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Carrboro-based cartoonist has stories brought to life in new Hulu original series


Keith Knight smiles on the set of the Hulu original series “Woke,”. Photo courtesy of Keith Knight.

An award-winning Carrboro-based cartoonist is having his stories brought to life in a Hulu original series called “Woke,” which premiered Wednesday. 

Keith Knight has been in the cartoon industry for over 20 years, known best for his works “The K Chronicles” and “(th)ink." He has been writing comics that speak candidly about his experiences as a Black man for several years.

“I’ve been doing comics about police brutality for years, and racism," Knight said. "And I don’t know, I guess the world has just finally caught up."

“Woke,” which was pitched and created by Knight himself, is the semi-autobiographical story of a Black cartoonist in San Francisco caught between the desire to “keep it light” in his comics and to talk about his own lived experiences. Portrayed by Lamorne Morris, Keith’s character — named “Keef” in the show — has a sudden, drastic shift in worldview after an incident of being profiled by San Francisco police.

“He has this run-in with the cops that sort of awakens his activism in a way. It awakens his third eye,” Knight said.

Keith said that incident was directly inspired by an experience in his own life that occurred 20 years ago, when San Francisco police mistakenly profiled him for a reported robber. In the show, this incident results in Morris’ character awakening a “third eye” that allows him to see the world in new ways and gradually prompts him to be more outspoken about his experiences.

Knight said Keef's “third eye” is a metaphor for trauma that speaks directly to the way peoples’ lives are affected by altercations with police, even those that don’t result in physical brutality.

“Not even being injured by them physically, but just to know the idea that your number could come up at any time,” Knight said.

Despite dealing with themes of police brutality, racism and trauma, the show was designed to be mostly light and comedic in tone. Knight said he believes this balance is important for allowing people to receive and accept challenging messages.

“Our first goal is to make people laugh, you know? Make people laugh, and then make people think,” Knight said. “Humor is the sugar that makes the medicine go down.”

Marshall Todd, the co-creator of “Woke,” explained the idea for the plot actually came from him and Knight speaking about their shared experiences with police. Todd said he himself had a SWAT unit called on him a few years prior in Los Angeles after being mistakenly profiled.

“We had that in common,” Todd said. “So we started talking about that, and from those discussions, ‘Woke’ kinda began.”

Bridget Todd, a podcaster and content creator who hosts iHeartRadio’s “There Are No Girls on the Internet” podcast, was a member of the audience for the premiere of the show’s first two episodes last week. Todd said she finds the show to be relevant given the current nationwide reckoning with racism.

“It’s definitely really exciting to see that kind of nuanced struggle that I’ve definitely felt as a Black creative myself depicted on screen,” Todd said. “Folks will see the Black experience is challenging, and also funny and joyous. I think they will see that our experiences and our stories are really nuanced.”

The show was originally set to premiere in July around the time of the International San Diego Comic-Con, but it was pushed to September after the convention went virtual.

“Woke” finished production just before the pandemic halted many TV shows and projects. Since then, the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and more have propelled issues of police brutality and racial profiling into the national spotlight. Knight said because of this, many people have asked how he made the release so timely.

“If this came out 20 years before or 20 years in the future, it would still be on time, you know?” Knight said. “As depressing as it is to say, it’s evergreen.”

All eight episodes of the season are available to stream on Hulu Wednesday.


@DTHCityState |

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