Exclusive: Prime Video Unveils First Look Images and Teaser Trailer for Boots Riley's 'I'm a Virgo'

Complex has the exclusive first-look images for 'I'm a Virgo,' Prime Video's latest TV series written and directed by Boots Riley, and starring Jharrel Jerome.

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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.”

Jharrel Jerome I'm a Virgo first look images

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.” 

Jharrel Jerome I'm a Virgo first look images

There is a wide range of elements behind the creation of the 13-foot puppet that the studio and Riley’s team created and modeled after Jerome for the show. They are using perspective and a variety of different size set pieces and puppets of all of the main characters that will allow Jerome’s character to appear larger than life.

This is a much more complicated way to tackle this instead of using CGI the way most films and shows have been relying on recently but Riley wanted to challenge himself and the team to do it differently, therefore providing a more realistic and lifelike feel for viewers. 

Riley believes much of the content and art we are getting is formulaic and says executives and studios are now even chasing a formula for how to tell Afro-futuristic stories. “Everybody keeps trying to make a formula,” Riley says. “The whole thing is that nobody wants to see the things that are made by a formula. Not that they don’t do well, people will go see them because that’s all there is. But when you have something else for them to go to, they flock to it. It’s hard to get those things made because it’s a lot easier for executives to do the thing that seems like the other thing that made money. It’s a big risk to do something that’s different. Luckily, I’m in a position, because of Sorry to Bother You, where I can push stuff like that through.”

The cast also includes On My Block’s Brett Gray, Cruel Summer’s Allius Barnes, Kara Young, and Olivia Washington. Jerome and his costars’ performances also enrich the story Riley is trying to tell. The actor’s portrayal of innocence and childlike excitement for this new world, partnered with his parent’s constant worry also add an emotional element that is needed for art to make you feel. “That’s what I want. I want things that are somewhat transgressive and make you feel a little uncomfortable and you never felt that way before and you have to think about a little bit longer,” Riley adds.

Jharrel Jerome I'm a Virgo first look images

The show doesn’t really quite fit in one particular genre, but it is far more than a coming-of-age story. “There’s one way to describe it as a coming-of-age story and it’s partly because we get to experience him seeing things in a new way. He has a certain idea about how the world is and he’s starting to see it differently than he thought he was,” the writer-director adds. 

“I don’t think that can be relegated to a coming-of-age story because I think we’re all, all the time finding out that the world isn’t exactly the way we thought it was. We’re all going through these experiences where we’re seeing how the world works and we are figuring out who we are in the midst of that.”

Jharrel Jerome I'm a Virgo first look images

He added: “We’re always coming of age if we’re doing it right.” 

I’m A Virgo is making its world premiere debut as an official selection of SXSW Film & TV Festival on Saturday, March 11 and the series comes out on Prime Video this summer. Check out the show’s first teaser trailer above. 

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