The prospective new series from Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss reared its controversial head at the Television Critics Assoc. summer press tour on Wednesday, with HBO’s top exec defending his decision to green light the incendiary project.
To quickly recap: Earlier this month the cabler announced that it had ordered Confederate, an hour-long, sci-fi drama that envisions an alternate, post-Civil War world wherein “the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution.”
The idea of two white men — who have already come under fire for their portrayal of race (or lack thereof) on Game of Thrones — heading up a show about slavery spawned an immediate backlash. HBO’s programming president Corey Bloys conceded that the network essentially botched the announcement. “If I could do it over again, [it was] HBO’s mistake, not the producers’,” he said. “The idea that we would be able to announce an idea that is so sensitive and requires such care in a press release was misguided on our part. We heard why they wanted to do the show, what they were excited about, why it was important to them. We had that context. But someone reading the press release did not. We assumed the response. We assumed it would be controversial. I think we could have done a better job with the press rollout.”
It’s worth noting that the Confederate creative team also includes two prolific African-American writer-producers: Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire).
“My hope is that people will judge the actual material as opposed what it could be or should be or might be,” Bloys added, “We’ll rise or fall based on that material. These four writers are at the top of their game… and this is what they feel passionately about.”
In a recent interview with Vulture, Weiss said, “It goes without saying slavery is the worst thing that ever happened in American history. 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. It’s an ugly and a painful history, but we all think this is a reason to talk about it, not a reason to run from it. And this feels like a potentially valuable way to talk about it.”