Damon Lindelof has discussed his and HBO's upcoming Watchmen TV series, revealing that actor Robert Redford is the U.S. president in the show's setting. Published from 1986 to 1987, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' original Watchmen comic books satirized superhero tropes and tapped into real-world concerns (namely, the Cold War tensions between the Soviet Union and U.S.) with their narrative. The series would go on to mark a watershed moment in the way that comics are regarded, when it comes to their literary qualities and capacity for complex storytelling.
In the decades since then, the Watchmen brand been adapted for film (with Zack Snyder's 2009 movie adaptation) and continued in the forms of both prequel and sequel comic series to Moore and Gibbons' initial collection. Now, thanks to The Leftovers co-creator Lindelof and HBO, the property is making the jump to the small screen with their upcoming Watchmen TV show. And by the sound of things, the project isn't pulling any punches either, when it comes to embracing its source material's twisted and challenging sense of political commentary.
Speaking during the Watchmen panel at the TCA tour this week, Lindelof (h/t Deadline) confirmed that the HBO show takes place in the present-day version of the Watchmen universe and treats Moore and Gibbons' comics as "canon". By the time the show picks up, though, the world is a place where cops wear masks to hide/protect their identities, there's a cult of vigilantes based around the now-deceased Rorschach, the Internet and smartphones don't exist, and the still-liberal Redford is the longest-serving POTUS ever. White supremacy will also be a major issue that's addressed on the show since, as Lindelof put it:
“What in 2019 is the equivalent of the nuclear standoff between the Americans and the Russians [from the original Watchmen comic books]? It is race and the police."
Regina King, who previously collaborated with Lindelof on The Leftovers and is coming off her Oscar win for If Beale Street Could Talk, stars in Watchmen as Angela Abar, a police officer who (like her co-workers) turns to wearing a mask when the Rorschach cult begins hunting down cops and attacking them in their homes. The full-length Watchmen trailer that premiered during SDCC last weekend also confirmed that Dr. Manhattan is alive and still living on Mars when the shows begins, but will make his way back to earth at some point. It also suggested that Adrian Veidt aka. Ozymandias - the character that Jeremy Irons is (reportedly) playing - has died, which raises questions about whether he faked his death, died from natural causes, or was possibly even killed in a manner that will frame the show's narrative (a la how The Comedian's murder framed the original Watchmen comics).
Whatever the case may be, the show sounds like a fascinating blend of alternate history and real-world concerns in the vein of the original Watchmen comics, only updated for life in the year 2019. It will also be interesting to see how Redford (or, as some might know him, that "Nodding Guy" Meme) being POTUS impacts the series; in Moore and Gibbons' comic books, for example, Richard Nixon was the longest-serving U.S. president ever and the Watergate scandal never happened, but it ultimately had a limited impact on the plot. At the very least, though, it should add yet another curious wrinkle to the show's overall mythology.
Watchmen premieres on HBO in October.