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Ten years after director Zack Snyder’s failed Watchmen film adaptation, Lost and The Leftovers creator Damon Lindelof’s take on the groundbreaking Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons graphic novel is on its way to HBO. Let’s take a look at everything we know so far about the highly anticipated Watchmen series.
First published as a limited series by DC Comics in 1986 and collected as a single-volume edition in 1987, the original Watchmen came from the creative team of writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons and colorist John Higgins. Watchmen is widely considered one of the most influential titles in comics history, as well as Moore’s masterwork, although it came second on Paste’s list of the best Moore comics of all time.
Snyder’s Watchmen was released to mixed reviews in 2009, after a number of filmmakers had already attempted to adapt the material into a feature film, including Terry Gilliam, whom Moore reportedly warned against getting involved in the adaptation.
Moore has been, and remains, adamantly opposed to film adaptations of his work, even going as far as having his name taken off the 2009 Watchmen film. He has previously said that he will give any film royalties to Gibbons, who has voiced his support for the forthcoming HBO adaptation. In September, he told Entertainment Weekly that he had read Lindelof’s pilot script, and called his approach to the material “really refreshing and exciting and unexpected.”
In October 2015, Collider reported that HBO was “in preliminary discussions” to bring Watchmen to the small screen, with Snyder attached. HBO confirmed the exclusive with the following statement: “Preliminary discussions regarding Watchmen have occurred but we have no additional information and no deals are in place.”
In June 2017, however, sources told THR that a Watchmen TV series from Lindelof was in early development stages at HBO, with Snyder no longer onboard.
On Sept. 19, 2017, Lindelof shared a picture featuring what appeared to be the newly opened writers room for the Watchmen series, and the following day, HBO confirmed that the network had given the project a formal pilot order.
In May 2018, Lindelof shared a five-page open letter on Instagram in which he updated fans on the status of his Watchmen pilot for HBO and laid out his approach to the beloved source material.
“We have no desire to “adapt” the 12 issues Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons created 30 years ago. Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted,” Lindelof wrote in the post, in which he also grappled with the legacy of the groundbreaking original, as well as Moore’s reluctance to see his comic adapted for the screen.
“To be clear. Watchmen is canon,” Lindelof added, although he went on to say that his project is “not … a ‘sequel,’ either,” and stressed the need for an “original” and “contemporary” story that still maintains “the tradition of the work that inspired it.”
On June 26, Atlanta Magazine compiled sightings of the pilot’s production, which had been going on all across the Atlanta area throughout the previous month.
On June 27, Lindelof shared a post on Instagram revealing that production had wrapped in Atlanta the day prior on the series’ pilot. The image features pilot director Nicole Kassell, who also serves alongside Lindelof as executive producer on the series.
This is @nicolekassell, our magnificent director. Yesterday, she called wrap on the pilot of Watchmen… and let there be no doubt — she WAS the pilot, navigating our owlship flawlessly from takeoff to landing. It was an absolute honor watching her work as she led our phenomenal crew (I love you, ATL!) each and every day… and should we get picked up, all of you will get to see her extraordinary talent for yourselves. Her shirt says it all. Thank you, Nicky… for EVERYTHING.
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In August, HBO officially ordered the project to series, per Variety.
Following the full series order, in October, Atlanta Magazine continued to follow the production as it kept filming the rest of the season across the Atlanta area.
In May, six new actors were added to the Watchmen cast. The Leftovers star Regina King was cast in a lead role, joined by Golden Globe winner Don Johnson (Miami Vice), Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Adelaide Clemens (Parade’s End), Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman) and Andrew Howard (The Outpost), all in unknown roles.
Oscar-winner Jeremy Irons joined the cast in June, although his role is still being kept under wraps.
Later that month, on June 28, TVLine reported that Tom Mison (Sleepy Hollow) had been cast in a starring role, joined by Frances Fisher (Titantic) and Jacob Ming-Trent (Superfly).
The following day, on June 29, TVLine also reported that Aquaman villain Yahya Abdul-Mateen II had been cast in a series regular role, joined by Sara Vickers (Endeavor).
Lindelof also shared the news on Instagram that day, teasing fans speculating about their roles. “Don’t ask them who they’re playing BECAUSE I HAVEN’T TOLD THEM!” he wrote in the post.
And that’s the entire cast, folks!!! Don’t ask them who they’re playing BECAUSE I HAVEN’T TOLD THEM!
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Three new faces were cast in August, as young actors Dylan Schombing (Sharp Objects), Lily Rose Smith (Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce) and Adelynn Spoon (Tell Me Your Secret) also came onboard, per Deadline.
One of the many cast members mentioned above will likely play the yellow-masked vigilante whom Lindelof revealed in an October first-look photo. The character doesn’t resemble anyone in the source material, which suggests that it’s one of Lindelof’s original creations for the series adaptation.
Who Watches The #Watchmen? Production starts TODAY. @hbo #WatchmenHBO
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In early November, Tell Me A Story and Mad Men star James Wolk joined the cast in a major recurring role. As usual, HBO did not offer a character description for his role, although Deadline reports that Wolk may play a junior senator from Oklahoma. This character is perhaps John David Keene, the U.S. Senator who in the Watchmen universe passed the Keene Act, the 1977 law that outlawed vigilantism nationwide.
Given what Lindelof has said about the project being a “contemporary” take on the source material, though, it’s hard to tell whether Wolk fits into the character’s profile in the timeline of the forthcoming adaptation.
The Creative Team
Series creator Lindelof will stay on as a writer on the series. Lindelof will also executive produce with Kassell, who directed the pilot, alongside Stephen Williams, a frequent Lost director who will helm the rest of the series, and Joseph Iberti.
The series is produced for HBO by Lindelof’s White Rabbit in association with Warner Bros. Television, based on characters from DC.
In September, HBO announced that Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, the Nine Inch Nails bandmates behind the Oscar-winning score for The Social Network, would be composing music for the Watchmen series.
You’ll recall that Snyder, who directed the 2009 film adaptation, was briefly attached in October 2015, when HBO was “in preliminary discussions” for the television adaptation, but he is not involved with the production. And there’s a good chance that Moore, who chose to go uncredited as the writer of the graphic novel on that 2009 film, will also keep his name off the HBO adaptation.
Watchmen is set to premiere in 2019, according to the show’s HBO website, which doesn’t list an official premiere date.
Emmy-winning Legion and Fargo actress Jean Smart has signed on as a Watchmen series regular as of Nov. 8. Smart will play an FBI agent investigating a murder. “The character’s identity has not been revealed but there is wide speculation that it is Agent Blake,” Deadline reports.
According to a Nov. 8 /Film report, Jeremy Irons will play an older Ozymandias, aka Adrian Veidt.
Tim Blake Nelson revealed key details of his Watchmen role in a Nov. 9 interview on Empire Podcast. Nelson revealed that he is playing Looking Glass, a new character who doesn’t appear in the original comics.
“My character’s name is Looking Glass, and it’s a really interesting, intriguing character,” Nelson told Empire. “I don’t really completely understand him, and that’s intentional. Damon Lindelof metes out facts about your character as you go along […] so I’m learning as I go along who this guy is, and trying to … It’s almost like fresco painting. The clay is always wet.”
According to reported casting call information shared by Empire, the character description reads as follows: “A good looking cop, the native Oklahoman isn’t simple as his rural accent makes him appear to be. A top interrogator and behavioral scientist, he may also be a bit of a sociopath.”