Standing their ground. Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss responded to backlash over their next project, Confederate, after an uproar from social media.
HBO announced on Wednesday, July 19, that the series would envision an alternate world where the southern U.S. States succeeded and allowed slavery to continue into modern day. Benioff and Weiss are collaborating with longtime friends Malcolm Spellman and Nichelle Tramble Spellman, two acclaimed black producers, to create and write the show. Many critics felt it’s insensitive to fantasize about slavery being legal again.
The four producers defended Confederate’s concept in an interview with Variety, which was published on Thursday, June 20. “It goes without saying slavery is the worst thing that ever happened in American history,” Weiss said. “It’s our original sin as a nation. And history doesn’t disappear. That sin is still with us in many ways. Confederate, in all of our minds, will be an alternative history show. It’s a science-fiction show. One of the strengths of science fiction is that it can show us how this history is still with us in a way no strictly realistic drama ever could, whether it were a historical drama or a contemporary drama.”
Malcom added that Weiss and Benioff “knew they needed black voices” on the series. “For me and Nichelle, it’s deeply personal because we are the offspring of this history. We deal with it directly, and have for our entire lives. We deal with it in Hollywood, we deal with it in the real world when we’re dealing with friends and family members,” he told Variety. “And I think Nichelle and I both felt a sense of urgency in trying to find a way to support a discussion that is percolating but isn’t happening enough.”
Benioff emphasized that they haven’t even started writing the show yet. “We don’t have an outline yet. We don’t even have character names. So everything is brand new and nothing’s been written,” he said. “I guess that’s what was a little bit surprising about some of the outrage. It’s just a little premature. You know, we might f–k it up. But we haven’t yet.”
Nichelle agreed that people should wait and see what happens before making a snap judgment. “I do understand their concern,” she shared. “I wish their concern had been reserved to the night of the premiere, on HBO, on a Sunday night, when they watched and then they made a decision after they watched an hour of television as to whether or not we succeeded in what we set out to do.”
Benioff also explained more about the group’s vision for the show, which is set after the third Civil War. “The idea that we’ve talked about for a while is that if the first Civil War happened at the same time as the Civil War in our time happened, it just seemed unlikely to us that these two countries, these two hostile countries that share a massive border, would not have fought again in the time between the 1860s and the present day,” he explained. “So in our mind, there was also 20th-century civil war.”
Malcom insisted that they are all sensitive to concerns about disturbing imagery. “This is not a world in which the entire country is enslaved. Slavery is in one half of the country. And the North is the North. As Nichelle was saying, the imagery should be no whips and no plantations,” he said. “I think people have got to stop pretending that slavery was something that happened and went away. The s–t is affecting people in the present day. And it’s easy for folks to hide from it, because sometimes you’re not able to map it out, especially with how insidious racism has become.”
For now, Weiss and Benioff are still focusing on GoT. The HBO hit just kicked off its penultimate season 7. The final season will be just six episodes and will likely air next year.
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