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Black Producers Respond to Backlash on HBO’s New Series ‘Confederate’

“It’s not whips, it’s not plantations, it’s not a celebration or pornography for slavery.”

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HBO’s upcoming series, Confederate, will be set in modern America, but it’s an America where slavery still exists.

The story is that the Confederacy never lost the Civil War.  Executive Producer Nichelle Tramble Spellman, says that the experience could be considered “a crash course in crazy.”

After Game of Thrones showrunners D.B. Weiss and David Benioff revealed last Thursday that they were making a new HBO show, “Confederate,” the backlash came swiftly.

Nichelle Tramble Spellman, who was a producer and writer on The Good Wife is the executive producer of Confederate alongside her husband, Malcolm Spellman. The couple says they feel disregarded by black journalists after the recent press release.

The release stated that Confederate will be set “in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution.”

The announcement sparked a lot of criticism. An article in the New York Times by Roxane Gay stated “I don’t want to watch slavery fan fiction.” The series was called “white nonsense” by the Daily Beast.

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Malcolm Spellman via NPR

Malcolm Spellman who is a writer known for Empire stated, “Regardless of how awkwardly that press release was phrased, we are involved as peers, as full executive producers and as partners. If you render us a footnote, the assumption is that we’re just a prop or a shield…Our own people marginalized us like that.”

“First thing to tell everybody is what the project is not,” he continued. “The project is not antebellum imagery, it’s not whips, it’s not plantations, it’s not a celebration or pornography for slavery. And, most importantly, it’s not an entire nation of slaves.”

“I think there is less discomfort is dealing with slavery when it is in the past,” says Malcolm. “But talking about white supremacy [in today’s times] without trying to…talk about where it comes from, is crazy to us.”

Nichelle Tramble Spellman says she was shocked to see how much criticism the show received when people knew so little about it. The couple has made it clear that they would never create a series that would “feel like a fantasy to white supremacists, even by accident.”

HBO’s announcement says that “Confederate’s” production will begin after the “Game of Thrones'” final season, which HBO programming president Casey Bloys told Entertainment Weekly may not air until 2019.

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