Damon Lindelof Shares New Details on WATCHMEN; Discusses the Legacy of Dr. Manhattan
HBO’s upcoming Watchmen series looks like it’s going to be great, and if you’re excited for it, we have some new details to share with you thanks to Entertainment Weekly. They recently interviewed series creator Damon Lindelof, and he shared some new details and insight on the show and the alternate universe that it’s set in.
Before we jump into the things that Lindelof talks about, here’s a description of the kind of world the series is set in and what the story is about:
Robert Redford has been president for 28 years. Cell phones and the internet are outlawed. Fossil fuels are a thing of the past. Costumed heroes were popular, then banned. Police wear masks to protect their identities and cannot use their guns without a dispatcher unlocking them first. Reparations were issued for racial injustice, and our country remains ever divided.
The story is set three decades after the events in Moore’s Watchmen text. Most of the graphic novel’s iconic characters are apparently dead or in hiding, though a character we suspect is Adrian Veidt, a.k.a. Ozymandias, is kicking around in a mansion (and played with gilded smugness by Jeremy Irons), and the staggeringly powerful Doctor Manhattan is rumored to be hanging out on Mars. The focus instead is on a new character, Angela Abar, an Oklahoma police detective (The Leftovers‘ Regina King) with the secret superhero identity of Sister Night. Abar is investigating the reemergence of a white supremacist terrorist group inspired by the long-deceased moral absolutist Rorschach.
One of the first things that LIndelof wanted to clarify is that this series is not a reboot, it’s more of a sequel series. Some fans still seem to be confused by this, but he explains:
“Look, [the new series] certainly fits into the “sequel” box, and definitely doesn’t fit into the “reboot” box. We treat the original 12 issues as canon. They all happened. We haven’t done any revisionist history, but we can maneuver in between the cracks and crevices and find new stories there. But for all the reasons you just articulated, we wanted to make sure our first episode felt like the beginning of a new story rather than a continuation of an old story. That’s what I think a sequel is — the continuation of an old story.”
I’m certainly happy to know that Lindelof didn’t adapt the Watchmen graphic novel. Continuing that story 30 years later is a great way to handle things. It’s then revealed that Robert Redford is not playing President Robert Redford in the series:
"[The] world of Watchmen is so heightened and so clearly it’s an alternate history that it will be clear to everyone we’re not talking about the real Robert Redford. More importantly, the way we handle this story, you can’t blame Robert Redford for everything that’s happened in the world."
"The show says Redford has a liberal ideology, much like the actual Robert Redford, and he was incredibly well-intentioned in terms of the legislation he passed and the America that he wanted to create. But that doesn’t mean it worked out the way he wanted it to. And that’s not on him, that’s on us."
The conversation then turns to Dr. Manhatten and what his place in the story is along with his legacy. It’s because of him that fossil fuels have been eliminated. There’s also an explanation of how some of the other things work in this alternate universe:
“We’re living in a world where fossil fuels have been eliminated as a power source. All the cars are zero emissions and run on electricity or fuel cells — largely thanks to the innovations of Dr. Mahattan decades earlier. There’s also this legislation that’s passed, Victims OF Racial Violence Legislation, which is a form of reparations that are colloquially known as “Redford-ations.” It’s a lifetime tax exemption for victims of, and the direct descendants of, designated areas of racial injustice throughout America’s history, the most important of which, as it relates to our show, is the Tulsa massacre of 1921. That legislation had a ripple effect into another piece of legalization, DoPA, the Defense of Police Act, which allows police to hide their face behind masks because they were being targeted by terrorist organizations for protecting the victims of the initial act. So … good luck sound biting that!”
Lindelof goes on to explain that Dr. Manhatten will not play a big role in this series, and he explains why:
"I started to think that for Watchmen maybe the more interesting point is to think about masking and authority and policing as an adjunct to superheroes. In Watchmen, nobody has superpowers — the only super-powered individual is Dr. Manhattan and he’s not currently on the planet."
"So I felt like we wouldn’t be deconstructing the superhero myth because all the characters in Watchmen are just humans who play dress up. It would be more interesting to ask psychological questions about why do people dress up, why is hiding their identity a good idea, and there are interesting themes to explore here when your mask both hides you and shows you at the same time — because your mask is actually a reflection in yourself."
While it would have been interesting and cool to see more of Dr. Manhattan in the show, it makes sense as to why Lindelof didn’t want to give him a big role in the story.
There’s a lot of other stuff he discusses in the interview, such as why he decided to develop a Watchmen series, the cast of the series, getting Trent Reznor on board to compose the score, and more. So if you want to dive into the full interview head over to EW.
The cast for the series includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Hong Chau, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, James Wolk, and Robert Redford as President of the United States.
Watchmen premieres on HBO October 20th, and I can’t wait to see it!