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Stars of "David Makes Man" Talk About Season Two and Black Men and Their Mental Health

Kwame Patterson and Akili McDowell, both as David, in 'David Makes Man.'

In August 2019, Academy Award-winning screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney made the leap from the movie screen to television with his first series David Makes Man, which premiered on the Oprah Winfrey Network.

McCraney joined forces with executive producers Michael B. Jordan, Dee-Harris Lawrence, and Oprah Winfrey to bring the story of a 14-year-old Black boy named David as he strived to make a way out of a tough neighborhood in Florida while dealing with the death of his mentor. Now nearly two years after the series debuted, it is making its return on Tuesday, June 22 on OWN. This time, however, keying in on a "boys to men" transformative story arc following David and his family and friends two decades after where season one left off, introducing the grown-up David. But ultimately the question becomes has David really grown up and has he learned to embrace and move forward from the past or is he still stuck mentally at 14.

While in season one rising teen actor Akili McDowell took viewers on David's journey. This time around, McDowell is joined by Kwame Patterson who steps into the shoes of thirty-something-year-old David. Patterson who is best known for his roles in the FX television series Snowfall, The Wire, and The Oath, spoke about the importance of taking on the role of showing a vulnerable Black male protagonist. "It was an honor to be a part of this cast for the season. After the first season was done so beautifully, and I think Akili McDowell played an amazing foundation, the way he structured the character was so beautifully done, so coming into the season as this older David, there were little nerves in the beginning, and a little bit of excitement at the same time, because you want to make sure you do the series proud because it already had such a great foundation."

Patterson further spoke on the challenges the role presented as it was out of his typical types of roles saying, "This was a new world for me to step into. I'm used to playing the bad guy, drug dealers, gangsters on TV, so to step into a character as a Black man, dealing with mental health, and being able to navigate through our vulnerabilities was a challenge. But it was a challenge I was excited to accept."

In the Black community, especially in regards to the mental health struggles of Black men, they often aren't encouraged to speak out about these issues but instead are forced to present a strong front. Patterson touched upon this notion of the strong Black man being unable to show weakness publicly and how it affects the mental health of a Black man saying, "We don't realize, as Black men especially, is that from the time we're young, we're conditioned to hold in our emotions. When you're getting a whooping, or beating from your mom, she's telling you to stop crying, and your dad is also telling you to stop crying. If you fall, you scrape your knee on the ground, they're telling you to stop crying, be tough, toughen up. And you're having pain, you're having pain inflicted on you. But somebody is telling you not to cry, to be tough. So as we grow up we continue to keep those emotions bottled in because that's what we were taught, so that's the reason why when we get older, we struggle with being vulnerable. We struggle with expressing our emotions, whether it's in relationships because we were taught to be strong, don't cry, you cry, you weak those things. "

In the process of adult David's journey, Patterson himself also was able to find a sense of healing, " I dealt with those issues, and being on this show, it helped break down a lot of those walls that I had where it made me feel comfortable now to go to therapy, to want to talk to somebody about my emotions if I want to cry, I feel comfortable crying and not feeling weak."

McDowell chimed in saying, "It's kind of like a stigma going around that therapy... something's wrong with therapy. And that's what we want to correct as well in the second season."

Patterson's adult David isn't the only Black male whose mental health will be explored this coming season, and the series will also introduce the grown-up JG who we met in season one as David's younger brother. As an adult, JG now played by Arlen Escarpeta who is best known for playing Bobby Brown in Lifetime's Whitney Houston biopic, spoke about the mental health challenges JG now struggles with as not just a Black man, but a Black police officer.

"JG, in regards to mental health and him being a police officer and a Black man, you're going to see them dealt with very, very different from David. David is at a different perspective in his life where he actually is in therapy. JG, like so many of us, is self-medicating himself in different ways with different avenues of his own therapy. And also JG is forever optimistic. That's how he grew up. He was protected for quite some time now. So once that mask gets removed, we're going to get to see how JG truly does respond to that trauma that is there that he's either buried or the new trauma that he's now dealing with being a police officer. You're going to see all of our characters go through their own therapy sessions, whether they're sitting in front of a therapist in an office or not. You're going to go through a lot with them as they grow, decide, and figure out how to be the best people that they want to be for themselves and for their families."

Being not only a Black man, but a Black male police officer presents its own challenges for not just the character of JG but for many Black male police officers, "I'm a firm believer that there's always two sides to a story, but there's only one truth. And the truth is looking at everything across the board. And that's something that JG is going to have to really figure out, being a police officer, because and we've heard it said many times before, as a black man, as a police officer, you don't get to take off your Black skin. You don't get to do that. So JG is going to have to figure that out for himself. And I think the audience is really going to enjoy that ride with him as he discovers who he is as a Black man who happens to be a police officer. And what that truly does mean and how it affects him not only at work but also when he's not at work, when he's with his family and when he's not in uniform."

Season two of David Makes Man seems that it will offer a lot in terms of giving Black men the support they need to heal, but ultimately as McDowell pointed out about what to expect this season is seeing older David trying to identify himself as a man.

Tune into David Makes Man every Tuesday at 9 PM ET on OWN.


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