HBO is standing behind "Confederate," the dystopian alternate United States series being developed by "Game of Thrones" creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, but the network president wishes they had handled the announcement better. Sensitive material should be handled with more sensitivity, HBO boss Casey Bloys said.
Bloys spoke about the "Confederate" backlash during the Television Critics Association press tour. He said they knew there would be some backlash, and still hopes people will judge the show by the material itself, but he wishes HBO hadn't just dropped a press release on the subject with no context.
"Confederate" is meant to take place before the Third American Civil War in a nation where slavery still exists and has become a modern institution. Critics weren't happy at the idea of seeing still more slavery images, and feeding white supremacist fantasies. Many also pointed out that GoT showrunners Benioff and Weiss are white men, currently running a show that features mostly white characters. However, the other two writer-producers who make up the four-person team are African-American wife-and-husband Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm SpellmanHere's what Bloys told reporters in response to the backlash:
"File this under hindsight is 20/20. If I could do it over again, HBO's mistake — not the producers' — was the idea that we would be able to announce an idea that is so sensitive that requires such care and thought on the part of the producers in a press release was misguided on our part. [We] had the benefit of sitting with these four producers, we heard why they wanted to do the show, what they were excited about, and why it was important to them, so we had that context, but I completely understand that somebody reading the press release would not have that at all. If I had to do it over again, I would've rolled it out with the producers on the record so people understood where they were coming from.
The bet for us is on our talent — on Nichelle, Malcolm, Dan, and David; they're going to be the difference. My hope is that people will judge the actual material as opposed to what it could be, should be, or might be, and they — and we — will rise or fall based on the quality of that material. ... These four writers are at the top of their game; they can do whatever they want. This is what they're passionate about, so I'm going to bet on that."
Bloys added that Malcolm Spellman "said it best in one of his interviews: 'This is weapons-grade material we're dealing with.' Everybody understands that there's a high degree of difficulty with getting this right. But the thing that excites them that excited us is if you can get it right, there's a real opportunity to advance the race discussion in America."
Bloys also said the critical response was actually "invaluable" to the team as they go back to write on the project.
"People still may not like the show or may not like the idea for it, but they could at least hear from the producers why they're trying to do it. All we can do is ask that people judge the final product of these artists and not what it could be or might be."
The initial press release from HBO said production on "Confederate" will begin following the final season of "Game of Thrones." GoT Season 7 is currently airing its seven episodes, with Episode 3 this Sunday, and the final Season 8 has six episodes to come.
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