Black Twitter (hell, all of Twitter) was in an uproar when Game of Thrones producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss announced HBO’s Confederate, a yet-to-be-written “historical” show about an alternate reality where slavery still exists.
Needless to say, the backlash has been resounding, with everyone from actors to writers voicing antipathy and disapproval. “It is exhausting to think of how many people at HBO said yes to letting two white men envision modern day slavery. And offensive,” Roxane Gay tweeted on Wednesday. But Benioff and Weiss are basically saying, wait hold up, there’s more to this story! in their latest interview with Vulture.
“We’ve been talking about this as a feature because we had an idea for a two-hour story,” Benioff explained. “The more we talked, the more it evolved. And with the success we’ve had on Thrones, and how happy we’ve been with HBO, it’s really opened up storytelling possibilities and world-building possibilities, especially in a story like this, which we imagined being an ensemble with dozens of characters and multiple story lines, which frankly I think TV has done better with over the last ten-to-15 years.”
“It goes without saying slavery is the worst thing that ever happened in American history,” Weiss added. “It’s our original sin as a nation. And history doesn’t disappear. That sin is still with us in many ways.”
But Weiss hopes for Confederate to be an “alternative-history” show that will, as he seems to imply, restructures how we view history.
“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.”
We’re still not sure how to feel, but working on the project as partners alongside Weiss and Benioff are Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire), who noted a “sense of urgency” in being involved in the conversation.
“As people of color and minorities in general are starting to get a voice, I think there’s a duty to force this discussion,” Malcolm stated.
“Immediately what the conversation turned into is how we could draw parallels between what has been described as America’s original sin to a present-day conversation,” Nichelle said of first being approached with the idea. “In this futuristic world, you could have this conversation in a straightforward manner without it being steeped in history: ‘What does this look like now.’ I think what was interesting to all of us was that we were going to handle this show, and handle the content of the show, without using typical antebellum imagery.”
Thoughts? Read more from the interview here.