We sit down with Michael Jai White, Tommy Davidson, Carl Jones and Byron Minns
With the success of its first season, the edgy, blaxploitation cartoon, Black Dynamite, has been renewed for a second season on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. Having been a fan of The Boondocks for quite some time, I felt the need to check out the movie-based, cartoon version of Michael Jai White’s wildly entertaining over-the-top badass black guy as soon as it premiered, and I’ve been a fan ever since. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the main cast and discuss the upcoming premier of season 2, which aired October 18th. With a group of individuals as charismatic and entertaining as these, it’s no wonder the series has become so popular.
College News: Is there a general story line behind season 2? Or is it more or less episode to episode?
Michael Jai White: Episode to episode. It’s like each episode has it’s own kinda journey it’s gonna take you on.
CN: Nice. So, without spoiling too much, what would be some of your favorite moments from season 2? What can fans look forward to?
MJW: Well there are a few episodes. There’s Black Jaws; it’s one thing I enjoyed and am looking forward to. The Roots episode is something else.
TD: I think that’s the one that stands out. Especially after the success of “12 Years a Slave,” you know, that thing. There’s the opposite play on this thing in the up and coming episodes. It’s pretty cool and different and funny as hell.
CN: I’m definitely looking forward to those episodes for sure. Would you say that your personalities influence your characters? Or do you generally keep them pretty separate? Do your inherent personalities influence the writing at all, or is it a very much organic type of character you’re playing?
TD: I think all of that.
MJW: Oh, absolutely.
TD: That was one question really, so I’d say yes, all that is true (laughs)
MJW: There’s a lot of me in Black Dynamite.”
CN: Yeah I can see that for sure
TD: Yeah, and there’s a lot of me in Cream Corn; a lot of [Byron] in Bullhorn; a lot of [Kym] in Honeybee; y’know, we’re in them.
CN: And that’s probably why it sounds so real and genuine
TD: Yeah, like I’ll go the long way for the joke, but Michael has an abbreviated style.
MJW: I think Byron is the one least like his character.
TD: Yeah, ’cause his character is like over the top and everything, and he’s kinda laid back.
MJW: The crazy thing is, Byron is more the internal martial arts guy, even more so than I am. He’s very deep with it.”
CN: Yes, very zen about it.
MJW: He’s super zen. Byron, he’s closer to Black Dynamite than he is to Bullhorn in reality.
CN: Perfect. Ok, so, a little off topic from the actual show, but is there a live-action Black Dynamite 2 in the works?
MJW: Well, I mean, my intention was to do three different blaxploitation type films with pretty much the same cast. Pretty much like Monty Python. You got Holy Grail and you got Life of Brian, still of a certain time period. But yeah, there’s the intention of doing my second and third in the series of it, kinda will feel like a very similar thing but in a different setting.
CN: Kinda like what we were talking about earlier with the whole Marvel universe type thing with all these characters being brought together.
MJW: Absolutely. So I’m really excited and anxious to bring the second one.
CN: Great. Give the fans what they want. I’d like to delve a little deeper into any underlying messages the show might have. Even though shows like Black Dynamite, Black Jesus, and the Boondocks are comedic, they still bring to light many political and social issues in the African American community. Do you think these are actually having an impact on people and if so, how does it feel to be a part of this important role?
MJW: As to how much impact it has, I don’t know. I know the movie had a great impact because it’s a little more in your face. It’s kinda like if you’re already receptive, you’re gonna notice the little bread crumbs we leave out there for ya. But if you’re not, you’re not gonna see it. It does in each episode have those nuggets that the intellectual can grab on to. But y’know the people just trying to escape their daily lives, they’re pretty much not going to notice.” Tommy: “They’re getting in their yellow submarine. Yellow submarine.”
CN: Haha, yes, the observant people will notice. Alright so final question: Between Black Dynamite and Batman, who do you think would win in a fight?
[laughing] Both: “Black Dynamite.”
MJW: “Black Dynamite can’t lose” Tommy: “Yeah he just can’t lose.”
CN: Yeah I figured Black Dynamite would be the answer, haha.
TD: “That’s a hell of a concept though.”
MJW: “Yeah, Batman loses.”
TD: “Yeah he’ll come back another day but he loses. Black Dynamite doesn’t lose.”
College News: So, what is your favorite moment from Season 2?
Carl Jones: When we got picked up! Favorite moment? Man there are so many man, uh…to me most of the fun we have is in the booth. You know my favorite moments are when we are recording. That’s when a lot of the magic happens. Even when we put words on a page, but when we get in the booth and we start improving and the energy is there, it’s where most of the magic happens.
Byron Minns: I was going to say the writing process this year was a lot of fun. I think this is the first time that we approached it the way that we did with the writer’s room and we had some ideas that we wanted to explore and to be able to do that in the way that we did it, that was probably it.
CN: Michael was saying that a good portion of his personality actually comes through in his character. Would you guys agree with that? Or do you see it as an opportunity to escape your personality and be someone entirely different?
BM: Every actor brings a part of themselves to it, that’s the truth to matter. But, I think there is also a certain amount of departure too and I’m nothing like Bullhorn externally, but there’s some internal stuff that is going to come through.
CJ: Black Dynamite is kind of an aspirational-like character. You wish you could do some of the things that he does, so you gotta live vicariously through him. So, it’s kind of like exaggerated in some ways, but also [Michael Jai White] will kick you through you a wall, so….
BM: So, it’s not exaggerated!
CN: So, on that note, even though shows like Black Dynamite, Black Jesus and The Boondocks are comedic, they still bring to light many political and social issues in the African American community that are very important. Do you think this has an impact on people and if so, how does it feel to be a part of that?
BM: Impact? I’m not sure how much of an impact on what I do or say does, but I have heard from some fans that it does cause people to think. And that in itself is something special. And it’s not always about the black community, I mean a lot of the issues that we talk about are human issues, so that’s another thing. It helps us to see each other more similarly than we do the other way.
CJ: That’s the thing that I like about adult cartoons is that first of all there’s this kind of…misconception that cartoons are for kids and I think the thing with adult cartoons that have to do with adult content is we’re able to explores stories and ideas and concepts that are a lot harder to do in live action. And for me personally, it is actually rewarding to tell stories that put people in an uncomfortable space. You know because I think so much of what we see on TV is so watered down or diluted and it feels so luke warm.
CN: It’s bland.
CJ: It’s bland and I don’t think we should stir stuff up just to stir stuff up. I think there’s a certain amount of…you want to be thought provoking and you want to push people to the point where even if they don’t like something they will be open enough to discuss it. We have social media outlets now where people can voice what they dislike or what they were offended by or what they did like. And we get to see these type of dialogues take place in front of you in real time, which is really healthy in any society or community, which is part of the problem in most societies is that there is no dialogue and everyone is trying to be politically correct and never say anything that is going to offend, so you never really get the chance to see how people really feel. I always say if I was living next to the Grand Dragon of the Klu Klux Klan, I would want to know…you know what I’m sayin?
BM: You want to know an answer that’s weird? In a prison system…and this is going to sound weird because it is divided up into race or whatever…but you’ll find more understanding. Now, they may fight over drugs and money and different things like that, but as far as the racial understanding, they are so clear about what they believe and they always voice it and make it clear of their stance. And because of that, they create a respect…now this is weird, but they create a respect among themselves that they won’t issue to someone outside of their situation. They may respect because I’ve heard racist prisoners say they respected that black man because he was a man.
That didn’t make them any less prejudice, but because they understood where he was coming from and he understood where they were coming from….
CJ: …They found a common denominator!
BM: That’s it!
CN: Other than this show, what is your favorite program on Adult Swim?
BM: Hm…other than this show?
CN: Yeah, do you watch it much or is it…
CJ: Yeah, I do! I’m just trying to think…I’d have to say Aqua Teen [Hunger Force]
BM: Robot Chicken!
CJ: Yes, Robot Chicken! (laughs).
BM: Seth Green is amazing.
CJ: But yeah Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Meatwad is my hero.