After months of anticipation, the intense, contemplative drama “David Makes Man” premieres Wednesday, Aug. 14, 10 p.m., on OWN.
A collaboration between OWN and Michael B. Jordan’s production company, Outlier Society Productions, which guarantees inclusion in all its casts and crews, “David Makes Man” is the first TV project by Academy Award-winner Tarell Alvin McCraney (“Moonlight”). The series, according to the network, centers on David, a 14 year-old prodigy from the projects who is haunted by the death of his closest friend, and relied on by his hardworking mother, Gloria (Alana Arenas) to find a way out of poverty. He must choose between the streets that raised him or the higher education that may offer him a way out. Set in South Florida, the series is inspired by events in McCraney’s own life and explores childhood trauma and the power of imagination to survive.
In the debut episode titled “David’s Sky,” we meet young David (Akili McDowell), who appears to be living his life in a dream state., caught between the pressure to excel at the challenging magnet school he attends, and lowering himself to the standard of the drug dealers in the project where he lives. Through in all, he is charged with caring for and protecting and caring for his volatile younger brother, J.G. (Cayden Williams), and often receives in-your-face, candid advice from Sky (Isaiah Johnson) who seems to follow him everywhere.
A bright, introspective boy, David does well in school, but feels added pressure in Dr. Woods-Trap’s (Phylicia Rashad) “gifted” class, where he and his best friend, Seren (Nathaniel McIntyre) are the only African American students. One day, after a stellar classroom presentation by Seren, David’s competitive side gets the best of him, and the boys end up in a physical altercation that lands them both in the principal’s office, and David in counseling.
Life is even more complicated at home, where David is pressured into acting as a lookout for “The Ville,” at the request of small time drug lord, Raynan (Ade Chike Torbert).
Akili McDowell give a superb, emotionally-charged portrayal of David, who genuinely cares about people, and is literally haunted by shocking things that have happened to him and around him.
The series also features Tony Award winner and Emmy/Golden Globe nominee Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Elvis Nolasco, Gillian Williams, Juanita Jennings, Lisa Colon-Zayas, Lindsay Blackwell, Lela Rochon and Nick Creegan, all with recurring roles.