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The Boondocks

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Aaron McGruder - The Boondocks Interview

By Troy Rogers

"It's a complicated show to do and it goes to three countries at certain points and if it's bad, it's really bad, so you have to get it right."

The controversial animated series The Boondocks started out as a newspaper strip and quickly became the new star of Adult Swim. Debuting in 2006 to critical controversy, shocked gasps, and hilarious laughs, The Boondocks pushed the envelope through social comedy, racial parody, political accountability, and the writings of the show's creator, Aaron McGruder. Now that The Boondocks has finally returned to the airwaves, we dialed in Aaron McGruder to see what's in store for the second season of The Boondocks, what changes were made, and what controversies we can expect.

Aaron McGruder on the delay of the second season:

"It just took us longer to finish the show than we thought. It's animation and we wanted to get it right, so it took longer. Sorry it's not a longer answer. Production troubles would be a good way of putting it. It's a complicated show to do and it goes to three countries at certain points and if it's bad, it's really bad, so you have to get it right."

McGruder on his initial goal with the series:

"The goal was a job and to do the kind of humor that I wanted to see and I felt like it wasn't out there very much, which is kind of black political satire. I think when you go down that road and you do it with any success, shaking things up just comes with the territory. I don't think it really starts with the goal of shaking things up. I didn't expect the controversy, because I didn't expect the strip to end up being as big as it was as quickly as it happened. I think in order to start trouble, someone has to even know who you are and that kind of thing takes a long time in comics, even if you're incredibly lucky. So I think when the trouble started early that was a little bit of a surprise."

On the headlines surrounding the "N" word:

"I use the word a lot in the show because I'm a bad person, so I cannot in any way defend what I do [laughs]."

McGruder on the return of Samuel L. Jackson:

"Yeah, he's in it. We try to be really respectful to Sam and not put his name out there, you know. But we didn't promote it that way in the first season either. But yeah, he's in an episode this season."

On the changes from season one to season two:

"Here's how big of a change there was: When we finished the last script of the first season, none of us had actually seen the first episode come back from overseas yet. We wrote the entire season blind, essentially. None of us knew what the show looked like, so just knowing what the show is played a huge role in how we shaped season two. I think we got much better control over the animation, which really allows you to tell the story the proper way. When you're fighting with the animation, or the animation is controlling you, you're limited to what you can do. That was a big deal. We looked at season one and what worked and what didn't, and just tried to make it a better show all around. I do think the storytelling is much better, the pacing is much faster, and the show is much funnier. So all around I'm very pleased with it."

On restarting The Boondocks comic strip:

"I think the show played a big factor in me having to walk away from the strip, because I didn't want to do both badly. In the first season I tried to do both and it took a huge toll on me... But yeah, I constantly play with the idea of coming back, not to the newspapers, but online. It's something I think could happen and whether it happens after the show or while the show is still running, it depends on how many hours I can go without sleep. I don't know. I can't meet the newspaper schedule. Seven days a week is too much and they don't let you go. They make you do all or nothing, so I can't meet that kind of deadline situation."

On the freedom of television and how it influences the stories:

"Compared to the newspaper strip there's much greater freedom on TV. So there's the freedom of animation and having all of these people work for you, and there's the freedom of storytelling in animation that you can go way beyond the scope of what a strip can do. Then, in terms of just content, the newspapers are a very conservative and a sanitized medium. In terms of the expression of ideas, we're allowed a lot more range on television. The impact is kind of... it just is what it is. The show is pretty different from the strip and I think at the end of the day, like many of the things we did last season, such as the MLK episode, would have been totally beyond the scope of the strip."

On Al Sharpton's response to the MLK episode and what controversial episodes are planned for season two:

"[laughs] There will be absolutely no controversial storylines this season. We went in a totally different direction with the show. Okay, well, Al came after the show and I'm a big supporter of Al, so I also went after the show. But unfortunately the whole second season, we had to write that and that's all written now and I feel terrible about it, because now it's coming on and I can't change it. Honestly, it depends on what you think is controversial. Some people thought the Martin Luther King episode was controversial. I didn't think so. There may be some episodes that people think are controversial if they're sensitive to that kind of thing, but for me... I don't know, it's tough for me to say."

McGruder on the state of hip-hop:

"My feelings on hip-hop are that I wish it was just better. I don't look too much into what kind of words anyone is saying as much as the quality of the work. I think if you're an artist and you're putting out work that you believe in, I think that naturally solves a lot of the problems that we're talking about in terms of content of the music and all of that. Positive music can also suck, so for me it's all about good music, [and] creating good art. To me that's the most important thing. I get mad when I hear rappers who can't rap or producers who can't make beats, that's what frustrates me. I could care less that people are saying what they're going to say and I think it's really easy to scapegoat the youth to a certain extent and forget that this language has been a part of our community for a long time, way before rap music."

Aaron McGruder on the anime influences for the fight scenes:

"We looked at Samurai Champloo and Cowboy Bebop to make this work for black comedy and it would be a remarkable thing. We didn't get anywhere close to where we wanted on the first season, but when you see the animation in the second season, it's a big step up and that gives you the freedom to pull off sequences that have some visual impact. We went in that direction because we felt we were able to pull it off. I was impressed with some of the fight sequences of season one and knowing how much we learned, I felt like we could really push that in the second season and we did and it worked out really well."


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