Created by Aaron McGruder, controversial adult cartoon The Boondocks first hit television screens in 2005. With characters voiced by Regina King (Huey and Riley Freeman), John Witherspoon (Granddad), Gary Anthony Williams (Uncle Ruckus), Cedric Yarbrough (Tom Dubois) and Charlie Murphy (Wuncler), The Boondocks earned quite a few fans and opposers alike during its heyday. The social and political commentary-heavy satire ran for four seasons on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim. McGruder left the show after the third season to pursue other interests, namely his live-action comedy Black Jesus. But fans of the series are hoping to see their favorite characters back on screen. Could more of The Boondocks be in the works? Read on for secrets behind the making of the show in the meantime.
How It All Began
Fans of The Boondocks know that the series initially began as a syndicated comic strip for the Hitlist.com. A year after it began, the comic was published in The Source magazine beginning in 1997. By 1999, the comic strip made a national debut thanks to Universal Press Syndicate.
“This Isn’t the N—a Show”
When The Boondocks first aired, creator Aaron McGruder was quick to remind folks that it wasn’t “the n—a show.” Here’s what he hoped his show would accomplish: “I just wish we would expand the dialogue and evolve past the same conversation that we’ve had over the past 30 years about race in our country. He continued: “I just hope to expand the dialogue and hope the show will challenge people to think about things they wouldn’t normally think about, or think about it in a very different way.”
You know that comedian Charlie Murphy voiced the character of Ed Wuncler III. But did you know that, being the funny man he is, Murphy improvised many of his lines?
Wuncler & Rummy
If you had to make a guess, who would you say Ed Wuncler III and Gin Rummy are based on? If you guessed former president George W. Bush and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, you’d be correct. Wuncler, after all, wore a large “W” medallion around his neck, mocking Bush’s Dubya moniker, and “Rummy” is Rumsfeld’s nickname.
Huey and Riley
Producers convinced Regina King to voice Huey, though she was initially cast to voice only Riley. King read Huey’s lines as a placeholder until producers found another actor to play him. But they managed to convince King to play both Freeman brothers instead.
The Boondocks is set in the fictional suburb of Woodcrest — but where exactly is that? Some believe Woodcrest is supposed to be in Maryland, where McGruder attended college (UMCP). Others think it’s near Chicago, where McGruder was born.
The theme song is a remix of recording artist Asheru’s “Judo Flip.”
Where did Gary Anthony Williams get the inspiration to voice Uncle Ruckus? “I just pull from all the people that used to stop by and talk to my daddy when I was little,” said Williams in a 2007 interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “Some of those guys, the stuff coming out of their mouths was ridiculous, but I loved to listen to those old dudes just talk crap.”
Riley or Huey?
If King had to choose which character was more fun to voice, she would say Riley. But Huey was the most challenging and rewarding for her because he was more complex.
Prior to The Boondocks finding a home at Cartoon Network, McGruder was in talks with Fox, HBO and MTV.
McGruder was absent from the show in its fourth and final season. Cartoon Network claimed the departure was due to scheduling conflicts, but McGruder released a detailed statement expressing his gratitude for all that the show accomplished, and his desire to move on to other projects.
Reginald Hudlin was an executive producer on The Boondocks, but he left his post to pursue tenure as president of entertainment at BET, the very network that McGruder often criticized for having a negative and destructive impact on Black culture. Both Hudlin (“Wedgie Rudlin”), Debra Lee (“Debra Leevil”) and BET on the whole were mocked in episodes.
Both as a comic strip and a cartoon series, The Boondocks called out a lot of folks, including Tyler Perry. In the “Pause” episode, a character named Winston Jerome and a dancing Ma Duke symbolized Perry and his famous character Madea. This episode was supposed to open the season, but it was pushed back. The Winston Jerome character also initially had a name that more closely resembled Perry’s, but the network had McGruder change it.
The Boondocks Movie
In 2013, McGruder independently crowdfunded a campaign via Kickstarter to bring a live-action Uncle Ruckus movie to life. The movie was going to focus solely on Ruckus, not any of the other characters made famous in the show. The campaign fell short of its $200,000 goal, however, and raised just under $130,000.