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PROFILE

Justin Simien Guest
Justin Simien

Host of "Don't @ Me," and writer, director, producer of “Dear White People."

Justin Simien is a writer, director, and producer of both television and film based in Los Angeles, California. In 2014 he wrote and directed his first feature film, the critically acclaimed Indie Dear White People, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. After being called “timely and important” by critics and audiences alike, the project won him the Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent and was picked up by Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions. 

After the theatrical release of Dear White People in the Fall of 2014, Simien was awarded Best First Screenplay and nominated for Best First Feature at the Independent Spirit Awards. The film also earned him a nomination for the Bingham Ray Breakthrough Director Award at that year’s Gotham Awards, along with a nomination for the Audience Award. Actress Tessa Thompson also garnered a Breakthrough Actor win at the Gotham Awards for her leading performance as the fearless and controversial Sam White. Simien was included in Variety’s “10 Directors to Watch” roundup for that year.

Simien adapted Dear White People into a series for streaming giant Netflix, which debut in 2017, with many of the original cast returning to continue the story. The show, which recently debuted its second season, remains at a coveted and rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes for both the first & second seasons. Simien’s next project will be writing and directing his second feature length film entitled Bad Hair. Paralleling the rise of New Jack Swing in 1989, Bad Hair is a horror satire that follows an ambitious young woman who gets a weave in order to survive the image obsessed world of music television. Her professional success comes at a higher cost than anticipated, however, when she discovers her new hair may have a mind of its own…

FROM Justin Simien

The Business

Justin Simien on ‘Dear White People’ The new season of ‘ Dear White People ’ on Netflix picks up roughly two weeks after the conclusion of Season 1. Black students at the fictional Ivy League Winchester University are still shaken by recent racially charged incidents, and to make things worse, their black residence hall, Armstrong Parker, has been forced to take in white students after a mysterious fire at another dorm. And now campus activist Sam White, played by Logan Browning, is so rattled by a barrage of racist tweets from an anonymous troll that for once she’s at a loss for words. Instead of delivering her usual pointed commentary on her college radio show, Dear White People, she has been reduced to playing classical music. The series follows Sam and other students with unique perspectives as they try to make sense of what’s happening on their campus. ‘Dear White People’ was created by our guest today, Justin Simien. He wrote and directed the 2014 film and now serves as the showrunner for the Netflix series. Of course, there have been a few changes in America since he wrote the movie. Simien tells us about writing satire that’s now manifested in reality under the current administration, and talks about being the subject of intense Twitter attacks just based on the title of his show. Plus, he takes us through the unconventional journey that brought ‘Dear White People’ to the screen in the first place, and tells us what’s next for him: a horror satire called ‘Bad Hair.’

21 MIN, 19 SEC May 14, 2018

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