David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are no strangers to controversy — the showrunners’ hit series “Game of Thrones” has generated its fair share of headlines throughout its run. But the announcement of their next project, titled “Confederate” — which imagines an alternate timeline, where the southern states have seceded from the Union and slavery is legal — sparked a firestorm of backlash on social media.
Critics questioned the decision to have the drama be told by two white men, although Benioff and Weiss will be working on the project along with Nichelle Tramble Spellman (“Justified,” “The Good Wife”) and Malcolm Spellman (“Empire”).
The producing team defended the project in an interview with Vulture, urging patience given that no scripts have even been written yet.
“Everything is brand new and nothing’s been written,” said Weiss. “I guess that’s what was a little bit surprising about some of the outrage. It’s just a little premature. You know, we might f–k it up. But we haven’t yet.”
Nichelle Tramble Spellman said she understood the critics’ outrage but said it was premature. “I wish their concern had been reserved to the night of the premiere, on HBO, on a Sunday night, when they watched and then they made a decision after they watched an hour of television as to whether or not we succeeded in what we set out to do,” she said. Added Malcolm Spellman, “You cannot litigate this on Twitter. It’s not possible.”
The producers acknowledge they anticipated some backlash, if not the full breadth of it that the announcement stirred up. “You’re dealing with weapons-grade material here,” said Spellman.
The producers explained that their narrative isn’t a defense of slavery or an endorsement of white supremacist ideas. “This is not a world in which the entire country is enslaved,” he said. “Slavery is in one half of the country. And the North is the North… The imagery should be no whips and no plantations.”
The foursome said they’ve known each other for 10 years, and that they’re approaching this project as a true collaboration. “The reality is, ‘Game of Thrones’ has been a successful show for HBO, which has put us in a position to come and pitch another show and get them excited about it. And that’s what helped get us here,” said Benioff. “But when we sit down and map out this show, and the season, and the characters, it’ll be the four of us arguing about everything.”
But they acknowledged the high-wire act of the concept. “This is scary, for all of us. It’s scary for different reasons. But it is a pretty terrifying prospect getting into it. We knew it would be, and now it’s come true,” said Benioff.