Birds of Prey's Jurnee Smollett Had to Lose Her Black Canary Muscles for Lovecraft Country

Jurnee Smollett has become a household name in 2020, from playing Black Canary in February's Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), to starring as Leti Lewis in HBO's current hit series Lovecraft Country. According to Smollett, the process of working on both Birds of Prey and Lovecraft Country led to an unexpected behind-the-scenes challenge. In a new interview with Men's Health, Smollett explained how, after returning from Birds of Prey to film the final nine episodes of Lovecraft Country, she was tasked by showrunner Misha Green to lose her more muscular Black Canary physique.

According to Smollett, the training for Black Canary involved mixed martial arts and putting on between 10 and 15 pounds of muscle, while the goal for Lovecraft was to have Leti have more of a sprinter's body (something that fans already saw in a buzzworthy scene in the series' pilot).

"Black Canary definitely has some guns on her that Leti didn’t need to have," Smollett explained with a laugh.

While the two characters might have different physiques, both Birds of Prey and Lovecraft Country have showcased Smollett's powerful acting abilities, and brought two nuanced and complex female characters to a new audience.

"It was an opportunity to explore this flawed, audacious, tornado of a woman, who leans into her shadow instead of running away from it," Smollett said of Lovecraft Country. "Who, right when you think she’s going to make a left, she makes a right."

In recent weeks, fans have speculated about what Smollett's onscreen future as Black Canary could look like, with an online campaign for her to reunite with Green on an HBO Max TV series. As Smollett has told fans, she would absolutely be willing to return to the role of Black Canary, if given the chance.

"It's no secret how much I loved playing Black Canary, and [I was] so honored to take on that mantle," Smollett revealed in an interview in July of this year. "I would absolutely do it again if given a chance."

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"She’s the Dinah Lance that we know and love from the comics, you know?" Smollett previously said of her take on Black Canary. "This ferocious street fighter. When we meet Dinah in the film, though, she’s a singer in Roman’s Black Mask club, and she’s kind of disenfranchised and disconnected from the world. She doesn’t really want to have anything to do with crime fighting or being a good-doer, which is so against her nature because we know Dinah to be all heart. So it’s really about her accepting her gift and accepting her power and that’s what was so fascinating for me is to explore this woman who has such strength, but exploring someone who doesn’t want to own her power."

Lovecraft Country airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.