Damon Lindelof’s adaptation of the “Watchmen” comics at HBO caught attention from Emmy voters this year with its incisive exploration of race and policing, storylines which now seem especially timely in a year dominated by Black Lives Matter protests and a renewed sense of urgency in the fight for racial justice.
But even before the death of George Floyd sparked mass nationwide protests earlier this summer, “Watchmen” star Yahya Abdul-Mateen II knew the show would present some hard truths.
“I think ‘Watchmen’ was uncomfortable material for a lot of people,” Abdul-Mateen said during TheWrap’s supporting actor nominees showcase on Tuesday, alongside fellow “Watchmen” stars and Emmy nominees Jovan Adepo and Louis Gossett Jr.
“I knew from day one that our show would be polarizing,” he said. “I knew that a lot of people would love our show, I knew that a lot of people would hate our show, but I knew that our show would be honest.”
Abdul-Mateen and Adepo both praised Lindelof for his willingness to step back and let others take the lead.
“I’m really happy and really proud to know someone like Damon who has always been someone who has, to me anyway, expressed that, yes, I’ve done my work and my research but this is something that I do know, I am not familiar with and nobody in my family has experienced directly,” Adepo said. “So let me sit back, open my ears, close my mouth and let the people whose family may or may not have been directly affected by this, let them express what it’s like.”
“One of the things that we’re seeing right now in our world is the horrible, horrible truths coming to the front,” said Abdul-Mateen.
He cited the recent death of George Floyd at the hands of police as an example of the “gruesome” reality Black Americans face in this country, going back generations and still to this day. “It was undeniable. For anyone who watched that tape, who watched the footage, the horror of that was absolutely completely undeniable,” he said.
“‘Watchmen,’ as much as it was right on time,” Abdul-Mateen said, “it was 50 years too late, and it was also a year ahead of itself.”
Gossett, 84, who participated in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s, said that the current wave of protests does harken back to that decades-old struggle, with one key difference.
“The first civil rights movement … it was kind of scary, we needed to be brave,” he said. “No fear this time; the fear is gone. That’s the only way to go, the only way to survive — together.”
“Our show, from my perspective, was a lot about making people uncomfortable,” Abdul-Mateen said. “Calling out what we see, calling out what we know and giving it a name. And not letting the answer just be conversation or hearing both sides. Because it’s far too late for that. It’s time for action.”
“We need to find our own superpowers, so to speak, and suit up and join the army,” he continued. “Because it’s about time that we identify where we will be when it’s time to really make the change.”
Watch the full conversation with “Watchmen” stars Abdul-Mateen, Gossett and Adepo above or click here.