This post contains details from the first two episodes of Blindspotting Season 2 on STARZ.
There is a scene in the first episode of Season 2 of the Oakland-based TV show Blindspotting where Ashley’s character (played by Jasmine Cephas) gets her car broken into while in the Tilden Park parking lot. As that scene played out during a special screening at the Grand Lake Theater last Friday, the hometown audience erupted in laughter—while likely also considering the fate of their own cars parked outside.
“It’s going to be a lot of y’all, I’m sorry!” Rafael Casal said, referring to the car break-in scene during an audience Q&A after the screening. Only a few days earlier, Mayor Sheng Thao had her vehicle broken into while also at the Grand Lake for a screening of Peter Nicks’ latest documentary, Stephen Curry: Underrated.
“It was like a deafening roar of a laugh in the theater,” Rafael Casal told The Oaklandside this week, recounting the audience reaction. “I was like, oh, we haven’t gotten to Too $hort yet.”
Putting a comedic spin on unfortunate situations that happen in Oakland is a hallmark of Blindspotting, which is now two episodes into its second season, with new episodes being released every Friday on STARZ.
Season 2 revolves around Miles (Rafael Casal) and the aftermath of his five-year prison sentence in San Quentin, and viewers get a glimpse of how each of his family members handled the effects of his incarceration—from Ashley (Jasmine Cephas) raising their son Sean (Atticus Woodward), to the latter’s creation of an imaginary friend called “thizzly bear” to mourn the separation from his father.
Like in Season 1, the show’s writing team has continued to use interpretive dance to depict powerful moments throughout various episodes. “There’s something about movement that is almost like pure emotion and interpretation,” Casal said.
The show balances a variety of themes within its 30-minute format, from the tragedy of the prison industrial complex to the comedic aspects of Bay Area culture, all while intertwining dance and even spoken word. At its core, it’s an ode to Oakland.
“We’re here to make one small story about the Bay well. Let’s just focus on doing that,” said Casal. “Hyper-specificity tends to breed universality. It just does. You tell one story and make sure there’s a lot of heart, and it has the best chance to translate.”
Longtime fans of Blindspotting will be delighted with the many cameos featured throughout the season. Rappers Too $hort, E-40, P-Lo, and Guap all appear, as does ‘90s actor Dante Basco and even hyper-local folks like educator Leon (DNas) Sykes.
“We wrote the Too $hort episode before we asked him, but we were so sure that he would say yes, and then we would do everything we could to make it work for him,” Casal said. “Our list continues to grow. But you know, we kind of got the greats. Now I gotta see if I can get Tom Hanks.”
It wasn’t just the Bay Area “greats” that Casal and the team wanted to be represented on screen—but also its well-known locations. In one of the episodes, viewers and lifelong Oakland residents will relive what it was like to spend a weekend night at Luka’s Taproom & Lounge—an Uptown favorite for 18 years until it closed in January 2022 after getting a significant rent increase.
In the early 2010s, at a time when the downtown nightlife and club scene was beginning to grow, the Oakland Police Department heavily scrutinized music venues that played hip-hop music, like Luka’s, by performing “compliance checks” and aggressive searches inside the venues. Several business owners, local artists, and club promoters denounced these practices well into the late 2010s.
“I was at Luka’s a lot. I used to live right around the corner, so I was there all the time,” Casal said of the beloved Oakland spot. “And then, the Fresh Steps party started happening with DNas. Luka’s was important for the hip-hop scene because there weren’t venues to play music and to do concerts, and Luka’s was a safe haven and a culturally extremely important place.”
Casal hopes that all of the love that went into the writing and filming of Season 2 resonates with viewers in Oakland and the Bay. It is the only way, Casal said, to ensure that niche shows like Blindspotting can continue getting the green light to be made.
“Every time we make a season, we shut the door on the show, and we leave a little window open just in case we want to come back,” Casal said. “We’ve done what we’ve come to do. This show has delivered beyond our wildest expectations.”