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What Is Watchmen on HBO About?

HBO's Watchmen Battle White Supremacy and 3 More Things to Know

HBO has recently said goodbye to a lot of fan-favorite shows — Game of Thrones, Veep, The Leftovers — but there are a couple big releases on tap for this Fall that will quickly fill the void. One such drama adventure series is Watchmen, a comic-based crimefighting series starring Regina King, Don Johnson, Jeremy Irons, and Louis Gossett Jr. We've seen the first episode and talked to the creator and star King, so here are a few juicy details we can divulge about what looks to be one of HBO's next big shows.

The Comics Are a Jumping-Off Point

The original comics (and the 2009 film based on them) are set in an alternate universe in 1985, one where the United States won the Vietnam War and where the Watergate scandal never came to light. After the repeal of the 22nd Amendment (the one that sets term limits for the president), President Nixon kept getting reelected and is therefore still president.

In the TV series, it is still the same alternate universe — they aren't going to ignore the comics or the movie — but it is now present day.

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"We're not going to mess with [the comics]. It's canon. I mean, we re-explore the past. But it's canon," executive producer Damon Lindelof tells the 2019 TCA Summer press tour. "One of the rules that we had as storytellers, writers, and even once we got into the production of the show was that everything that happened in those 12 issues could not be messed with. We were married to it and so there's no rebooting happening."

The Alternate Universe Is Still Bananas

It's wild enough to think of Richard Nixon being president well into the 1980s, but Lindelof does that one better and reveals that Nixon was reelected in 1988, then died in office and his vice president, Gerald Ford, assumed the presidency. Then Ford was defeated in the 1992 election by none other than . . . Robert Redford. Yes, the actor. And he's still president.

"Robert Redford is the president of the United States and has been the president since, in the world of the show, the early '90s because they've abolished term limits," says Lindelof, adding that it is Redford's presidency that has created the current world of the Watchmen.

"One of the things that we're interested in exploring is what would happen if a very well-intentioned white man, a liberal white man was president for way too long? And the show is a reflection of that idea . . . what we're trying to reflect is a world where well-intentioned white people are trying to make things better, and we're now dropping the audience into what the unintended consequences of that intentionality are."

White Supremacy Is the Big Bad

Building off of the idea that well-intentioned white people have been in charge for years and years in the Watchmen world, the driving force behind the series is a group of masked white supremacists taking out cops (cops of any race), which might seem antithetical to some viewers, but Lindelof sees this as a way to tackle huge issues facing American in 2019.

"What, in 2019, is the equivalent of the nuclear standoff between the Russians and the United States, and it just felt like it was undeniably race and policing in America," says Lindelof, adding that the contradiction of the white supremacists working against the police is something that will be explored.

"My hope is that over the course of the entire season, the nine episodes that we've completed, you'll have a much better sense of . . . those contradictions . . . that we were very aware of in the storytelling, and tried to square to the best of our ability, but there are no easy answers," says Lindelof. "It's that there are no grandiose solutions. In a traditional superhero movie, the bad guys are fighting aliens and when they beat the aliens the aliens go back to their planet and everybody wins. There's no defeating white supremacy. It's not going anywhere, but it felt like it was pretty formidable foe."

Regina King Is a Badass (Duh)

One thing the "formidable foe" of white supremacy is going to come up against is Regina King's Angela Abar, a seemingly unassuming bakery owner who is actually a badass crimefighter, taking on some pretty great fight scenes in the premiere episode alone. King says she stays fit so that she can continue to kick butt on screen, but she is also very grateful to her stunt double.

"I'm a pretty fit person. I pretty much try to stay fit all the time," says King. "The good thing about Watchmen is we were working with the stunt coordinator that we'd worked with on Leftovers, so he already knew my strengths going in. And I'm very particular when it comes to stunt doubles. I hate to see something where you're like, 'That's a double.' And so, they really took their time and looked far and wide to find a double that resembled me and she's 26 years old. So, you know, I'll be playing action woman till I'm, like, 66."

Watchmen premieres October 2019 on HBO.

Image Source: HBO
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