If you’re not watching Lovecraft Country…well, get on it. The HBO series, which airs Sunday nights at 9 p.m., stars Jurnee Smollett and Jonathan Majors in a twisty sci-fi drama set in 1950s Jim Crow America. Smollett plays Letitia “Leti” Lewis, a free spirited woman who embarks on a road trip with her childhood friend Atticus (Majors) and his uncle (Courtney B. Vance). Together, the trio encounter monsters both all-too-real (bigoted policeman, of which there are many) and fantastical (wizards, naturally).
It’s a bold and audacious story, Smollett praises, which is exactly what attracted her to the project. “When I read the character of Leti I felt that in every fiber of my being there was no one that could play this role but me,” Smollett says. “I felt so drawn to her and curious about her in ways that felt very familiar to me. There was was no way I was going to go down without a fight.”
But showrunner Misha Green—who is an executive producer alongside J.J. Abrams and Jordan Peele, among others—clearly felt the same way. Smollett got the role, and she’s a revelation in it. “One of my favorite things about her is her buoyancy,” Smollett says. “She’s very unpredictable. Right when she maybe should make a left she makes a right. She really disrupts this idea of who you were supposed to be in 1955 America as being both black and female. She challenges it in such a way that I admire.”
Here, we asked Jurnee Smollett for more of her favorite things for our latest installment of Your Fave’s Faves.
The last great book I read
I recently read The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin and reread a book that I love called Perfect Peace by Daniel Black. I keep coming back to James Baldwin’s writing during this time of uprising, this time of grief for inspiration. And Daniel Black is such an exquisite author. His book confronts so many issues we are facing right now. It explores gender identity within the Black community, the Black family, life in the south. It’s so timely, and yet it’s simply just a poetic meditation on family.
The hair products I’m obsessed with
I love hair products! I’m using a shampoo and conditioner from a Black woman-owned company called SOTAH. Janet Zeitoun is famous for being Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson’s hair stylist. She’s a hair guru and also a family friend. I’m obsessed with her products because I always go back and forth between wearing my hair curly or blowing it out, and it’s so rich but doesn’t weigh it down. So regardless of how I want to wear my hair, it’s a great shampoo and conditioner for it.
How I self care
I am a big believer in baths, like, really meditating in baths. I find myself really unwinding more than ever now. I light my candles—I’ve loved Capri Blue Volcano for years and I keep coming back to it—I get my facial wash, I wash my hair, and I just get in the bath.
The last thing I bought
A plant for my bedroom—it’s a hanging plant, a Pothos. I’m trying to get more life in this house!
My go-to app
Lately I’ve been really holding on to the Headspace app for dear life. John Legend, a dear friend of mine, just partnered with them and did a whole playlist. So thank you, John. God bless you. I’ve been listening to it in the bath with my JBL speaker. But there have been times that I’m pumping Drake or listening to Fleetwood Mac, too.
My new quarantine hobby
I’ve been teaching myself how to play the guitar during COVID, so there’s a whole playlist I have of songs I aspire to learn, like Carole King’s Tapestry album. I’m only one song in, “So Far Away,” which is quite appropriate for being in isolation. Now I’ve moved on to learning Alanis Morissette’s “Perfect.” My taste in music is all over the place. Right now I’m loving Cautious Clay’s song “Cold War.” Sometimes I go for a drive with my son at night and let him fall asleep and just have that song on repeat.
The best thing in my closet
I love jumpers, so jumpsuits are pretty much what I’m living in right now. Ilana Kohn has the comfiest jumpers. I have another one I was given by the costume designer from Lovecraft Country. It’s Ralph Lauren vintage.
The jeans I always reach for first
I’ve lived in my favorite pair of jeans for most of Covid-19. They’re Levi 501s. They’re cut up and really light blue and have gotten to the point where they’re so worn down that they’re soft now. That and a white T-shirt was my uniform.
My favorite workout
Jeanette Jenkins trained me for Birds of Prey and the pilot of Lovecraft Country, and she has an online membership that I do. I do all her workouts because I always feel thoroughly worn down afterward, which is a feeling I like right now.
The makeup trick I learned on set
When the Lovecraft Country makeup artist Sandra Linn Koepper and I were creating the look for Leticia, we were like, “Well, we’ve got to do the classic red lip, right?” A good trick I learned was to put foundation on the line of my lip, like over my lip. so that when I line the red it’s crisp. It’s cool because all of our natural lip lines kind of bleed out and aren’t defined. So to get that really defined look she would have me put foundation on my lip line and put the red lip over that. I don’t remember what red we used, but you know, my makeup artist Vincent Oquendo turned me onto Shiseido Cocktail Hour, which I’m really liking right now.