Recently, Regina King attended the San Francisco “Watchmen” premiere, organized by HBO, presenting Damon Lindelof‘s (“The Leftovers“) bold, highly-acclaimed adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons‘ iconic, comic book series. A thorough departure from the majority of the graphic novels, Lindelof’s envisions a new alternate universe in which white supremacy has seemingly risen to power since the Tulsa Race Riot (Black Wall Street Massacre) in 1921, using the Rorschach mask as a symbol of hatred, many of the heroes readers are used to seeing are mere, revisionist propagandistic stories of an era long gone, the police force now the modern-day Watchmen.
After the screening, King participated in an insightful Q&A moderated by the San Francisco Chronicle contributing TV writer Tirhakah Love, during which she mentioned, “This show is like a genre gumbo. We have so many different genres going on, and [Damon’s] been able to titillate, through the depiction of historical events, an alternate history, sci-fi, romance, comedy.” Indeed, “Watchmen” is an impressive blend of genres.
“Watchmen” is a show that may cause a contentious or visceral reaction among its viewers because of its complex subject matter. However, it is portrayed respectfully and through a team of diverse writers.
“Once I was in, and I was in because of my experience with Damon on ‘The Leftovers,’ he made sure he had Black women as writers,” King said. “And he was very smart, and I feel responsible in making sure that he did that because for a lot of Black people who are just only seeing the first episode like, ‘What the fuck? What are you trying to say about police?’ It feels offensive for some. And some white people are like, ‘Are you trying to say Black people were in charge?’ No, nobody is the fuck in charge.”
After the premiere, I had an opportunity to chat with King about why she took a chance on Lindelof’s amalgamation of genres, “Watchmen’s” commentary on appropriation, her burgeoning production company, Royal Ties, and more.
When you first read Damon’s script, among the many facets of the story – the action, the sociopolitical commentary, the historical context, the character development – what appealed to you the most?
Honestly, my dear, I can’t say that it was one. It was the fact that it was a combination of all of the four that appealed to me. Because I’ve never seen that before. Normally, if you hear that as the pitch, you immediately think, “Yeah, that’s not gonna work.” And that wasn’t part of the pitch, so I went into it not expecting a particular thing. And it was because it was all those things that made me feel like, “Well, here’s an opportunity to get a lot of different bodies, not just a certain audience.” But it’s an opportunity to get a lot of different audiences that gravitate to a particular thing.
I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a person that loved romance, but there is romance in this. I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a person that loves comic book series, but I know that in comic book series, there’s legacy stories that exist that this story does have. So it was just Damon’s and the writing team’s ability to put it all in one place and get my attention. And I’m a person that had not read the graphic novel. I had not seen the movie. So if it grabbed me, and I’m that audience, then it gave me more confidence that, well, yeah. Then other people would be interested.
You mentioned no one’s really in power by the second episode, and really in this alternate society. And your character, as you referenced during the conversation with your daughter in Episode 2, believes everything is black and white, figuratively and literally. Is the introduction of the mysterious old man, Will, the beginning of a grey area emerging in the series?
Sure. It’s something that you can take and apply it to social commentary now. Because I know that so many people who have decided that they wanted to cast their judgment, now, who are true graphic novel fans, have said, “Rorschach has nothing to do with what the original story was.” But it’s appropriation. In the spirit of an Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons “Watchmen,” that is the breaking the rules that should happen and the influence that would take place, the appropriation that took place with this character or this person that existed in that universe that is a true history to that world. In that world, we’re taking the Seventh Cavalry, who is using Rorschach as their face to appropriate something hateful. We can really liken that so many forms of appropriation that take place within our own society now, holding a mirror up to it.
In the past year and a half, you’ve won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and another Emmy. Your talent has remained extraordinary throughout your career. But, have you noticed, as the accolades have been accumulating, that you’ve offered more interesting roles?
At this current place? No, I have not been offered more interesting roles because “Watchmen” was happening throughout the campaign from the moment that I won that third Emmy, the Golden Globe, and the Oscar. I was working on “Watchmen” throughout all of that. So the fact that the universe just designed this in a way that I have a project that I can promote after all of that is genius, and I’m so thankful for it. But what has happened is that the moves that I’ve made as a producer, as a production company, Royal Ties, [with] me and my sister, have been propped up in a bigger way because of those things. So I have been able to use those moments as currency to motivate and to create the trajectory that I would like to create on this next part of the journey.
Episode 3 of “Watchmen” airs this Sunday, November 3.