Black Millennials Confront Mental Illness, Identity Crises in ‘Giants’ Web Series

By Sameer Rao Jan 25, 2017

"Giants," a new drama series that explores three Black millennials’ struggles to control their futures as they approach their 30s, premieres on Issa Rae‘s ("Insecure") YouTube channel tonight (January 25).  

Colorlines talked to series creator, writer, director and star James Bland ("First") about the show’s characters and premise. Bland describes his character, Malachi, as "a religious skeptic with deep Christian roots" who struggles to make money and find purpose after leaving a lucrative job. Vanessa Baden ("Kenan & Kel") portrays Malachi’s roommate Journee, whose mental health battles make it difficult to hold a job. And Sean Samuels ("The Goldbergs") plays Ade, a Nigerian immigrant whose father cuts him off after he abandons his engineering career to pursue dance professionally.

"What applies to all of these characters is that they decided not to live life the way they’ve been told, and to find their own path to happiness," Bland said.

Bland explained that he developed the series in part to address mental illness, personal identity crises and masculinity—themes that he feels Black characters don’t get to explore much on screen. The latter theme is especially relevant to the relationship between Ade and Malachi. "I wanted to show two Black men who had a ‘bromance’ that was platonic and not necessarily sexual, but where the lines were blurred," Bland said.

Jussie Smollett ("Empire") executive produces the show, which airs exclusively on Rae’s YouTube channel. Bland previously worked with Rae on the web series "First" as a director, producer and actor. "I thought about where I wanted this series to live, and I think Issa’s channel hit all the marks for me," Bland explained. "Her audience is super engaged, and I know that they have the appetite for long-form digital series."

"Giants" premieres tonight at 8 p.m. ET on the Issa Rae Productions channel. Watch the trailer above.

*Post has been updated since publication to reflect that Jussie Smollett is the series’ only executive producer.