Spoiler: If you have not seen the show, you might want to stop here.
From the first moments in the premiere of HBO’s “Watchmen” last October, the show proved to be the most urgent and prescient series on television today. Rather than adapt the universally acclaimed 1986 graphic novel “Watchmen” written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons — which had already been made into a 2009 feature film by Zack Snyder — co-creator and executive producer Damon Lindelof chose instead to update the world of the novel from New York City in 1985 to Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2019.
The reason for the change of venue was simple, but devastating: The show’s main hero, Angela Abar, aka the police detective Sister Night (Regina King), is a direct descendant of a survivor of the very real 1921 massacre of the Tulsa neighborhood known as Black Wall Street. Lindelof first learned about the event from a 2014 piece in The Atlantic by Ta-Nehisi Coates called “The Case for Reparations,” and his shock that he hadn’t known about it before grew into a resolve to make the event the centerpiece of his show.
During a Variety Streaming Room roundtable with the “Watchmen” cast, directors and executive producers, King said she had known about the Tulsa massacre. “But I knew that so many people, black people as well, were not aware of the story,” she said. “What I’d hoped actually did happen. When it premiered, people went online to see if it really existed, and they were able to discover that Tulsa wasn’t the only massacre. There was Rosewood; there was Arkansas. Whenever you have an opportunity to express your art and also do it in a space where social commentary is really present in that moment, I’m there for it.”
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