The team that’s bringing Confederate, the just-announced alt-history drama in which the south secedes from the Union after a second Civil War and maintains slavery in present-day America, to HBO have heard the many, many concerns expressed about the series, and have an answer: We understand, but please hold your judgment.
In an interview with Vulture, Confederate’s co-creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss (of Game of Thrones fame) and executive producers Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman took the time to address the new series’ backlash.
While Confederate is definitely the brainchild of Benioff and Weiss—who made a point of stressing what history buffs they both are—they also expressed their wish that people understood how significant the Spellmans’ roles will be in the creation. While it was not explicit, the subtext of what Benioff and Weiss (who are white) was saying was that knew that they couldn’t—or at least shouldn’t—attempt to create Confederate without working with a team including black executive producers.
...And once we realized it was going to be a bigger story, we knew we didn’t wanna do it by ourselves because we’re … lazy. [Laughs.] And they’re two great writers. We’ve known Malcolm and Nichelle a long time, socially, and always talked about doing something together at some point. And this felt like a good thing. Now we’re bonding under fire.
The Spellmans recalled when Weiss and Benioff first approached them about the series, and explained that while the show was centered around “weapons-grade material,” they felt as if Confederate could have the potential to become an important piece of the conversations about the legacy of American anti-black racism.
Nichelle Tramble Spellman insisted that Confederate won’t be like other shows depicting slavery in that it won’t rely on stereotypical images, like the antebellum south projected onto a modern setting. Rather, they’re working to imagine the world that would develop and change organically over time had slavery continued to exist after the Civil War.
Perhaps most telling from the interview, though, was Benioff and Weiss’ admission that they haven’t actually started writing anything for Confederate yet and that they wish people would at least wait until they’ve got something to show before everyone dismisses the series. The team knows that in this world, the Confederacy still lost the first Civil War, but successfully broke away from the north after a second Civil War and that Confederate will take place in the time leading up to a third conflict. Other than that, though, the exact shape that Confederate will take is still up in the air.
While Benioff, Weiss, and the Spellmans’ comments sound like they’re trying to be careful, good intentions certainly won’t preclude Confederate from being a trainwreck. I remain very skeptical. Very, very skeptical.