Boots Riley’s creativity knows no bounds and can reach all heights.
Making a film as groundbreaking and unique as 2018’s Sorry to Bother You has given the writer-director a bit of creative leeway to bring to life the concepts that he conceives in his mind. His latest, I’m a Virgo, is a seven-episode series for Prime Video about a 13-foot-tall young man named Cootie (Jharrel Jerome) who lives in Oakland, California. Complex is debuting the first-look images and teaser trailer for the show, which Riley and the studio have kept pretty under wraps since it was first announced.
“That’s what it’s all about. It’s having it reflect off of people, that’s how you know what it really is,” the director tells Complex. “Everything I do is a little bit strange, so it’s going to feel like something people haven’t seen before and I’m excited to see them go through that experience.”
Riley has tapped Emmy winner Jharrel Jerome to star as the 13-foot-tall giant, whose parents Martisse (Mike Epps) and his wife Lafrancine (Carmen Ejogo) have kept pretty secluded in their home for a large majority of his life to protect him. He hasn’t seen much aside from what he sees outside of his window, through TV, and what his mom and dad have told him to be true.
I’m a Virgo will show as he explores the realities of the world when he finds a new group of friends and begins to experience what the outside of the world is really like, and the way a normal teenager would—except in a much more extraordinary way.
Cootie is aware that he is different and of the way people may perceive him, but he focuses more on his own humanity and the characteristics he identifies with that have nothing to do with his height, like his zodiac sign, which inspired the show’s title.
“People see this Black giant coming down the street. They have all sorts of ideas about what he is, what’s important, what they should be scared of, and that may be very different than what he cares about himself,” Riley says. “The fact that he is a Virgo is probably the last thing that anybody cares about.”
Casting Jerome in the lead role was a no-brainer for the director, and he knew the actor would be the right fit back when he was writing the show. “I was very impressed with him in Moonlight and When They See Us,” Riley said. “Jharrel was the first person I said. I was writing this in 2019 when I said that, and luckily he won the Emmy, and then I said, ‘See I told you!’ There was a certain kind of actor that I needed and he was that. He disappears into this character. Folks haven’t seen him like this.”