As the showrunners of Game of Thrones, the biggest (and therefore, most scrutinized) show on TV, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are no strangers to controversy. But even they haven’t seen anything like the scorn that greeted the announcement that their post-Thrones series would be Confederate.
HBO’s alternate-reality drama “chronicles the events leading to the third American Civil War… 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.” People are, let’s say, uneasy about letting the guys who oversee Game of Thrones, a show with an uneven history when it comes to diversity, tackle such a sensitive subject. Or as author Roxane Gay put it, “It is exhausting to think of how many people at HBO said yes to letting two white men envision modern day slavery. And offensive.”
Benioff and Weiss expected the backlash, too. “We all knew it was coming in one form or another,” Weiss told Vulture. Malcolm Spellman, who was hired as a writer/executive producer on the series along with Nichelle Tramble Spellman, called it “weapons-grade material,” so everyone is being careful.
“I do understand their concern,” Tramble Spellman explained. “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. But I think that the four of us are very thoughtful, very serious, and not flip about what we are getting into in any way. 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.” That’s nearly impossible in 2017 (for better or worse), especially on social media (definitely worse).
Benioff and Weiss had carte blanche to make any show they wanted after the incredible success of Game of Thrones. So, why Confederate?
Weiss: “We threw a bunch of things around, but, look, we’re fortunate to be in the position that we’re in currently with the show, knock wood. And we knew there was the opportunity to do another show with HBO, which we were very, very happy about because they’ve been great people to work with. And we knew that we could do something easy, and that there are many, many easy things that we could’ve done. But we also knew that we could use the fact that the show is successful and the fact that this gives us a certain amount of leverage to attempt something difficult, that wouldn’t be easy, that would be challenging, that would cause us all sorts of problems that something easy wouldn’t. And we think the difficult idea was much, much more valuable to us, and much more worthwhile to us than any of the easier ideas would be. So we thought that using the current show as a springboard to do something that couldn’t happen any other way seemed like a worthwhile way to spend that capital. Whether or not it turns out to be that, we’ll have to wait and see.”
Production on Confederate isn’t expected to begin until Game of Thrones is over in either 2018 or 2019. Click here to read the rest of the interview.