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Lovecraft Country’s Michael K. Williams Breaks Down Montrose’s Moment of Freedom at the Drag Ball

Episode 5 of Lovecraft Country was an important one for Montrose Freeman (Michael K. Williams). Montrose is a man of many secrets, but one of them — his sexuality — is less burdensome than it was before, as he found a moment of happiness and acceptance at a drag ball that his lover Sammy (Jon Hudson Odom) took him to. Since he was a boy, Montrose has been denying who he really was to himself and to others, and in that moment, he could be himself. The scene was Michael K. Williams’ favorite one of the season. 

“That scene wasn’t about him coming out the closet, it was more about him letting that little boy out that closet and run around the room and just be free,” Williams told TV Guide. 

In the episode, “Strange Case,” Montose fights with his son Tic (Jonathan Majors) about killing the Yahima (Monique Candelaria), the Native American two-spirit the Freemans and Leti (Jurnee Smollett) rescued from Titus Braithwaite’s vault, and destroying her copy of Braithwaite’s Book of Names that only she could read. After the destructive fight, Montrose, with one eye swollen shut and emotionally reeling, goes over to Sammy’s apartment in the infamous Cabrini-Green public housing project and has sex with him, but won’t kiss him. Later, they hang out backstage before Sammy’s drag performance, and Sammy’s friends give Montrose a hard time about his unwillingness to claim Sammy, despite the obvious closeness of their relationship. Montrose, meanwhile, is drinking heavily. But once he’s in the secret, intimate gay club, though, Montrose feels something. He looks around and sees the love and support and joy the other patrons feel. He dances with Sammy, he sees the beautiful people around him, he feels the music, and he starts to smile. He twirls ecstatically. Some queens lift him up and carry him around while glittering confetti rains down on his face. He feels free. He finds Sammy and kisses him. 

How Lovecraft Country Reclaims Pulp Genres for Black People

Williams said that Montrose, like many Black men, struggles with feeling like he can’t be tender and emotionally vulnerable. “We’re put in this box of other people’s perception of what Black masculinity, Black sexuality, or just being a man” is supposed to look like, Williams said. But in that scene, he was allowed to be himself, in a room full of people, with no fear of judgment. 

Williams loved the metaphor for the strength of the queer community that comes when the drag queens lift Montrose up. “You had all these beautiful girls but had the strength of a man. They threw me up like I was a pillow,” Williams said.  

The timing for Montrose’s moving scene of self-acceptance was a bit odd, coming as it did the episode after he unexpectedly and brutally murdered Yahima, an act of cold-blooded cruelty that has yet to be explained. But Montrose is a complex and complicated character, and the reason why he did the horrible thing he did is surely still to come. 

Lovecraft Country airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO. It’s available to stream on HBO Max.

Michael K. Williams, Lovecraft Country

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