Listen: Discussing the Show Masks (Spoiler Alert!)
"It struck me as somebody that is is pretty well versed in the in the graphic novel. The absolutely have done something like I say that extends stems from that work so you had this almost impossible task. You had to adapt in a sense. Something that you love and respect and probably idolize is getting a lot of people to yes but also then had to depart from it completely and make it something different. It had to be of it and apart from it. How did you negotiate that very carefully? Also completely totally haphazardly. I mean I think that it was a combination of the energy of a of a bowl in China shop and and then trying to catalog everything that you knocked over and broke so that you could replace it and both things had to happen simultaneously because I think that we went in With a high degree of fear and concern and delicate nece and then very quickly we were just like fuck all of that. Let's just go nuts. And then you had vacillate between those polls and the show sort of happened in the space where we were moving in between the polls because our job storytellers is to make something feel authentic to make could feel real and I wanted this television experience. Because it's not a comic book where you're turning the pages where illustrated cartoon characters I wanted to feel real real and authentic at the same time there's some true ridiculousness happening around the the fringes of this so the first thing that we did and And when I say we at the very beginning of this thing it was this guy. Jeff Jensen I and Jeff and I jeff was a reporter for entertainment weekly remember would write these crazy theories about lost cost under the pseudonym doc Jensen not not quite as soon because his last name is Johnson. Doc in front yes. He doesn't fraud easily easily from my understanding is he did not hold a doctorate in anything. Maybe lost in any way he and I collaborated on tomorrow and and did a lot of world building for that Disney thing but when the third time they came to me and said. Do you WanNa do watchmen and I started kind of feel the beginnings of a glimmer of what it would be about. I texted Jeff and I said I have two questions. The first question is like should there. Be a watchman TV show and then the second is should I do it and I think he responded depends ends and depends and then I was like yeah would you. Would you WanNa do it together. And then he came over and He was the first person that I really bounced a lot of these ideas off of and he and I put together. This list of adjectives A like almost like a recipe list of these are adjectives that we use to describe. The original watchmen. C'mon and if our version if we can check these same adjectives against it almost like a mad libs then than we maybe we earned the name and the first word on the list was original And so now there's this paradox were presented with which is. It's an adaptation of this thing. That already exists. How do you you make it original and I think the gaming of that paradox was still thinking about? Did we game but like that was really the challenge in front of us which was like how does this thing feel like. It's it's it's watchmen. But at the same time it could only feel like it's watchmen if it's taking huge risks when and it feels is like you. You're feeling nervous while you're watching it like A. I don't know what's happening and I don't like it and I don't know where this is going to go next and I'm a little bit scared and not it just scared where it's GonNa go narrative Lee but scared that it could jump the shark. When I read watchmen I could tell you? Twenty instances in over the course of those twelve issues shoes just took my breath away in terms of like. You aren't allowed to do that. I can't believe that just happened like my heart would be racing as I was reading. Thank those issues and to to to try to replicate that emotional sensation for the TV show. That's what we were chasing. Sometimes a we succeeded needed other times. Not but that was the brass ring we were all reaching for. So what we're talking about in many ways is the tone of watchmen and its ambition and and it's fearlessness. And when we begin your series right out of the gates it does seem like you hit those well. At least you hit the ambition and you hit the fearlessness. If watchmen the graphic novel was a meditation perhaps on the morality of heroism. It seems pretty clear from the beginning of your show so that your show is about race period the end it is about race. I want to ask you how much this emphasis on race from. The start was away for you to say not only. This show is the show about race. But I need you to know right now. It is about race Yeah I'M A I. I apologize in advance because I'm not really able to to answer that question articulately yet. And in many ways this my inability to articulate answer that question was replicated in the writer's room on a repeated basis and led to an incredible incredible of conversations. Both difficult in insertive revelatory of certainly from from my standpoint. But what I'll say. Is that the most difficult question and I think that a lot of writers have to answer. Where do you get your ideas from or what? What is a moment of inspiration like what's the flash point and and a lot of the man's to the the question the same way that I will which is like something just happens internally with that just like sort of clicks and slides into place and then at least I feel compelled to get it out out and most of the time for me? Those ideas don't like happen in the shower whereas like Oh this would be a cool idea for television show. It happens because I've read something or I'm listening running to something or I'm emotionally affected by something and essentially what was happening in my life was as the leftovers was ending and I was starting to kind of feel the panic of if I am not entirely sure that I'm ever GonNa WanNa do this again. I'm I'm not having any ideas. In watchmen is just coming at me for the third time. But it's watchmen and it's the you know for me. That's the you know. It's the Rosetta Stone. It's where all began for me. Maybe not the Rosetta Stone. Do More like the black monolith in two thousand one you know where stars yeah. It's it's full of stars quite literally perfect and and an intimidating and right at the time that they asked me the third time because that because they they'd they'd asked me two times is prior. You know once probably two thousand eleven just a couple years after Zack Snyder's movie and then again maybe in two thousand thirteen or twenty fourteen and now I'm thinking it's like twenty seventeen and and I'm placing this time around the time that Charlottesville is happening and I read between the world and many Tallahassee coaches book and I'll I'm just going to be honest with you I read the book because every single white progressive liberal in the in show business was like they say like this. If you read between the world have you read it like like the shame just like you so it's just like you have to read it. You really have to read it and so I was like this. Sounds like an astonishing piece of writing and it and it was when and when I read that. I also read case for reparations which was an essay that he wrote in the Atlantic a couple years? Probably before and in case for reparations which completely. It's both wildly intuitive. It's nothing that you don't already know but the way that it is written in the story that Mr Coates tells is like just changes ages changed the way that I saw the world. In in that essay he mentioned Black Wall Street Tulsa Twenty one and the way that he wrote about it it was just I I wanna say just three or four sentences or just a paragraph as you say it felt like the destruction of a world to me and at that time also Black Panther hadn't come out yet but it had been announced that Ryan Kugler was going to do it in Tallahassee. Coach was writing Black Panther and I was thinking about what Kanda and I was thinking that. If we're Kanda actually existed in the the real world if there was this place of African American exceptionalism I guess in the case of Kanda African exceptionalism but a place that we're only black people lived and they were the best scientists and it was utopia. If white people found out about this place they would destroy it. They burned to the ground. So all of those ideas were kind of like swirling around in my head and then I bought. This book called the burning about Tulsa twenty-one because because of having read and I was just astonished by this story on every single level most of all because I had never heard about it and I felt shame and embarrassment and I would talk to other people like I talked to people of Color and they go. Oh yeah and I talked two white people and they go. What and then I'd start explaining of? This is what happened and I would see them. Start to get feel embarrassed. And then and then disconnect which is what we do when we feel like? We're supposed to know something we don't know it and so all of that stuff was kind of swirling around in my head and the fundamental question that we were asking about doing watchmen is should we do it. And if so why now. And so I- reflected back on. The original watchmen set in one thousand. Nine hundred five of the came out in eighty six and although it takes place in an alternate version of of America it was dealing with a a nuclear standoff handoff between the USSR. America and and it's counting down towards inevitable nuclear destruction on both sides. That's what the that's what the heroes are solving for. It feels else that gets a murder mystery but unbeknownst to us what's really going on the answer to the murder mystery. He has done it is someone is actually trying to save the world world And and I was like so what. What's the big cultural anxiety? Now when you close the comic book and it stays with you and the answer was says. There's a reckoning happening in America as it relates to race. It's not to say that that reckoning wasn't happening during the civil rights movement where it wasn't happening in the the eighties or the nineties but right now as especially after Charlottesville and I remember very specifically Craig like when Charlottesville happened that there was this rhetoric that was happening around where people kept saying. I can't believe they're not wearing masks. They're not wearing masks anymore. The white supremacists are just out there and we can see their faces in shocking shocking. And so that was happening at the same time that. Hbo was saying do you. WanNa do watchmen show masks and I was like what are masks. You know like what happens when and you mix a mask with the administration of the law. That's the central idea of watchmen and then the KKK. Wears masks. And I'm starting to see protesters like Antigua's wary mass. This was long before Hong Kong. But it's like this idea of like covering your face is covering your face a justification for protecting in yourself or are you doing something that you probably shouldn't be or both and then all of that kind of went into the mix at the heart of it in the center of it. Is this remarkable the character that is not a carryover from watchmen but your invention Angela. Apr Sister"