‘Watchmen’ writer talks incorporating Tulsa Race Massacre; series streaming free all weekend
HBO's Watchmen was one of the best television series of 2019, a wildly ambitious extension of Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons' iconic comic. Creator Damon Lindelof and his team of writers put race at the center of the story, opening the series with the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre before moving the story 30 years past the timeline of the original Watchmen comic while the ghosts of that horrific, ugly event color everything that happens after. Systemic racism, police brutality and many of the other injustices that are being spotlighted more than even since the death of George Floyd are central to Watchmen, while still working within the world of masked crusaders Moore & Gibbons created.
If you haven't seen it, HBO will offer all nine episodes of Watchmen for free starting Friday, June 19 (Juneteenth) through Sunday, June 21 via HBO.com as well as On Demand, as "an extension of the network's content highlighting black experiences, voices and storytellers. The network will also share a marathon of the series on HBO and HBO Latino starting at 1 PM Eastern/Pacific on Friday, June 19.
Rolling Stone's Alan Sepinwall recently interviewed Watchmen writer Cord Jefferson, who wrote what was the series most talked about episode, "This Extraordinary Being," about working on the series, Trump announcing a rally in Tulsa on Juneteenth (which ended up getting moved to the next day), how he and other Black writers on the show talked about race and law enforcement with the white staff in the writers room, what cop shows may look like going forward and more. It's a great read and here's just a bit of it:
When you signed on to do the show, how did you feel about the idea of opening it with the Greenwood massacre?
I liked it. In my recollection, Damon didn’t know that he wanted it to be the opening of the pilot. I remember that we wanted the Tulsa massacre to be part of the season, but we didn’t know where it would show up. Then once we decided to put it in the pilot, we didn’t know it would open it. And after a lot of discussion, we decided it should be the original sin that kicks off the rest of the story. I was hugely excited by it, because it’s not the kind of thing that gets screen time. I have to admit I didn't know how few people knew about it. But even so, I was just wildly excited to ground it in some history that is incredibly important and telling about America. To work on a genre show that grounded itself in something like that was thrilling.
On social media the night of the premiere, you had white people on Twitter at first assuming it was fiction, then being rightly horrified to find out it wasn’t, and then you had a lot of black Twitter being grateful that someone had finally dramatized this event for a mass audience.
The day after, a friend sent me a tweet with a Google Trends search for the Tulsa massacre, the graphic showing the spike overnight from Sunday night to Monday morning of how many people were Googling it. That, to me, was exciting. Seeing how valuable storytelling can be in getting people to know the history of their country and the world, it was very gratifying. It is something that deserves to be told, and if we can play a small part in helping people learn more about America, then I was really happy with that.
Read the rest of the interview at Rolling Stone. You can watch the trailer for Watchmen below.