Regina King Has 'A Nose for White Supremacy' in HBO's Watchmen

Regina King in Watchmen
Photo: Mark Hill (Courtesy of HBO)

Tick tock—we’re counting down to Watchmen’s series premiere on HBO.

From the series’ press release:

Set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, Watchmen, from executive producer Damon Lindelof (Emmy winner for Lost; HBO’s The Leftovers) embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name, while attempting to break new ground of its own. Nicole Kassell directs the pilot from a script written by Lindelof.

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I attended the red carpet premiere of Watchmen on Monday, where we watched the pilot episode, “It’s Summer and We’re Running Out of Ice.” Along with Lindelof and his production team, cast members Regina King, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Frances Fisher (who unequivocally and on record, supports Black Lives Matter), Charles Brice, Dustin Ingram, Jean Smart, Steven Norfleet and more.

As King floated over to me and my press peers, she took a priceless moment to glance at the step-and-repeat behind her with the series poster. There, gracing the blue-ish carpet was her image, blown up in size with the word “Watchmen.” King pointed out the sheer gravity of that image, a black woman representing the “Watchmen.”

Abdul-Mateen (Cal Abar) also spoke to the power of a leading black woman character, particularly from the perspective of a black husband.

“I get to play a character who’s not like many that’s seen on television,” Abdul-Mateen told The Root. “He’s a stay-at-home husband and dad. He’s married to a superhero, so to speak. And I get to be the one that’s patient, loving, understanding, stay at home, cook and clean. And he’s not conflicted. He’s not a guy who says, ‘I want to get out there [and work], why can’t I have a turn?’ He’s very secure and that’s awesome. I think it was really a breath of fresh air to bring a character like that, a man like that to the screen.”

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Regina King and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II in Watchmen
Photo: Mark Hill (Courtesy of HBO)

“I have a nose for white supremacy, and he smells like bleach!” King’s Angela Abar utters in a standout line from the pilot. The series doesn’t sniff away from the conversation surrounding white supremacy. In fact, it’s basically a character.

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“I hope that people do see and understand that it is a mirror to our to our society,” Abdul-Mateen said, noting he hopes the series “creates both action and dialogue.” “And we are calling out—directly, head-on—white supremacy. We’re giving it a name. It is a disease and antagonist in our world that and hopefully, it motivates people to actually give it a name. Because I think in our society we dance a lot around naming the things that ail us in our society.”

As someone who doesn’t have a background with the graphic novel and only a vague memory of the “meh” film adaptation, I went into this series hyped from the sheer adrenaline of the trailer and my adoration of both King and Abdul-Mateen.

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In addition to the entertaining action, Watchmen yanks the audience into a relevant historical context, opening in Tulsa, Okla., in the 1920s. Immediately, I thought of this setting’s significance—the 1921 Black Wall Street massacre and realized, “Oh shit, they not playin’.” The pilot left me intrigued, impressed by both the cinematography and score as well as the performances by the cast. Now I’m looking forward to finding out the answers to many well-setup questions. I’m in.

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“I hope [the audience] walks away and have honest conversations across the line, not just with each other, but with people that look like them or feel like them,” King told The Root. “There is a lot of painful stuff that happens here for white people and black people and that we can come to the table [and discuss], honestly, how we feel so that we can get down to the nitty-gritty with respect and figure out how we move forward. It’s a lot to unpack hopefully because this is a show that gives it to you: humor, romance, sci-fi, actual historical events. That combination of all those things will encourage people to be honest about their pain, their anger and their disappointment in their own past. And let’s do more than talk about it.”

Let’s do more, indeed. The clock is ticking—tick, tock.

Watchmen premieres Sunday, Oct. 20 on HBO at 9 p.m. ET.

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About the author

Tonja Renée Stidhum

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.