Producers of HBO's alt-history drama 'Confederate,' where slavery still exists, speak out on backlash
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Producers of HBO's alt-history drama 'Confederate,' where slavery still exists, speak out on backlash

Hell hath no fury like Black Twitter this week when HBO dropped a press release announcing a new series from the showrunners of Game of Thrones. 

GoT showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with two black producers, Nichelle and Malcolm Spellman, are partnering with them as executive producers and writers on the series.

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Called, Confederate, the description they gave reads, ” It chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War. The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where 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 story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.”

Now, in an interview with Vulture, the team behind Confederate is speaking out on the backlash.

When asked if they anticipated the reaction that folks had, they said they expected it. On how they came on board, Malcolm said, “They took me and Nichelle out to a restaurant and told us the history of it: They had this script, the movie version, but they felt taking it to TV would be better. And they knew they needed black voices on it.” He continued, “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. 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. As people of color and minorities in general are starting to get a voice, I think there’s a duty to force this discussion.’

Initially thinking that this would be a ‘black GoT spinoff,’ Nichelle Spellman said, “I just remember being so excited — and absolutely terrified at the same time. I can’t remember the last time I approached any story like that. So Malcolm and I left the lunch and couldn’t stop talking about it the entire way home.” They cleared up that this is all taking place in present-day, or at least close to present-day. “his is present day, or close to present day, and how the world would have evolved if the South had been successful seceding from the Union. And what was also exciting to me was the idea that in order to build this, we would have to rebuild world history… OK, if this had happened here, how did the rest of the world change? That was another huge bonus factor for me — the idea of rewriting some of the history of, like, the French Revolution. What happened in the entire world if that one event had ended differently?” said Nichelle.

Malcolm adds,  “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.”

As Vulture’s Josef Adalian points out Twitter criticism from people like Roxane Gay and Joy Ann Reid, they say they understand. “I do understand their concern,” said Michelle. “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. The concern is real. What I’ve done in the past, what Malcolm has done in the past, what the D.B.s have done in the past, proves that. So I would have loved an opportunity for the conversation to start once the show was on the air.”

Saying that “you can’t litigate on Twitter,” Malcolm says, “I don’t know that we can change anyone’s mind… but what people have to understand is, and what we are obligated to repeat in every interview is: We’ve got black aunties. We’ve got black nephews, uncles. Black parents and black grandparents. We deal with them every single day. We deal with the struggle every single day. And people don’t have to get on board with what we’re doing based on a press release. But when they’re writing about us, and commenting about us, they should be mindful of the fact that there are no sell-outs involved in this show.”

You can check out the full interview with more reaction and thoughts from the folks behind Confederate over at Vulture.

Still not sold? Let us know how you are feeling about the planned HBO show in the comments. 

 

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