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The clock is ticking closer to midnight.
With little apparent warning, the world of Watchmen is beginning to open up. The HBO adaptation has tapped its first set of actors for the potential new series, based on the iconic graphic novel from Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons about masked vigilantes at the height of the Cold War. While no official details have emerged about their characters yet, a casting breakdown obtained by The Hollywood Reporter provides some clues, as do recent words from creator Damon Lindelof.
Let’s begin there, with the open letter Lindelof issued earlier this week on Instagram, in which he wrote about his deeply personal connection to Moore and Gibbons’ source material, and his grappling with the ethical questions revolving around adapting Watchmen against the creator’s wishes (specifically Moore). More to the point, the letter reveals the first details about what Lindelof envisions for his take on Watchmen, which he has previously described as a “remix,” rather than an outright adaptation.
“Those original 12 issues [of Watchmen] are our Old Testament. When the New Testament came along, it did not erase what came before it. Creation. The Garden of Eden. Abraham and Isaac. The Flood. It all happened. And so it will be with Watchmen,” he wrote this week. “The Comedian died. Dan and Laurie fell in love. Ozymandias saved the world and Dr. Manhattan left it just after blowing Rorschach to pieces in the bitter cold of Antarctica. To be clear. Watchmen is canon.”
With that said, while it’s tempting to look at Tim Blake Nelson as a fantastic choice to play Rorschach, the grumbling vigilante with a cruelly efficient way of executing justice, it’s not a likely bet; Rorschach is killed at the end of Moore and Gibbons’ graphic novel, as one of the hallmark moments of the tale. His presence, however, very likely lives on, in the form of the journal he sent off to press in the time leading up to his death.
Of course, there are others within the Watchmen universe who remain alive at the end of the graphic novel, if not entirely well. One key player in that regard is Adrian Veidt, also known as Ozymandias, the super-genius architect behind a conspiracy plot to thwart the end of the world by way of blowing up Manhattan with a fake-news alien squid. (If you only saw the movie, you missed this part; sounds like Lindelof’s story exists within the universe of Moore and Gibbons’ novel, so “Squid-Watergate” occurred.) In Doomsday Clock, a DC Comics series in which the worlds of Watchmen and the greater DC Universe (think: Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, etc.) are colliding, Ozymandias plays a key role. The way Lindelof describes his vision for Watchmen, it sounds like a very different story entirely, one that “needs to resonate with the frequency of Trump and May and Putin,” signaling not only a focus on new characters, but also a contemporary setting.
Which brings us to the casting breakdown obtained by THR in which the series-regular role of a “Blond Man” is described, a man ideally ranging from 65 to 75 years old, specifically as “white.” (Indeed, ethnicity and similar background details are very specifically laid out for virtually every role in the breakdown.) The Blond Man is described as “highly intelligent and won’t let you forget it. Think William Hurt with slight Asperger’s. He’s used to being obeyed and always correct. Arrogant, erudite and patrician. Physically fit, he’s never missed a workout in his life.”
The only way to make this “Blond Man” sound more like an older Ozymandias is if the casting breakdown mentioned the man’s fondness for cats. Given the recent casting of Don Johnson, who certainly fits the profile described here, we’re willing to make our first calculated but quite possibly incorrect guess that the Miami Vice veteran is on board to bring one of the most iconic characters from Watchmen to life.
The return of Ozymandias would certainly fit the bill of how Lindelof describes one aspect of the series: “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.” If Ozymandias is somehow the lone or main set of familiar eyes from the old Watchmen days — which would have frightening repercussions for folks who made it out of the original work alive, like Dan “Nite Owl” Dreiberg and Laurie “Silk Spectre” Juspeczyk — then framing the nostalgia of Watchmen through the eyes of a man who willingly murdered millions of people for a “greater good” is a great risk indeed. It lines up with how Lindelof talks about the canon of Watchmen in regards to his series: “Ozymandias saved the world.” He certainly did — but only from a certain point of view.
As for other recently cast actors and the characters they could match with, there’s the matter of Regina King, reuniting with Lindelof after their riveting work together on HBO’s The Leftovers. The casting breakdown lists a character who feels like a strong match for King: Angela Abraham, the lead of the series, described as “fiercely intelligent, unapologetically independent. Her style is inspired by Pam Grier and Angela Davis, and her wry humor and wit stand out. Hard to pin down as she wears many masks, Mother, wife and cop. She grew up religious but has abandoned spirituality for pragmatism. She’s somewhat guarded, and fiercely protective of those she loves.”
For veteran actor Louis Gossett Jr., there’s one role in the casting breakdown that feels like a lock (no Lost jokes intended there, but maybe): the one described only as “Old Man,” in the 80- to 90-year-old range, who hails originally from Oklahoma “but has lived a broad, cultivated existence across the U.S. and Europe. Used to be a cop long ago. Imposing presence despite his age. A fierce gaze and intensity.”
For Tim Blake Nelson, there’s a meaty part in the breakdown that fits the bill: Judd Crawford, the chief of police, who boasts “a certain amount of vulnerability and rage” beneath an “easy-going exterior.” Andrew Howard and Adelaide Clemens, also announced as part of the cast, are harder to peg, though there are two characters listed in the breakdown who could be potential candidates: Red Scare and Pirate Jenny, described as a “cop” and member of “the force,” respectively. Odd names for cops, but this is Watchmen, where oddness, much like couisine on Iron Chef, reigns supreme.
What are your expectations for HBO’s upcoming foray into the DC Comics realm? Do you have faith in Lindelof’s vision of the iconic comic? Sound off in the comments below.
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