I have to admit, I held off on writing a review or recommendation for “David Makes Man” for a few weeks. I wanted to watch a few episodes before I established an opinion. Especially after the first two weeks. They took us on a trip that I wasn’t sure I wanted to be on. However, I did want to give it a chance, and thanks to Episode 3, I’m glad I did. That’s when I knew I’d be all in for the first season, at least. It’s when I became invested in David’s story… as complicated as it is.
What’s the show about? Glad you asked. Here’s the synopsis.
Set in South Florida, this lyrical coming-of-age story centers on a teenage prodigy named David who lives in the projects but attends a magnet school for academically gifted youngsters. David, played by newcomer Akili McDowell, straddles two different worlds, navigating between the streets that raised him and the school that offers him a way out of poverty. His balancing act comes at an emotional price which is portrayed in this original series on OWN that delves into issues of race and identity. It features an ensemble cast that includes Alana Arenas, Phylicia Rashad and Isaiah Johnson.
Created by Academy Award-winning screenwriter (for “Moonlight”) Tarell Alvin McRaney and executive produced by Oprah Winfrey and Michael B. Jordan, “David Makes Man” is much more than what the synopsis says. It’s a case study about young Black men and what they go through to navigate their way through their teenage years and their environment. Episode 1 introduced us to a day in the life of David, and gave us everything from his first waking thoughts to the end of his day, almost 24 hours later, with him reciting a poem that helps steady him. It’s a complicated role and Akili McDowell handles it masterfully. The series is literally on his shoulders and his range of emotions, and facial expressions, and at times calm mixed with rage, is award-worthy.
And that environment? My goodness. From the best friend who is being abused at home, to the homeboy who may or may not have gotten David mixed up in drug dealing, to the recently-slain brother from the block that triggers memories, to the younger brother who is more than a handful to handle, to the mother that is constantly working in order to makes ends meet, to the teacher (played by Phylicia Rashad) that wants to place David in a gifted school and the pressures that come with that, to everything else young Black boys have to do in order to just survive… it’s a lot.
Episode 2 gave us a look at what David deals with outside of school. What started as a trip to drop off his younger brother and an order to be home before his mother got home from work turned into an adventure that can seemingly only happen in South Florida. I wasn;’t quite on board after that episode and was contemplating letting the series go. It was Episode 3, where David first meets the school psychologist (played by Ruben Santiago Hudson), that kept me engaged and let me know I need to give “David” a chance.
I’m definitely curious to see what takes place going forward. If you love drama, you should check out the show, which airs directly after “Queen Sugar” Wednesdays on OWN. For Your Saturday, I give you “David Makes Man.” It’s a trip you definitely need to be ready to go on. For further preparation, a special behind-the-scenes video is included below.