Q&A With Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs of “Blindspotting”

a large diverse group of actors of all ages stands in front of a sign that says "blindspotting:"
Cast members of "Blindspotting" at the Oakland premiere of Blindspotting, season two. Photo by Momo Chang.

By now, we would hope the world recognizes that people from the Bay will take the home with us wherever we go. This is especially true for Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, the creators of Blindspotting, the movie and TV show of the same name. This week, the Oakland-based show returns to TV.

Season two premiered on Friday, April 14 on STARZ, as the cast and crew walked the red carpet in an Oakland premiere at the Grand Lake Theater. They, along with the packed house of audience members, brought all the joy that a show made in Oakland and the Bay Area could bring. 

But this show is also a reminder about the effects of mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex that affects us all. Three organizations — the Last Prisoner Project, Essie Justice Group, and Reform Alliance — took the stage at the Oakland premiere to share information and actionable change that can happen. The show itself has already won the hearts of audience and critics, garnering a 2023 SXSW Audience Award.

Blindspotting Season two follows Ashley, played by Jasmine Cephas Jones, as she spirals through emotions while her husband Miles Taylor, played by Casal, is serving a five-year sentence in San Quentin.  

Using comedy, dance and poetry, the show follows Ashley as she raises their son in Oakland with Miles’ mother, Rainey (Helen Hunt) and sister Trish (Jaylen Barron). It also continues to touch on the impacts of mass incarceration on families; one its characters, Earl (Benjamin Earl Turner) ended up back in jail for missing curfew as a condition of his parole at the end of season one.

The second season brings back a few familiar faces: Candace Nicholas-Lippman as Janelle, Ashley’s best friend and the return of Nancy, played by Margo Hall, an actor and lecturer at UC Berkeley, where both Casal and Diggs studied. 

Without any spoilers, this second season gives us dialogue about what it means to be a family in challenging moments. It also feels like calling a lot of Bay Area talent home, with many actors having ties to Oakland and the wider Bay Area community. 

Prior to the Friday premiere, Oakland Voices spoke with creators and executive producers Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs, both of whom call the Bay Area their home. The conversation transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

A marquee says "Blindspitting" STARZ April 14 at the Grand Lake movie theater
The second season of Blindspotting, a show on STARZ, was released on Friday, April 14. The marquee at the Grand Lake Theater. Photo by Momo Chang.

I hope you guys ate lunch today. Bay Area dudes and being hangry is not fun!

Rafael Casal: (laughs) Bay Area dudes and being hangry!

I’m here in Oakland. I’m a city kid. I was born and raised here so I’m fully aware that we don’t let you guys starve.

Casal: And yet they keep closing Everett & Jones! What is happening?

We can’t even started with that! Thank you for making the time. I appreciate you both. Let’s start with you Rafael! You directed for your first time last season and you directed a lot more this new season. How are you feeling about that? 

Casal: I’m feeling great! I’ve wanted to direct for a long, long time. I’ve directed a lot of short form stuff and [getting] the trust from a studio to direct an episodic is a big, big hurdle. It’s hard to get into the DGA (Directors Guild of America). 

And so it was great to go through season one and get to watch a lot of other directors direct on our show and see how they do it. Take the parts I liked and leave the things that I didn’t and see what the challenge is and then I’m in at the end and direct the final episode.  

And in season two, not only did they let me direct half the season, but we managed to use that momentum a bit to let Jess Wu Calder, one of our other Executive Producers, direct two episodes. Season two is a really exciting chapter because so much of it is directed by people who have been a part of the project for 17 years. 

A Taiwanese American woman wearing a yellow hat and green dress smiles at camera while standing in front of a backdrop that says "Blindspotting."
Blindspotting producer Jess Wu Calder at the Oakland premiere. Photo by Momo Chang.

17 years?! 

Daveed Diggs: Yeah, that’s a long time!

Casal: I don’t know if you know this but it takes a long time to make stuff. I get people sliding in my DMs like ‘yo man. You gotta let me be an actor on the show, I’m like ‘There’s a long list waiting.’

Very long list but there were some familiar Bay area faces there. So it was good to see. So I wanted to ask you about having that local representation, either one of you, what does that mean? What does that look like? Why did you do it? 

an African American man wearing a yellow trucker hat signs an autograph for a young woman
Benjamin Earl Turner signs an autograph at the Oakland screening of Blindspotting, season two. Photo by Momo Chang.

Diggs: (laughs) We did it because we’re fans and they would answer the phone.  It does two things. I think it doubles down on the specificity of the show, which I think is good for art, and also good for us from home to get to see ourselves like that. 

But then it just adds a level of fun for us. E-40 is my favorite rapper ever! Point blank period, always and forever. I watched Rafa direct him in a western. I wouldn’t even know to put that on bucket list, but there it was. 

Having P-Lo or Dante Basco or Ruby Ibarra. That’s for the home team. You don’t get to see stuff like that when you’re from where we’re from.

“The great thing about the Bay is that we know how to hustle our way into some visibility.” – Rafael Casal

That’s very true. And there was some criticism last year about how it didn’t represent the Bay Area enough. I wanted to know your thoughts on that criticism that it didn’t accurately or closely enough represent the Bay Area.

A man with light hair wearing a light green collared shirt poses in front of a black background with "Blindspotting" in yellow letters
Rafael Casal at the Oakland premiere of Blindspotting, season two. Photo by Momo Chang.

Casal:I don’t know that there’s ever gonna be a way for the show to accurately represent the Bay Area. That’s like, what movie accurately represents New York? Whose New York?

We also haven’t had TV shows like this before. People have been growing up in the Bay their whole lives wondering what the TV show would be like in their head if they ever got to make it. I can’t make that show that’s in your head. 

It’s a show starring all women and it’s about women. It’s not gonna be The Wire. If you want The Wire go and make The Wire. [Snowfall] exists. You should watch that shit! Our show is our show. I hope it passes on permission for other people to make their show. The Bay Area has an atmosphere of hate that you got to break through. Where we came up as rappers, we’re used to that. We’re used to people talking shit while you’re also making some of the dopest shit of your career. 

And the fans that love it from the Bay — which is in abundance — love the shit out of the show. The show is for them and if it ain’t for you, it ain’t for you. 

Diggs: It’s also never been easy to make a show about being from the Bay. We’ll start seeing more and more. We just saw the premiere of the Boots [Riley] show at South by Southwest. It’s another great show about the Bay. This world can continue to get bigger and that’s cool. It’s nice to be a part of that. There are a million stories we could tell about this place and a million different ways to tell them. I hope somebody does them all. I love this show that we made. You know who it is for? Me. I love this show. We made the shit out of this show.

“If you are fortunate enough to be from the Bay, despite all of the hardships, you have a level up on game. Your game threshold, your game floor, is higher than most people.” – Daveed Diggs

Yeah. And I’m glad you guys brought up the music aspect because there’s so much music and poetry. That’s kind of what people come to the bay for. I mean, some of us have to leave to create and then come home. 

Diggs: Almost always. 

Yes. Almost always.

Diggs: Let’s be real about it. The ceiling is not as high as it should be there, in terms of financial opportunity versus cost of living.

Then last question, tell me what you’re grateful for today. Tell me what the Bay should be grateful for today. 

Diggs: We’re having a little premier celebration in L.A. today. I’m like super grateful that in a couple hours, I’m gonna actually be in the same room with my brother [Rafael] and with a bunch of the other people who make this show because I’ve made art with my friends. I don’t get to see my friends very often so I’m very, very grateful to see my friends today.

Casal:  I’m happy, healthy, thriving. Always grateful for that. 

I can’t really tell the Bay what to be grateful for other than we have such a robust, beautiful number of different cultural experiences in the Bay, which sets us apart and makes us unique. We’re always just trying to celebrate that. We always talk about the Bay like it’s Whoville. But it’s this little place with a big, big personality that we’re just trying to get people to see.

I think our role — me and Daveed — in that is to amplify it a little bit more.  

I hope what this show can do is keep getting people to pay attention to the Bay. So that all those other stories, all those other artists that we love, the people who don’t know about all those people right now, who are gonna read this interview who are feeling very unseen in their art or in the thing that they have to bring to the world feel like it has a chance to get seen. 

I think that the great thing about the Bay is that we know how to hustle our way into some visibility.

Diggs: If you are fortunate enough to be from the Bay, despite all of the hardships, you have a level up on game. Your game threshold, your game floor, is higher than most people.

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New episodes will be available to stream on the STARZ app, all STARZ streaming and on-demand platforms in the US and Canada. Follow along on Instagram @blindspottingstarz and Twitter @blindspottingtv to join the conversation with #Blindspotting and #STARZ.

Author Profile

Brandy Collins is a writer and public services advocate born and raised in the Bay Area. She is a 2019-2020 cohort graduate from the Maynard Institute for Journalism, a correspondent for Oakland Voices, a blogger and the funny one in numerous group chats. She is concerned with civic engagement and leadership development toward making public works more efficient for the people. Brandy is full of Scorpio magic and self-proclaimed Professional Aunty. Follow her on Twitter @msbrandycollins or Instagram @story_soul_collecter.

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