HBO CEO discusses the backlash to Confederate: “We screwed up”


For their follow-up to the phenomena that is Game of Thrones, you’d think that showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss could do no wrong…but you’d be wrong about that. Back in July, HBO announced the duo’s next project: Confederate, a drama set in an alternative reality where the American Civil War was fought to a stand-still and where slavery still exists and has turned into “a modern institution.” That set off a powerful backlash, with many accusing the show of being insensitive. HBO CEO Richard Plepner addressed that backlash when speaking at a Vanity Fair summit this week, saying, “We screwed up in an important way.”

Expounding on the show’s concept, Plepler said that Confederate is about “showing what we call the thin line, the thin veneer of civilization – that’s what we were meant to explore. Where we screwed up was we tried to explain a complicated subject in a press release in three paragraphs.” He said that the network’s intent was to bring people together rather than divide them.

"We have a long tradition through our documentaries, through our film, of trying to bring the capacity of people to see other people in a more profound way, to the table, and we use our documentaries and our films to try to do that. Creative producers have always known that was part of our way, and that’s why they come to us to do that."

It’s worth noting that Benioff and Weiss will be writing and executive producing Confederate alongside husband-and-wife team Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman, both of whom are African American. Neither of the Spellmans were put front and center in the original press release, which may be one of the ways in which HBO “screwed up.” Time will tell how audience’s respond to the show. First thing’s first, though: let’s wrap up Game of Thrones.

Next: Video: Iain Glen discusses the Game of Thrones season 8 read-through

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h/t Deadline