Published Mar 26, 2021
Creative Writing MFA Grad is Amplifying Black Voices as Writer on ‘David Makes Man’
MFA grad Lucien Adderley shares how he applies his own experiences writing for OWN’s ‘David Makes Man,’ ‘Highwaymen,’ and more.
“Acting in the theatre was my first love. Dance, all the things that you can think of across the art spectrum, really. I was this big ball of creative energy,” recalls Creative Writing MFA grad Lucien Christian Adderley. “From there, my mom was like, ‘Hey, we're going to channel this thing.’ She did research and found a middle school with a magnet theatre program.
As Lucien explored the world of theatre and entertainment, he found himself repeatedly drawn toward narrative writing, particularly writing stories that reflected his own reality. “I always try to find those stories that I connect to on a human level, those stories I connect to from my culture, those stories that speak to or speak in a similar voice that I have.
“I really had a passion for writing, I’d always been talented in writing, however, I didn’t know the formatting. When I found Full Sail, one of the things that stuck out to me was the fact that they allow for you to understand and learn formatting in different mediums, rather than just one,” says the grad. “So yeah, I really wanted to do things within film and in television, but they were also teaching me how to write narratives for video games and things of that nature.”
After completing his degree, Lucien bet on his creativity and newly equipped skills in narrative writing, leaving his native Florida to make it in Los Angeles. After Woe, a short film he made with his writing partner Richard “Byrd” Wilson got some impressive recognition – including being picked up for actress and writer Issa Rae’s Short Film Sundays – Lucien returned to Florida to workshop with one of his former middle school teachers and actress Tanisha Cidel.
Tanisha, who had recently worked on Academy Award Best Picture winner Moonlight, was impressed with Lucien’s writing and connected him to Oscar-winning director and writer, Tarell Alvin McCraney. “I found connections between me and Tarell,” says Lucien of a script he was asked to review in the interview process for a series Terell was developing. “A lot of these things and these references are coming from the theatre world, and I'm like, oh cool, I connect to them automatically.”
Not long after, Tarell tapped Lucien and his writing partner to work on David Makes Man for OWN, with the two featured as writers in the series’ second season. Set in South Florida, David Makes Man is the coming-of-age tale of a young Black prodigy attending a magnet school and working toward a way out of poverty, a set of circumstances not unfamiliar to Miami-bred Lucien.
However, network television isn’t the only place Lucien is amplifying the voices of Black men. “I look at different lanes and try and figure out well, who has not got a chance to tell their story? Why haven't they gotten a chance to tell their story? How can we tell their story?”
This approach has led Lucien to a new project, The Highwaymen, the true story of a collective of 26 African American landscape artists who traveled Florida from the mid-1950s through the 1980s. “This story is so similar to our own in terms of this group of people traveling throughout Florida using their art and their abilities to reach a large range of people and to change the lives of the people within that group,” says Lucien.
“It feels really, really good to not only just tell the story but to tell the Florida story. And it's the same thing with David Makes Man, it's near and dear to our heart to tell the story about somewhere where we're from. And then about some of the same challenges and traumas that we've dealt with as young Black boys growing up in this community. It is really special in that way.”