Game of Thrones creators respond to backlash over Confederate announcement

Game of Thrones' showrunnners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss knew they were in for a rough ride following the initial announcement of their next HBO project.

'You’re dealing with weapons-grade material here,' Malcolm Spellman said of show's pitch

David Benioff, left, and D.B. Weiss (seen here at the 2015 Emmy Awards) knew the initial reaction to their new HBO show Confederate would be heated, they said in an interview with Vulture. (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Game of Thrones' showrunnners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss knew they were in for a rough ride following the initial announcement of their next HBO project.

Confederate straddles the line between historical and science fiction, set in an alternate take on U.S. history after the American Civil War, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union. 

Reaction from Game of Thrones fans, TV critics and fellow filmmakers was swift and largely negative in opinion columns and social media.

Screenwriter Malcolm Spellman and his wife Nichelle Tramble Spellman will work on Confederate as co-writers and executive producers. (Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

In response, Benioff and Weiss spoke at length about the reaction to the announcement with Vulture. They were joined by Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife, Justified) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire), who are co-writers and executive producers on the upcoming show.

The creative quartet expressed how keenly aware they are of the gravity of the subject matter they're taking on.

"You're dealing with weapons-grade material here," Spellman recalled telling Benioff and Weiss when they came to the Spellmans with their pitch.

"It goes without saying slavery is the worst thing that ever happened in American history," said Weiss. "It's our original sin as a nation. And history doesn't disappear. That sin is still with us in many ways."

Weiss continued by saying that tackling slavery in a science fiction setting allows them to put a microscope on the subject matter in ways that a "strictly realistic drama" couldn't.

'It's deeply personal'

The Spellmans, who are black, stressed the importance of having people of colour at the head of a project like Confederate, alongside Benioff and Weiss. 

"For me and Nichelle, it's deeply personal because we are the offspring of this history. We deal with it directly and have for our entire lives," said Spellman. "As people of colour and minorities in general are starting to get a voice, I think there's a duty to force this discussion."

When asked about the negative reaction to the show's announcement on social media, Tramble Spellman said she understands, but hoped "their concern had been reserved to the night of the premiere."

That premiere is still a long ways off, however. Confederate doesn't have a release window, and isn't scheduled to start production until the end of Game of Thrones. Its eighth and final season is set to air in 2018 or 2019.

"But this points out — we haven't written any scripts yet. We don't have an outline yet. We don't even have character names. So, everything is brand-new and nothing's been written," said Benioff.