ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke to Entergalactic co-creator Kenya Barris about the Netflix animated event, which begins streaming on September 30, 2022. Barris spoke about working with Virgil Abloh, Scott Mescudi’s performance, and more.
“An original, immersive, animated story about a young artist named Jabari — voiced by Mescudi — as he attempts to balance love and success,” says the synopsis. “Finding the latter brings Jabari a step closer to the former, when moving into his dream apartment introduces him to his new neighbor, photographer it-girl Meadow — voiced by Jessica Williams. An explosion of art, music, and fashion, Entergalactic takes place in the only city that can handle all three: New York.”
Tyler Treese: What was it like working with the legendary Virgil Abloh, who served as your costume designer? That had to be really touching.
Kenya Barris: It’s amazing that we get to pay tribute to his legacy and what he was able to give us, to the world, but to give us this in a way that I don’t think animation normally gets. We really felt like we wanted to make sure that we give the same attention to [fashion]. I believe that everything in that screen is the producer and director’s responsibility, and we wanted to make sure we give everything the same attention of that. And he gave us a line, his preview and his genius, you know what I’m saying? And have this be with him and Cudi’s relationship and my love for him. The idea that we can put this into our project is amazing.
One thing I liked is that all the characters have flaws. The relationship has flaws. How important was it to show something real rather than like an idealized version of what people go through dating in a modern age?
Well, I mean, I think that everybody has to have flaws, right? You know what I’m saying? I think that’s when you see that it feels saccharine if they don’t. If you just see a bunch of perfect people running around. And I think the idea of a flaw, the reason you put that is because you want a character to have an arc, you know what I’m saying? And those flaws, hopefully over the course of the story, they start to try to work themselves out and that becomes what the audience falls in love with, is that characters start one place and end in another. And I feel like that was really important for us, especially in young love, you know, the stories that you don’t really get to see. People don’t have a chance to really examine themselves and say like, “This is something I did wrong. This is something I wanted to do different.” So I think that was really important for us.
Jabari does have elements of Scott in it, but it’s definitely not a self-insert. Mescudi has proven to be a very capable actor. So what about this dynamic do you think will surprise people? Just because a lot of people going into this might just think he’s playing himself.
I think he’s much more vulnerable on this, you know what I’m saying? Cudi’s a rapper who’s…I’m saying Jabari is someone who’s looking to try and find their way. And I think that that vulnerability, especially from a black male character, male character in general, but particularly a black male character who shows their vulnerability, shows his flaws and at the end of the run sees that he has to make some changes in order to get what he wants. I think that’s really important. I don’t think people haven’t seen that before, especially from Cudi or just a lot of young male characters.
I absolutely love the animation style. How did you get that to come together? Because it just looks so unique and there’s not much else that really looks like it.
I just drew every frame really slow. I’m just kidding. [laughs] No, we had an amazing, amazing…[Fletcher Moules], who is our main animation director, is amazing. And he comes from his pedigree, if you ever look it up, he comes from the best places in the world. There are things I won’t mention because he wants to make this his thing.
But one of the big things for us was the backgrounds, you know what I’m saying? We really wanted to do something that felt really proprietary and make New York a character in a different kind of way. From the way the sun shines down, or to the way the lights hit, you know, New York is a city that never sleeps, and we feel like it was aesthetically a character that added to the story in a really interesting way. And at the same time, I think when you mix the music in, when you mix animation, and when you mix the amazing characters that we have, and it really sort of collides in a way that creates its own thing.
You assembled an incredible all-star cast. It really speaks to just how much people believe in the vision for this and how beloved Scott is. Can you just speak to just some of the names you got because that had to be kind of shocking.
Well, shout out to Carmen Cuba because she’s the shit. [laughs] But people do love Scott and, when we went to this project in general, we were like, we want to make sure it feels like something we can go and say, this is bigger than just another series or just another project. So, Timothée Chalamet coming in, from Laura Harrier, or, Ty Dolla $ign, Teyana Taylor, I’m sure I’m missing [some]. There’s a ton of people in it that I feel like are [incredible]. Vanessa Hudgens, you know what I’m saying? Like, we really feel like we wanted to throw all these people who, which is one of the great things about New York, is you get a lot of disparate characters from a lot of different places, and we wanted to throw them in there and say, these people would actually really be friends in real life because that’s what makes New York special.
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