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Robin Thede Promises End-of-the-World Answers in 'A Black Lady Sketch Show' Season 3

Robin Thede says new and recurring characters in Season 3 of 'A Black Lady Sketch Show' will feed into the answer of what's going on in the end-of-the-world interstitials.
by Danielle Turchiano — 
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Robin Thede as Dr. Haddassah in 'A Black Lady Sketch Show'

HBO

The third season of A Black Lady Sketch Show produces new takes on returning favorite characters and sketches (while also introducing new characters), answers about the interstitial narrative about the survivors at the end of the world, and a new theme song. And the opening line of that theme song might just say it all about creator-showrunner-star Robin Thede: "They say I be doin' the most/Probably 'cause y'all ain't doin' enough."

The acclaimed multi-hyphenate who previously headlined her own late-night talk show, The Rundown with Robin Thede, went into her female-forward sketch series with a clear vision of creating characters that would not only be funny during the few minutes of a single sketch, but also would have something to say as a recurring part of the show across seasons and settings. That was most evidently important with the four characters left standing at the end of the world in the narrative interstitials between sketches, but Thede wanted to make sure it applied to everyone.

"The way we write characters is they have to be able to lead their own movie or sitcom for 10 seasons; they have to be that developed," Thede tells Metacritic. "In the DNA of the show, it's about having characters that are so fully realized that we're not painted into a corner in subsequent seasons."

Now in Season 3, characters from Thede's Dr. Haddassah Olayinka Ali-Youngman, pre-PhD, to Ashley Nicole Black's Trinity, the Invisible Spy, and the group of female disciples during Season 2's fan-favorite "The Last Supp-her" sketch have become staples. This is, in part, because of audience interest, as Thede admits that "the audience determines who comes back; the audience has told us time and time again who they want to see." But the reason these characters can recur successfully is part of a grander design by Thede and her team, including head writer Tracey Ashley.

"You'll notice in this season that a lot of the recurring characters are now having origin stories or being taken out of the normal environment that you've seen them in — somewhere you're not expecting them to be and you'll get to know different sides of them," Thede says. "I've been building to this for two seasons with the interstitial storyline about the end of the world, and I know the world is going to fold in on itself and characters are going to meet each other. I needed all of this to happen to tie all of this together before we present even bigger questions."

Thede hopes the show continues well beyond this third season, and she shares that she even "kicked" one or two things out of the plans for Season 3 for a hopeful Season 4 instead. But she did not want to drag out answering the much-tweeted about question of what is really going on in those interstitials. The third season will deliver the answer in an explicit way, but it is something on which the team behind the show have been laying the groundwork since the beginning.

"[There are] layers of the show [that] people do not think about when they think about sketch: There is a full narrative show going on in the interstitials, but also woven into the sketches as these women have gone through what they've gone through," Thede points out. "There are many things we've been putting in place since Season 1 that will feel familiar, but people won't know why. And so, there are many things that happened in the first or second season that rear their heads in this season for specific purposes. I leave it to the audience to connect the dots."

(For the record, Thede follows along with audience theories and says that so far no one has guessed the answer entirely, although when she finally shared the scene with her fellow actors, she says with a laugh, "I think they were just like, 'Yeah, of course it is.'")

Thede has already picked up three Emmy nominations for A Black Lady Sketch Show, and the show itself has eight total noms thus far, winning one. Three of those nominations were for guest star performances, something which Season 3 continues to have in abundance. Everyone from Ava DuVernay, Wanda Sykes, and Lance Reddick, to Holly Robinson Peete, Vanessa Williams, and Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, to Daphne Reid, Bob the Drag Queen, and Shangela will appear.

The new characters are written well in advance of booking the guest stars for the new season, so Thede shares that they don't write specifically for the big-name actors who come into play with them. Instead, the approach is the same as it is for the core cast, which also includes Gabrielle Dennis and Skye Townsend.

"We have to have scripts where, on paper, the characters leap off the page," Thede says. "There's never been a time where we cast a celebrity and then had to rewrite it. By the time my crew starts, the writing's done and my writers are onto other shows; it would fall on me, and I don't have time for that!"

Although Thede certainly has a lot on her plate with A Black Lady Sketch Show, she is setting some boundaries for herself.

A Black Lady Sketch Show Season 3 airs Fridays at 11 p.m. on HBO beginning April 8 and also

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