The Final Countdown to Watchmen Begins at New York Comic Con
By Ashley Morton
Damon Lindelof, Regina King, Jeremy Irons and more members from the cast and crew sat down for a panel following the first public screening of the series’ premiere.
With October 20th quickly approaching, members of the Watchmen cast and crew gathered at this year’s New York Comic Con held at the Javits Center for a screening of the first episode of the series, followed by a panel hosted by pop culture writer and critic Jen Chaney. The discussion featured series creator Damon Lindelof, director and executive producer Nicole Kassell, and actors Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Jean Smart, Louis Gossett Jr., Hong Chau, Tim Blake Nelson and Yahya Abdul Mateen II. And as if that wasn’t enough to get fans excited, the group was joined by a special surprise guest: Dave Gibbons, illustrator and letterer of the original Watchmen graphic novel. Here are the highlights.
Where do we begin?
It’s been made clear that the series is not so much an adaptation of its source material as an extension, set in an alternate world of 2019, and Chaney wondered where this approach came from. “I had such reverence for the original material and just doing that again wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to see as a fan,” explained Lindelof. “It was very much of its time, yes it’s an alternate history [of the 1980s] but I still felt a lot of things were are represented in the graphic novel. So I asked myself, ‘What happened afterwards?’”
But you don’t have to have read the graphic novel (or even a fan of superheroes) to get into the show.
“What the creators of Watchmen did doesn’t need to be rebooted,” stated Lindelof. “Those 12 issues are absolutely canon, but we wanted to create an on-ramp for audiences so they didn’t feel like they need to do homework before watching. But,” he added, “If they decide to go read it, it is one of the greatest things ever written and illustrated, and if you haven’t read it you must.”
As one of the minds behind those original 12 issues, Gibbons offered that the real turning point for him was when he stopped thinking of Watchmen as a superhero comic, but rather as an alternative reality science-fiction story. And he feels the show does the same. “What particularly attracted to me it was that it isn’t a prequel or a sequel; it’s an extrapolation. We were asking, ‘What if superheroes really existed? What would they be like and what would the world be like?’ And Damon’s answering what would the world be like now. You end up a million miles away from the circumstances from the graphic novel but also with extreme fidelity. There isn’t anything here that contradicts the graphic novel.”
What about those Rorschach masks?
The trailers for the series are filled with images of a group — the 7K — wearing masks similar to that of iconic character Rorschach. Lindeolf stated, “We had to be aware that we were appropriating Watchmen, and often when someone is appropriating a piece, the original intention becomes secondary. On a meta-pretentious level we thought it would be interesting if characters did that in the show. The 7K is doing that to Rorschach. Appropriating his ideas.”
And let’s not forget that talent-packed cast.
Most of the members of the cast hadn’t read the graphic novel before starting work on the series, but were won over by Lindelof’s enthusiasm and, of course, the scripts. King, who also worked with Lindelof on The Leftovers, told a story about receiving the pilot script in the mail along with a letter and a closed envelope. What was inside? An image of her dressed as Sister Night — her character Angela’s vigilante identity. Lindelof joked it would have been very awkward had she said no. But King said, “I’d never seen this world, or this woman before, so complex, she blew me out of the water. How could I not say yes?”
Although not featured in the first episode, the panel also introduced Laurie Blake (Smart), who has a past linked with the graphic novel, and Lady Trieu (Chau) an entirely new character. The audience got a look at both roles with short clips. “She’s an enigmatic trillionaire businesswoman,” Chau said of Trieu, while Smart offered that Laurie was, “drawn into the masked vigilante world at a very young age. She has a lot of resentment for that whole culture, although a small part of her might miss it.”
Irons, who plays a character the panel referred to as “Probably Who You Think He Is” (a wink to several fan theories about the identity of his unnamed character) shared, “Damon gave me bits of a script which amused me hugely and I thought, ‘This is a very interesting character,’ but mainly I thought, “That man has such energy and enthusiasm, I don’t know what he’s going to do or make but if he thinks I can be of some help in this story then I’m aboard.’”
Acknowledging Lindelof, Kassell, Gibbons and her fellow castmates, King added, “I’ve always wanted to play a hero. I think it needed to be this combination for it to happen.”
Watchmen premieres October 20 at 9 p.m. on HBO.
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Head to the official Watchmen page for more information about the upcoming series or check out the trailer.