D.B. Weiss and David Benioff are standing by their decision to go forward with their show, Confederate, which is about what present-day America might look like had the North not won the Civil War.
The Game of Thrones showrunners faced some backlash, with several critics calling out the fact that two white males would be addressing such a sensitive subject matter. Writer Roxanne Gay was among those who disapproved of the show, tweeting: "It is exhausting to think of how many people at HBO said yes to letting two white men envision modern day slavery -- and offensive."
However, in addition to Weiss and Benioff, there are two other writers-executive producers on Confederate. Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife) and her husband, Malcolm Spellman (Empire), are also behind the project and are both black.
"For me and Nichelle, it’s deeply personal because we are the offspring of this history," Malcolm told Vulture of the show. "We deal with it directly and have for our entire lives. We deal with it in Hollywood, we deal with it in the real world when we’re dealing with friends and family members. And I think Nichelle and I both felt a sense of urgency in trying to find a way to support a discussion that is percolating but isn’t happening enough. As people of color and minorities in general are starting to get a voice, I think there’s a duty to force this discussion."
Weiss and Benioff noted that they knew the announcement of the show would cause some backlash "in one form or another," but want viewers to know that they won't be handling Confederate as they did Game of Thrones.
"We were very hyper-aware of the difference between a show with a fictional history and a fictional world, and a show that’s an alternate history of this world," Weiss explained. "We know that the elements in play in a show like Confederate are much more raw, much more real, and people come into them much more sensitive and more invested, than they do with a story about a place called Westeros, which none of them had ever heard of before they read the books or watched the show. We know they are different things, and they need to be dealt with in very, very different ways."
Nichelle also gets why the subject matter of Confederate might worry people. "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. The concern is real," she said. "But I think that the four of us are very thoughtful, very serious, and not flip about what we are getting into in any way. What I’ve done in the past, what Malcolm has done in the past, what the D.B.’s have done in the past, proves that. So, I would have loved an opportunity for the conversation to start once the show was on the air."
"We deal with them every single day. We deal with the struggle every single day. And people don’t have to get on board with what we’re doing based on a press release," Malcolm added. "But when they’re writing about us, and commenting about us, they should be mindful of the fact that there are no sellouts involved in this show."
As for why the GoT showrunners chose to make Confederate following their hit HBO program, Weiss and Benioff said they are both excited and terrified at the challenge of a project like this. "There’s just the frightening part of -- we’re all gonna put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get it right," Benioff shared. "There hasn’t been anything since we started on Thrones that’s gotten me so excited to get back to writing new characters. So, I’m scared and also excited."