‘Harlem’ returns to explore Black Joy and Womanhood

The cast and creator of Prime Video’s Harlem spill the tea on season 2′s exploration of Black joy and womanhood

After a 13-month wait, Tracy Oliver’s Harlem returns with season two on Prime Video on Friday, Feb.3. It’s got all the humor, romance, and friendship of its pilot season but with sharper storytelling and expanded world-building. Season one introduced viewers to the core friend group Camille (Meagan Good), Quinn (Grace Byers), Tye (Jerrie Johnson), and Angie (Shoniqua Shandai). While this new season gives a deeper look at each character’s life outside their friendship, allowing fans to see and better understand how they each show up for each other.

Oliver knew she wanted to thematically deal with Black joy in season two and what that looked like for each character. She tells us it’s a season of discovery about looking at joy as a personal journey and something Black people seek every second of their lives.

“Because it’s different and something I’m still personally trying to chase. Where [these characters] are in the second season is kind of saying to hell with what the plan was or what society said [should] be my life. Let me figure out my version of womanhood and Black joy,” Oliver tells Reckon.

Harlem picks up right after that cliffhanger of a kiss between Camille and Ian. The season focuses on the life-changing struggles and decisions of the core friend group in season one. Camille is on a journey \to figure out who she is and what she wants out of life. Tye is dealing with a rocky divorce while trying to figure out why she doesn’t put roots down or pursue healthy long-term commitments. Angie is finding her footing, checking off a list of things to become a responsible — and employed — adult (while still finding time to date some of the FINEST men in New York). Quinn is navigating her first queer relationship since coming out and dealing with a family secret that affects her on a deep emotional/mental level, leaving her life forever changed.

Jerrie Johnson, Meagan Good, Shoniqua Shandai, and  Grace Byers walking on sidewalk in 'Harlem'

Though these four friends are on separate journeys, it’s used as a tool to bring them closer. “Their friendships are tested [through] conflict, and there’s [an] evolution of friends as well. That was important for me to explore because as we all evolve and change, sometimes you outgrow [friendships] or the dynamic changes,” Oliver tells Reckon.

For Harlem season two, Oliver also shared her hopes for viewers after watching the second season. Ultimately for women, she wants to normalize being on their own path and timeframe.

“A lot of us put a lot of pressure to have a wife or husband, a child, the perfect house or whatever it is by a certain age. And men just don’t have that, they can be bachelors and do whatever they want forever. I’m hoping that people will [see] these flawed and beautiful women figuring it out and be like ‘maybe that’s fine,’” says Oliver.

Harlem season two will consist of 8 episodes. Unlike season one, this season will release two episodes premiering every week on Prime Video, starting Friday, February 3, in more than 240 countries and territories worldwide.

Reckon also spoke with the Harlem cast about the upcoming season and what fans can expect from their characters.

Q: After that season 1 cliffhanger and Kiss with Ian? What can viewers expect from Camille this season?

Meagan Good: We pick up exactly where we [left] off, which I love because it’s like you get to see aftermath [and] consequences. With Camille, this is a journey of self-discovery for her. In [significant] ways, [she’s] learning who she is and what she wants in an interesting and fun way throughout the season. And I think that life is very much like that.

Q: Tye had a health scare in season 1. How is she prioritizing her health and overall well-being this season?

Jerrie Johnson: Tye is more open to opinions which she’s just not in season one. But I think she has to do a little bit more self-reflecting. I also think a part of her doesn’t want to believe what the doctors told her in season one. So, [in] season two, there is a lot of pushing it to the side or doing something that’s [a] quick fix for now until she figures out what she really can do so she doesn’t have to do something so extreme.

Q: How does Quinn’s friendship with Tye provide an avenue to lean on while figuring out her new queer identity?

Grace Byers: I think that is a very interesting dynamic because Tye really understands and knows the identity of who she is in her life, specifically, sexually right? Quinn does not. [She’s] still figuring [things] out. To have that representation in a friendship that [provides] her space, safety, and cushion to be able to ask the questions, to sometimes not say the right thing as she is navigating this experience, is deeply important. That’s what I love about Quinn and Tye together.

Q: What does balance look like for Angie in season 2?

Shoniqua Shandai: Balance for Angie looks like getting everything she wants. Angie is someone who needs it all for her to feel balanced. The validation of career and love — even if it’s not from a partner — but with her family and friends ultimately stabilizes her. She’s a woman who is like, ‘I want my cake, and I need to eat it too.’

The Reckon Report.
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