At the end of the first season of “The Other Black Girl, viewers discover that something’s in the air, or more specifically, something’s in the hair.
Based on the novel by Zakiya Dalila Harris and executive produced by Rashida Jones and Harris, the Hulu and Onyx Collective series follows Nella Rogers (Sinclair Daniel), an editorial assistant at Wagner Books who becomes suspicious of her new coworker Hazel-May McCall (Ashleigh Murray).
Warning: Proceed if you want to read spoilers from “The Other Black Girl.” This interview was arranged with Hickey and Reddout’s personal PR in accordance with the WGA strike rules.
By the hair party in the seventh episode, titled “Caught in the Rapture,” viewers learn Hazel uses hypnotic hair grease that makes Black women who use it malleable in a world that does not accommodate their Blackness.
That differs from the end of Harris’ book, where Nella succumbs to the grease and takes an assignment to convert a new Black woman victim. But co-showrunners Gus Hickey and Jordan Reddout tweaked that show’s plot point in hopes of creating a second season.
“We spent a lot of time thinking about the ending, where we wanted Nella’s story to go, and really what her work in this season was. We all decided and really wanted to see her take back some of this power that she had been denied early in the season,” Reddout said. “From a storytelling perspective, we’re not done. The story is not over.”
Though Nella walks into Wagner Books with relaxed hair and a smoother disposition than she had earlier in the season, she actually faked the decision to use the grease. The scheme leads to her getting promoted to an editor at Wagner, granting her more power than had she not pretended to use the grease. Nella sells this new persona by taking on a book by her once-revolutionary hero Jesse Watson (Langston Kerman), who “got a haircut” and suddenly dialed down his rebellious Blackness to a more palatable version for white people — and Wagner Books.
“We want to play with Nella in a Season 2 as a double agent and balancing this new, very precarious position that she’s put herself in,” Reddout continued. “It was a natural completion of her season arc, but I also think it gave us a fun playground for Season 2.”
On the other hand, Hazel, who has completely sold out to the grease, doesn’t realize that Nella is faking it. Hazel herself used the grease to get out of poverty and caring for her paralyzed mother. Now that she has everything she wants thanks to Diana Gordon (Garcelle Beauvais) and her sinister sisterhood of “other Black girls” who resist the urge to fight every minute of every day, Hazel finds herself in too deep because her entire life is a fabrication.
“Our main question for the whole show is, how much of yourself are you willing to compromise to succeed? That’s a question that every character has to answer and every character answers differently and there is no right answer,” Hickey said. “I think for the ending, if we keep that as our north star, it’s interesting to see like, ‘Oh, is Nella, making an even bigger mistake if she’s sacrificing even more of herself in Season 2?’ We will see this fake-it-til-you-make-it mission that she’s put herself on. It could go terribly.”
Nella’s perspective will remain the connecting point between this first season and a potential second season because her point of view has been solidified by the ending.
“We thought about playing with perspectives a lot, especially because there is a question throughout the season about Nella as a reliable narrator. Is she losing her mind? Is she seeing things? Is she being haunted by a ghost? There’s all these different questions throughout the season,” Reddout said. “We did think about playing with different perspectives and points of view, but I think what we landed on, you really do stay with Nella, and that was what was significant for us about the book. I’m happy with it.”