Precious few details are known about HBO and Damon Lindelof’s upcoming Watchmen TV series, which was recently announced. Given that Zack Snyder already brought fans a mostly faithful movie adaptation, discussion this time around has turned to what changes could be made to put a fresh spin on the story this time around – for example, setting it in the modern day instead of the 1980s. Watchmen has always been timely, and a modern adaptation pitting superheroes against the modern political climate would provide rich, new ground for the show to cover.
We’ve already pitched one potential series cast list, but here’s another potential cast that would work better in a modern day setting rather than the 1980’s. With actors ranging from previous HBO stars to those whose careers have been more understated, these are a few out-of-the-box choices for the lead roles of the series, as well as a few of the supporting cast members as well. Spoilers for the graphic novel below.
Michael K. Williams as Walter Kovacs a.k.a. Rorschach
Best known for gripping dramas such as The Wire, Boardwalk Empire, and The Night Of, Michael K. Williams is one of the finest actors working today. As perhaps the most iconic protagonist in Watchmen, he’d have one of his meatiest roles to date. Rorschach is less a hero and more a vigilante, predisposed to violence and with a psyche that’s hard to crack. Williams has played plenty of anti-heroes, but none quite as unlikable as Rorschach. His intensity and charisma would add even more depth to the character. Of course, the biggest challenge would be acting underneath Rorschach’s iconic mask, but Williams has proved time and again he’s capable of not only handling challenge but absolutely knocking it out of the park. Frequently snubbed by the Emmys, a turn as a complicated vigilante could see the now genre-friendly Emmys finally giving him a long-overdue award for his work.
David Oyelowo as Dan Dreiberg a.k.a. Nite Owl II
Dan Dreiberg is perhaps the most good-hearted character in Watchmen – not that it serves him well. The ideal casting choice for Dreiberg can alternate between nostalgia for the past and a cynical view of the future, as well as sorrow as the weight of the world slowly comes to rest on his shoulders. Two-time Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo, best known for his turn as Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, is no stranger to genre work as a voice actor, and Watchmen and the third Cloverfield film would serve as a perfect double feature for him to step into live-action sci-fi. He’s also an HBO veteran, having previously stunned audiences in the HBO film Nightingale. Oyelowo would also added some star power to the series, and would be able to deftly navigate the seemingly straightforward emotions and complexes of Dreiberg, who handles much of the human drama in the source material.
Joe Manganiello as Edward Blake a.k.a. The Comedian
The Comedian is a tricky role to play. His actions include some of the most heinous deeds in the books. A tough guy through and through, Blake also has to possess a tragic air as well; after all, the series starts with his murder. Joe Manganiello, who’s now part of the DC family as Deathstroke, certainly can handle the tough guy elements of the role. Most importantly, this would give him a chance to flex his acting chops prior to stepping into his Batman role. Not only that, but he is a gifted comedian (pun intended) and very likable. His charm would draw audiences in, before he horrifies them with the character’s brutality. Seeing a charming, handsome, seemingly all-American man capable of true evil would help shock audiences and truly capture the feel of the character and the intentions of Alan Moore.
Riz Ahmed as Dr. Manhattan
After Rorschach, Dr. Manhattan might be one of Watchmen’s most iconic characters. A stoic, serene god, Dr. Manhattan finds himself increasingly detached from humanity and the world, which is a problem given that he serves as America’s biggest nuclear deterrent. Riz Ahmed, who recently broke out in a big way thanks to HBO’s The Night Of, might seem like an odd choice, but his acting style lends itself to a portrayal of a detached god. Ahmed’s style tends towards quiet moments where he telegraphs his emotions through his eyes and body language, and given that Dr. Manhattan’s most famous section of the novel is all voiceover, Ahmed would nail it. He might need to bulk up a little for the role, but The Night Of showed that if there’s anything he’s capable of, it’s physical transformations.
Linda Cardenelli as Laurie Juspeczyk a.k.a. Silk Spectre II
Linda Cardenelli is the top choice across the board for the role of Silk Spectre II, and with good reason. Cardenelli not only looks the part but has the acting chops to handle Laurie’s difficult journey. Another character who is all too human, Laurie also does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to human drama in the story. Cardenelli got her break in Freaks and Geeks but has yet to really break out, despite delivering perhaps the most consistent performance in Netflix’s Bloodlines. This role might help her break out in a big way, as Laurie is allowed to be both tough and vulnerable, and just as complicated as her male counterparts. It also helps that she looks the part as well, though hopefully her costume would be a bit more practical than the one worn in the comics (and far more practical than the one worn by Malin Ackerman in the movie).
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