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Watchmen TV series announces cast lineup as Lindelof reassures fans

Regina King will play the lead role

Before Watchmen DC Comics
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

Writer Damon Lindelof has confirmed that HBO’s upcoming television adaptation of the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons graphic novel Watchmen will be set in the present day — and it won’t be a direct adaptation of the comic’s original story.

Update: And now Variety has revealed six actors who have signed on to the production, including the series lead, read on for more.

Lindelof, on the show’s direction

Lindelof, of Lost, Star Trek (2009) and The Leftovers fame, is in preproduction on the series, but took time to share a long open letter to fans of the comic on his Instagram.

Day 140.

A post shared by Damon (@damonlindelof) on

In it, he spoke quite a bit about his personal history with Watchmen, which his father gave to him to read when he was twelve and “not ready for this.” He also spends a lot of time talking about the well known fact that Watchmen creator Alan Moore is super not OK with other people making works based on Watchmen, and why he decided to take on the job anyway.

But for folks anticipating what an HBO series based on Watchmen could look like in 2018 or 2019, Lindelof also shared some salient details on where the Watchmen writers room is looking.

“We have no desire to ‘adapt’ the twelve issues Mr. Moore and Mr. Gibbons created thirty years ago,” Lindelof wrote, an approach he’s mentioned before. “Those issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted. They will, however, be remixed. Because the bass lines in those familiar tracks are just too good and we’d be fools not to sample them. Those original twelve issues are our Old Testament. When the New Testament came along, it did not erase what came before it.”

Lindelof said that he and his colleagues do not intend to make a sequel to the original story, and that in order to carry on the tradition of Watchmen, their series must be original. It must “ask new questions and explore the world through a fresh lens.” Therefore, the new show will be contemporary.

“[Watchmen] was specific to the Eighties of Reagan and Thatcher and Gorbachv,” he wrote. “Ours needs to resonate with the frequency of Trump and May and Putin and the horse that he rides around on, shirtless.”

One series that is already looking at what might happen in the Watchmen universe in the years following Moore and Gibbons’ story is DC Comics’ Doomsday Clock, written by Geoff Johns and drawn by Gary Frank, which imagines Ozymandias and a few allies venturing into the DC Universe in a search for Doctor Manhattan.

It’s safe to assume that Lindelof’s adaptation won’t have Rorschach meeting Batman or Ozymandias meeting Lex Luthor, especially now that we know who is playing it’s core cast.

The cast of HBO’s Watchmen:

Regina King, veteran of Southland, Lindelof’s The Leftovers and The Boondocks (in which she voiced both Huey and Riley Freeman), will play the lead role in Watchmen, according to Variety. But what is that role? The characters are all “being kept under wraps,” Variety says.

“Some of the characters will be unknown,” Lindelof said in his letter. “New faces. New masks to cover them. We also intend to revisit the past century of Costumed Adventuring through a surprising, yet familiar set of eyes... and it is here where we’ll be taking our greatest risks.”

Variety says that Don Johnson (Miami Vice), Tim Blake Nelson (O Brother, Where Art Thou?), Oscar Award-winner Louis Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman, Roots), Adelaide Clemens (The Great Gatsby) and Andrew Howard (Limitless) are also signed on as cast members.

So we know almost nothing from that set of names. Aside from Clemens, this is a cast that skews towards middle age — especially by cinematic standards — but whether or not that turns out to be significant remains very much to be seen. It’s also a lineup that includes more than one female character, and more than zero characters of color, a change from Watchmen that may be sourced directly from the writers’ room.

“In [our writers’] room, Hetero White Men like myself are in the minority,” Lindelof wrote in his open letter, “and as Watchmen is (incorrectly) assumed to be solely our domain, understanding its potential through the perspectives of women, people of color and the LGBTQ community has been as eye-opening as it has been exhilarating. We’ve committed to doing the same in front of and behind the camera. And every single person involved with this show absolutely adores Watchmen.”