Detail from the cover of The American Way: Those Above and Those Below #6
Image: Georges Jeanty, Danny Miki, and Nick Filardi (DC Comics)

Yesterday, news broke that screenwriter John Ridley will be writing and directing a film adaptation of his The American Way comics. Today, he talked to io9 about where his head’s at in transforming his story from medium to another, and one big change that’s going into the script.

Ridley quickly agreed to answer some questions about The American Way adaptation while in production on another unannounced project. Below, you’ll find insights about adapting a story he’s already written and why he’s not starting with the first American Way miniseries.


io9: We live in a moment when some people say that they don’t want “politics” in their escapist entertainment. What makes now the right time to try and bring The American Way—which is centered on politics of race, class and unrest sparked by social injustices—to a wider audience?

John Ridley: “Wider” is obviously going to be relative, but Wonder Woman and Black Panther have kicked open the door. Frankly, so did Get Out. In its way, so did Girls’ Trip. The American Way, as a series, intentionally exists in a politicized space and that will be a barrier for some folks. But, at the same time, The American Way wouldn’t exist, wouldn’t have attracted any audience if it hadn’t been politics. I would say, that for me, TAW isn’t a political story. It’s historical, same as Red Tails. Same as All Is by My Side and Twelve Years a Slave. I didn’t make up the civil rights movement, or urban resistance.

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Film’s a very different medium than comics. Are there characters, scenes, or moments you’re looking for to approaching in a different creative mode?

Ridley: There’s a character in the script who didn’t exist previously. She’s, ironically, turned into the lynchpin of the whole story. The great thing about having done this story in the graphic novel form is that I’ve had the opportunity to look at all the pieces of the puzzle and can hopefully make them all fit cleanly.

Blumhouse has a rep for lean, mean releases, but superhero films tend to require hefty budgets. What would you say are other movies that walked this tightrope successfully?

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Ridley: Films that executed exceptionally on tight budgets: the original Terminator. The Raid, much more recently. Chronicle.

The Deadline report said the film was going to be based on the second miniseries. Why start there? Can we assume that you’ll be using elements from the first series in the film?

Ridley: I love the first series, but I would say, in the last 10 years, the “opening film as origin story” has kinda become a bit old school. Which is not a bad thing.

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What’s going to be the most important thing to nail in adapting The American Way to screen?

Ridley: That my family likes it.