HBO Boss Defends Game of Thrones Creators’ Controversial Slave Drama Amid Backlash
HBO isn’t backing down from their forthcoming drama Confederate, regardless of the controversy it’s already mired in.
When the network announced last week that they’d be staying in business with Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss by ordering straight-to-series a new drama from the duo set in an alternate reality where the Southern states successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery is not only legal, but a modern institution, the reaction was overwhelmingly negative.
As HBO programming president Casey Bloys appeared before reporters Wednesday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour, he was questioned over whether the response gave the network pause. While he admitted the announcement could’ve been handled better, he expressed nothing but confidence in the project and its high-profile creators.
“File this under hindsight is 20-20: If I could do it over again…The idea that we would be able to announce an idea that is so sensitive and requires such care and thought on the part of the producers in a press release was misguided on our part,” he said. “We assumed the response. We assumed it would be controversial. I think we could’ve done a better job with the press roll-out. We knew the idea would be controversial…What we realized in retrospect is people don’t have the benefit of the context with the producers that we had.”
With Benioff and Weiss set to write and executive produce as a quartet alongside husband-and-wife team Malcolm Spellman and Nichelle Tramble Spellman, Bloys reiterated that the network wasn’t afraid to stand behind the project. “The bet for us is on our talent…that they’re going to be the difference,” he said. “We’re going to stand behind them…These four writers are at the top of their game, they can do anything they want and this is what they feel passionately about. So I’m going to bet on that.”
As described by the network when the project was announced, Confederate will take place during the lead-up to the Third American Civil War, following 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.”
While Bloys admitted he hasn’t seen a script yet, he did open up about how the show will depict modern-day slavery. “Producers have said they’re not looking to do Gone With the Wind 2017; it’s not whips and plantations,” he said. “It’s what they imagine the modern institution of slavery would look like.”
Confederate will launch once Benioff and Weiss wrap Game of Thrones, either next year or in 2019.