LOS ANGELES, Sept. 8 (UPI) -- Siddiq Saunderson, who plays Dennis Coles, aka Ghostface Killah, in the Hulu drama Wu-Tang: An American Saga, said Season 2, premiering Wednesday, brings music to the forefront.
The first season in 2019 showed the boys who would become the rap group Wu-Tang Clan dabble in music while they lived lives of crime.
"At the end of the day, the music is the thing that everybody eventually puts first," Saunderson told UPI in a phone interview. "It's writing the verses and recording it, and then it's distributing the single."
The series is a dramatic account of how Wu-Tang Clan formed. Dennis, Bobby Diggs, aka RZA (Ashton Sanders), and Sha Raider, aka Raekwon (Shameik Moore), dealt drugs to pay for recording equipment.
By the end of Season 1, Dennis, Bobby, Sha Raider and the six other members of the Wu-Tang Clan recorded a single. Season 2 follows them as they produce the 1993 album, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers).
The album broke ground by featuring rap battles between Wu-Tang Clan members Method Man and Raekwon, and incorporating clips of martial arts movies. Saunderson said Season 2 will portray the origins of some of the album's memorable tracks.
"The audiences are going to be able to see in Season 2 how some of those skits came to be and specific stories that are referenced in verses," Saunderson said.
Season 1 showed Dennis composing some raps. Season 2 will show Saunderson performing Ghostface Killah raps in recording studios and live performances, but Saunderson would not spoil the details about famous Ghostface raps he performs.
"It was definitely a bit intimidating at first," Saunderson said. "I practiced at it in the studio, going over and over the verses and making sure I was really hitting the mark."
When Wu-Tang performs live in Season 2, Saunderson raps in front of an audience. Saunderson said he prerecorded a track for backup, but he never had to lip sync to the recording.
Season 1 ended with Dennis receiving news that he was going to be a father. Saunderson said fatherhood contributes to Dennis shifting his focus from crime to music.
"He really starts to think about risk factor because he has another life to look after," Saunderson said.
For Dennis, avoiding the dangerous world of drug dealing and gang wars coincides with opportunities in music. Saunderson said music shows Dennis more potential than he realized.
"He gets to do something he's passionate about and make the money that he needs to support himself and his family," Saunderson said.
Ghostface Killah is a consulting producer on the series, which RZA co-created with Alex Tse. Saunderson said he met Ghostface Killah when he was filming the third episode of Season 1.
Saunderson said he discovered that he and Ghostface Killah shared spiritual beliefs, and that learning Ghostface Killah's philosophies helped his performance.
"We both spoke about our individual relationships with God and how that affects our day-to-day," Saunderson said. "Everything is happening for a reason."
Before meeting Ghostface Killah, Saunderson said he listened to old interviews the rapper gave. Saunderson said he also read comic books and listened to music that Ghostface Killah liked.
"I really trusted that there was a reason why they cast me to play this part," Saunderson said. "I just tried to find little details that all subconsciously play into our psyche and make us who we are."
Before Wu-Tang: An American Saga, Saunderson studied acting at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. After graduating, he landed a recurring role on the Netflix drama Messiah and guest-starred on BET's Boomerang.
After Season 2 airs, Saunderson will next be seen in the film R#J, a modern-day adaptation of Romeo and Juliet played out over social media posts and incorporating modern dialogue. Saunderson plays Mercutio.
"I studied Shakespeare at Carnegie," Saunderson said. "I played Romeo when I was at Chautauqua Institution the summer after I graduated college, so I had a lot of skin in the game as far as that play."
Saunderson supported director Carey Williams updating the play to incorporate social media colloquialisms. Williams co-wrote the adaptation with Oleksii Sobolev and Rickie Castaneda, and the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
"One of the major things they taught me at school in regard to Shakespeare is that it should sound authentic," Saunderson said. "The best way for somebody to understand what you say is to speak in your authentic voice."
New episodes of Wu-Tang: An American Saga premiere Wednesdays on Hulu. R#J is seeking distribution after festival runs.