OWN’s ‘David Makes Man’ Explores Effects of Gentrification on Black Communities in Season 2

Still of Marissa (played by Erica Luttrell) from season 2 of OWN's David Makes Man. (Courtesy of OWN)

The second season of OWN’s coming-of-age drama David Makes Man tackles serious issues, including gentrification, redevelopment, and strained relationships as the story fast forwards 15 years from the last time audiences saw David and the residents of Homestead Village (nicknamed The Ville).

Season 2 premiered on June 22, following a nearly two-year hiatus after the first season aired in 2019.

The story continues in South Florida, and David (played by Kwame Patterson, The Wire) is in his 30s working in strategic marketing, and trying to sell the idea of redeveloping his former stomping grounds of The Ville.

Urban Hollywood 411 spoke with the cast about how gentrification has affected their own lives and how the show is creating a space for performers and creators of color.

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Erica Luttrell (Westworld) plays the role of adult Marissa as she grows from a childhood friend of David’s to now getting in his face to stop the construction that could affect the region’s natural wetlands.

“As she [Marissa] grew into adulthood — no doubt also as a woman of color, she would have encountered more challenges — she might have been a little bit less sheltered and in fighting this battle for the earth and for the animals, she would have encountered a lot of pushback, so she might have been a little bit more hardened,” Luttrell said.

Aside from the characters’ development into adulthood, the Ville is also on the brink of development of its own.

An adult Shella (played by Zsané Jhé) is trying to band the residents of the Ville together to stop David from redeveloping their apartment complex. Shella is now the landlord and deeply cares about the residents.

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In their own lives off-screen, both Jhé and Coles have experienced some sort of gentrification that has either affected their own neighborhood or the neighborhoods their families have lived in.

“I live in Atlanta and there’s a clear separation between old Atlanta and new Atlanta. In old Atlanta we had these thriving, predominantly Black communities and the city and metropolitan area, and now it’s being gentrified. This Black community has been displaced and large corporations have bought buildings and have made it so it’s like a boho chic type of shopping experience — so that’s been my own personal experience with gentrification,” Jhé said.

Coles has also seen changes in his hometown at the expense of Black communities.

“I am from D.C. and lived in D.C. and Maryland. So Prince George’s County, Maryland was just all Black,” Coles said.

“But D.C. — I have family there and they were living in Anacostia southeast, and it was everything — and then all of a sudden they [real estate developers] were like we are going to put a coffee shop here. And then all of a sudden their chocolate city is now not so chocolate anymore, and people are being put out of their homes and they don’t have anywhere to go.”

While Coles doesn’t have the power to stop gentrification, his character does have the power to remind viewers why diversity on screen in all its forms is vital.

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“There are opportunities for us and for others. So much so that it’s to the point where it’s just growing. It’s not even just like a diversity push, it’s like oh, welcome to America because we’re all here and we’ve all been here,” Coles said.

He also mentioned Black actors in acting classes have embraced monologues of characters from David Makes Man, because they can finally see themselves represented on screen.

The drama series has a strong showing of people of color on its production staff as well.

The Peabody Award-winning series is created and executive produced by Moonlight’s Tarell Alvin McCraney. Dee Harris-Lawrence is the show’s showrunner and executive producers alongside Oprah Winfrey, Michael B. Jordan and John Strauss who are also executive producers.

David Makes Man is currently airing on OWN Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

Watch the season 2 trailer below: