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Major spoilers below for anyone who hasn't yet watched Lovecraft Country Episode 5.
For "Strange Case," Lovecraft Country kept Jonathan Majors' Tic and Jurnee Smollett's Leti mostly stayed indoors as a follow-up to last week's underground tunnel explorations, which allowed for Wunmi Mosaku's Ruby to take the spotlight in the most interesting ways. With its earliest moments, the wildly imaginative horror series threw viewers for a loop by giving Ruby a white woman's body to walk around in, and then having her tear through that body any time she wanted to become herself again. Those scenes, as well as Christina's shocking reveal, were arguably the goriest Lovecraft Country moments yet since the premiere, and it was wonderful.
Wonderful for viewers, that is, and not necessarily for the Lovecraft Country stars that had to get downright messy in order to pull those moments off. CinemaBlend and other outlets spoke with Wunmi Mosaku and Abbey Lee during a Lovecraft Country press event, at which point I inquired about their time getting bloody AF for Episode 5. Lee, whose Christina shockingly burst from William's skin in the episode's final minutes, was the first to speak about her discomfort. In her words:
Yeah, the the physical part of it, like the makeup effects – and I know that Wunmi has a very strong response to this as well – it was very difficult. I mean, it wasn't very difficult, but it was very uncomfortable. I mean, the experience of having to be covered in this fake skin blood shit is... It's very sticky. It gets cold and hard when it's on your skin. It stinks. You just feel like you're in a cocoon of gunk. Like, it's not pleasant. It sticks to your hairs. You know, that sort of work is very technical, right? Because there's CGI that has to be added onto it, it's very much like, 'Place hand here. Hold that for five seconds. Keep still.' It's sort of tedious work.
It definitely looked like both Abbey Lee and Wunmi Mosaku were being splattered with jellies and jams to make everything look so gory. And that's by far the most tame comparison I could make, because wow, it could get so much more disgusting. Even though some of the fake skin was shown to be falling off of their bodies fairly easily, it's the wet and sticky mess that was left behind that made things so uncomfortable for the actresses. I can imagine it's not so easy to get used to having one's entire body slathered in fake blood, regardless of how long the process lasts. Even if some of it is CGI, it's not ALL CGI.
Below, Wunmi Mosaku talks about her own experience with the sticky-icky makeup and effects, considering she had to go through the process multiple times throughout the filming for Episode 5.
Yeah, it's kind of weird, because it's all so sticky, and then as soon as it gets air on it, it gets really, really sticky and ends up being like a wax. So if you put your arms together, it's like a wax, and it pulls off your hair. And then you don't want to cover up, so you want to constantly get gunked up to make it a lot less sticky, but then, you know, you're kind of naked. So then you don't want to cover up because it takes it all off and then you have to do all again, so then you've got people around you with all these towels trying to keep you modest. [Laughs.] Yes, it's just so strange. Like on my birthday, I was covered from head to toe in this gunk, and I really wanted to escape before 10 so I could enjoy some time of the day. And the de-rig is intense. You've got to get it all off and out of your hair and in between your toes. Like, it's everywhere. I don't even think I left that day until like midnight.
Each time one of those transformation processes gets shown, it's quite obvious that the fake blood and viscera does seem to get into every nook and cranny that the human body allows for. Like walking barefoot in a muddy puddle and feeling it all squeeze upward between the toes. Just, you know, with a gross, artificial version of white people's skin also involved.
Take a moment to relive part of the William-to-Christina transformation below, which looked like something straight out of John Landis' An American Werewolf in London.
Wunmi Mosaku was also asked for her thoughts about how Lovecraft Country handles the story's intersectionality of race and gender elements, and here's how she answered:
I think the show deals with it really quite well because, as a reader and as a woman, I feel like I understand Christina's frustrations and how she feels unable to spread her wings and do what she needs to do. I feel like I can read and watch it and say, 'I understand it and I empathize with it as a woman.' But then at the same time, I feel like what I have to encounter as a black woman, and what Ruby encounters as a black woman is just even more suffocating. It's more pressure, it's more unjust. And yeah, I feel like the show deals with it really well, because we've got these two women [for whom] we have a understanding of why they feel how they feel; you can see it play out. But then when Ruby takes the potion, she now gets to breathe a little deeper and take up a little bit more space, which she wasn't afforded before. Yes, there's still the patriarchy, but there is just a different freedom that Ruby's afforded. But neither of them are truly free, because of the way that the world interacts with them. The world chooses to diminish and belittle and restrict both of them, but in different ways, and I think for Ruby – and I think everyone would agree – in more ways, and more heavily. Because she occupies both spaces, black and female.
I cannot imagine where Lovecraft Country will take Ruby or Christina's stories at this point, considering their relationship is extremely unlike any other characters in this show. But I'm betting that showrunner Misha Green and her creative team figured out how to make it work in ways that are both freaky as shit and socially relevant.
With half of its first season now in the books, Lovecraft Country has five episodes left that will be airing Sunday nights on HBO at 9:00 p.m. ET. While waiting for more, stay tuned to CinemaBlend, and head to our Fall 2020 TV premiere schedule to see what new and returning shows are on the way in the near future.