Throughout his career, Keef has proceeded with caution regarding sensitive topics in an effort not to take controversial stances. However, his perspective suddenly changed after an unexpected encounter with an overaggressive police officer left him traumatized. Shortly afterward, Keef discovered that he could now see and hear inanimate objects talk to him.
Now more sensitive to racism and the everyday microaggressions he’d tried so hard to avoid acknowledging in every situation, Keef must now figure out how to uphold his relationships and a career as a new socially conscious Black man in the new Hulu series “WOKE.”
Series co-creator Keith Knight, an award-winning artist best known for his comic strip “The K Chronicles,” recently spoke by phone with Atlanta Black Star to talk about his new show. Knight revealed that “WOKE” is partially inspired by his life and work as a cartoonist living in San Francisco, California.
“I’ll just tell you what it is,” he began. “I was profiled by the police, but the eye-opening part of it was my white roommate getting up in the cops’ faces and them not doing anything. That was like the real moment that shocked me,” he explained. “It’s not that I didn’t know, but when you see [it] happen right in front of you, you go, ‘Oh, this is the thing I’ve been hearing about.’”
Knight talked about the inspiration behind “WOKE,” jokingly claiming that he needed to get another gig, so he tried his hand at developing something for television. “I just felt like I had some good stories and good sensibility that translated well,” the Boston native said. “I moved out from San Francisco down to L.A. to try to make it happen.”
Knight explained that throughout his journey in creating the show, he ran into a network of individuals that would ultimately help him get his project in Sony executives’ hands. “I just felt like my work translated well to the small screen, and luckily I got together with some really great people and writers, and everybody’s been really cool,” he said.
When asked if he ever felt pressured to tell stories that spoke to the current social climate or the culture, Knight revealed that his focus was more on telling his own story, a method he feels that all storytellers should follow.
“I think, more importantly, it’s important to tell your story. If you could tell your own authentic story, I think it’s a positive thing, and I don’t think anyone’s story’s so unique that it wouldn’t resonate with a lot of other people,” he expressed. “I’ve always found that when I create something, I’m creating something that I personally want to see. So, I create comics that I would want to read, and that’s how I’ve always moved forward.” He added, “But I just feel like if I do that, if I can amuse myself, if I can make myself think if I can make myself go, ‘Yeah. Wow.’ That, ‘yeah, I can relate to that,’ I just feel like a lot of other people would be able to do that.”
Viewers have seen examples of Knight’s approach in film and television shows like HBO’s “Insecure” or Starz’s “P-Valley.” Still, the rate at which newer and more diverse stories surrounding the Black experience emerge doesn’t appear to suffice.
“We would love to see more stories that aren’t couched in oppression. I would love to see more stories that are just about fun and joy and adventure,” Knight said. He added, “I can’t say it’s the only way it’s going to change, but we need people that look like us in positions of power in Hollywood as the gatekeepers. And it’s not just everyday stuff, but even just like fantasy, you know. I want to see a Harry Potter where the lead is a Black kid. I think that’s the biggest thing for me is just seeing Black leads in all sorts of different situations.”
With “WOKE,” Knight hopes that viewers laugh despite its dramedy label. “I want people to laugh, and then I want people to think,” Knight said. “I want people to just consider acting and do something when stuff like this [racial injustices] happens. Call stuff out.”
WOKE was co-created by Knight and Marshall Todd, who also serve as executive producers alongside several others. The show stars Lamorne Morris, T. Murph, Blake Anderson, and Sasheer Zamata. The show is available for streaming now on Hulu. Be sure to check out the trailer below.