Game of Thrones creators/showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss will return to HBO with their new original series Confederate, it was announced by Casey Bloys, president, HBO Programming. Confederate will be written and created by Benioff and Weiss, who will also serve as showrunners on the series. Partnering with them as executive producers and writers on the series will be Nichelle Tramble Spellman (Justified, The Good Wife) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire, the forthcoming Foxy Brown). Carolyn Strauss (Game of Thrones) and Bernadette Caulfield (Game of Thrones, Big Love) will also join as executive producers. Here's what Casey Bloys had to say in a statement about the new series.
"As the brilliant Game of Thrones winds down to its final season, we are thrilled to be able to continue our relationship with Dan and David, knowing that any subject they take on will result in a unique and ambitious series. Their intelligent, wry and visually stunning approach to storytelling has a way of engaging an audience and taking them on an unforgettable journey. Confederate promises to be no exception, and we are honored to be adding the talented team of Nichelle and Malcolm Spellman to the mix."
Confederate 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. Here's what David Benioff and David Weiss had to say in their statement.
"We have discussed Confederate for years, originally as a concept for a feature film. But our experience on Thrones has convinced us that no one provides a bigger, better storytelling canvas than HBO. There won't be dragons or White Walkers in this series, but we are creating a world, and we couldn't imagine better partners in world-building than Nichelle and Malcolm, who have impressed us for a long time with their wit, their imagination and their Scrabble-playing skills."
Production will begin following the final season of Game of Thrones. Following the initial announcement of the series, the producers and HBO have faced plenty of backlash already, with author Roxanne Gay, journalist Pilot Veret and actor David Harewood, to name just a few, taking to social media to denounce this series, before it even gets off the ground. Vulture caught up with all four of the producers and writers behind the series, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, and Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman, a married couple who are both black. Here's what Malcolm Spellman had to say about how David Benioff and D.B. Weiss approached him and his wife to work on this series.
"They first called me and said they wanted to take us to lunch and talk about a project they had. 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. There was already a comfort level between all of us. I feel like me and Nichelle, both separately, have a great pedigree, her particularly, and so it made sense. 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."
Nichelle Tramble Spellman also joked that when they first took the meeting, they joked that the series would be the "black Game of Thrones spin-off," although that certainly wasn't the case. While there is a feature-length script for the project, none of the actual episodes have been written yet, with D.B. Weiss clarifying how the show is set in the Third American Civil War. Here's what he had to say below, while addressing some of the early backlash.
"When I read it over, I did realize that line is a little bit confusing. So the idea, and yes, we won't go too much into it because we haven't even written up all the fictional history yet. But the idea that we've talked about for a while is that if the first Civil War happened at the same time as the Civil War in our time happened, it just seemed unlikely to us that these two countries, these two hostile countries that share a massive border, would not have fought again in the time between the 1860s and the present day. So in our mind, there was also a 20th-century civil war. But this points out we haven't written any scripts yet. We don't have an outline yet. We don't even have character names. So, everything is brand-new and nothing's been written. I guess that's what was a little bit surprising about some of the outrage. It's just a little premature. You know, we might f--k it up. But we haven't yet."
Malcolm Spellman also clarified that this is not a show where, "the entire country is enslaved," adding there is still freedom in the North and the show's imagery will not center on "whips and plantations." His wife Nichelle also discussed the backlash, adding that she wishes the outrage would have at least been saved until the show premieres on HBO. Here's what she had to say below.
"I do understand their concern. 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."
All four of the writer-producers admitted they were ready for the controversy, with Malcolm Spellman telling Benioff and Weiss in their early meetings that they were dealing with "weapons-grade material" with this project. Still, with no scripts written yet, and production most likely not starting until either 2018 or 2019, depending on when the final season of Game of Thrones airs, there is plenty of time to see how this series develops. Hopefully we'll find out more about Confederate in the near future.