It’s been interesting to watch the ongoing project of how magazines are compensating for not being able to do their traditional covers, especially when they are typically group shots. The Hollywood Reporter just published one of its annual roundtables, this time with TV actors (leading up to the period of Emmy submissions, I believe), and the cover collage of black-and-white selfies is dynamic and cool. The two Patrick Stewart ones that are essentially the same, other than framing, really DO feel like when you’re in a photobooth only making small adjustments because you want to get ONE correct. There are also a lot of good jawlines here, and the bottom left corner proves Daveed Diggs’s smile can light up a room even without his physical presence in it. Once again, the stopgap measures are in some ways yielding work I like better than the traditional methods, where everyone is somberly draped over an assortment of couches, chairs, tables, ladders, and whatever else on which a posterior can perch.
The interview is with Diggs (who is in the conversation for Snowpiercer), Sir Patrick (for Picard), Tobias Menzies (The Crown), Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen), Bob Odenkirk (Better Call Saul), and Kieran Culkin (Succession). There are a lot of fun anecdotes in there, and it’s a good mix of minds, so definitely please click over and read it all. But in particular, Abdul-Mateen and Watchmen lent it poignancy. With apologies for quoting so much of this, it was hard for me to winnow it down without feeling like I left out too much:
Which brings me to Watchmen, which is ostensibly a comic book adaptation, but in actuality it’s a meditation on racism and policing America. In what ways did you hope it would be impactful when you were making it and in what ways has it become that much more so in this moment?
ABDUL-MATEEN Watchmen was as good on the page as it ended up being on the screen. And while making it, I was just a fan and I wanted people to be able to come in and watch good TV. I knew that there was a historical relevance to it. I wanted people to learn about the massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and I learned that a lot of people did not know about that before watching the show. I was really proud to be a part of a show that was talking about that part of American history that’s often not talked about — and when it is talked about, it’s editorialized in a way where the true horrors of it are never really exposed. Watchmen talked about trauma passed down from generation to generation, where you go back almost 100 years and then that same trauma lands in someone’s lap 100 years later and how that follows you. Watchmen said, “Hey, we’re calling the problem as it is. We’re offering not necessarily a solution, but we’re saying that racism in these institutions needs to be eradicated and that there is a way to do that while also telling an exciting story.” It was very, very accessible to anyone who was willing to sit down and allow that narrative to penetrate. I learned a lot just from the discourse that took place afterward.
A writer for Decider.com recently wrote, “Between its calls for racial justice, the ubiquitous masked faces and the tragic theme of inherited trauma, Watchmen has become a mirror for life in America today.” You shot and put out the show before recent events, but do you think the series takes on new resonance today?
ABDUL-MATEEN The thing about Watchmen is that if you watch it any time in the past 60 years and even further, it’s going to be relevant. I [spoke to someone] yesterday, and they said, “It’s really relevant now, right?” And I said, “Well, actually, Watchmen is 60 to 70 years late.” So that’s kind of sad. It’s chilling. The time is always now to make content that is going to make people uncomfortable, and, for as long as we’ll be around, I believe that Watchmen will be relevant. Hopefully it becomes relevant in a way that causes us to look back and remember what we came out of.