Justin Simien had a lot to unpack for the final season of his critically-acclaimed Netflix series, Dear White People.
Unlike previous seasons, where the creator went in focused on topical issues centered on race and culture, Simien says he “started the season from a heart place.”
“I went in going like, ‘What am I feeling right now?’ And ‘How do I turn that into something that is honest but also exciting enough that warrants a final season?'” Simien tells ABC Audio. “And that’s where I landed first.”
Simien notes that once he “mentally… caught up” to what his feelings showed him, he noticed that there was a strong tie-in for music.
“I realized that there was this really interesting echo between the ’90s and the sort of Black renaissance that you really feel in the music of the ’90s,” he says.
Unfortunately, not every nostalgic ballad was able to make the cut. Writer Jaclyn Moore jokes that for every “great” ’90s song they considered, they were reminded that you had to pay for it.
“We love Lauryn Hill. We had some [of her] numbers — but that’s expensive,” Moore laughs.
Aside from the musically themed season, Justin says the fourth season leaves plenty of room for continuation since racism doesn’t officially have an end date.
“The reckoning has not completed itself,” he shares. “So that was always the tricky part. It’s like, how do we tell the truth about this experience and also tell a satisfying story, but at the same time not bum everybody out?”
He continues, “And I think by nature, Dear White People always has to feel a little incomplete…We are so far from the mountaintop… that there’s no other way to ‘end it.'”
The final season of Dear White People launches on Netflix September 22.
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