Stephen Williams Interview: ‘Watchmen’ director
“This Extraordinary Being” is one of the most memorable episodes of HBO’s “Watchmen,” in which Angela (Regina King) transports into her grandfather’s memory and sees what life was like for him as a Black officer in 1938. Stephen Williams directed the innovative episode shot mostly in black and white and just earned an Emmy nomination for it. In an exclusive new interview with Gold Derby, Williams says it was important for viewers to be “as subjectively connected to the experience that Angela Abar was undergoing,” which involved seeing the action through the eyes of Angela and by extension, the young Will Reeves (Jovan Adepo). Watch the exclusive video interview above.
In creating the visual tapestry for “This Extraordinary Being,” Williams “deployed a number of devices” including long takes, dreamlike cuts to simulate the act of memory and the swapping out of Adepo and King at various points to show how Angela is vicariously experiencing her grandfather’s memories. Adding another layer of difficulty was having Adepo as the lead of the entire episode, having previously not appeared in the show’s first five. But as Williams notes, the now Emmy-nominated Adepo was “immensely prepared” for what was required of him. “He was parachuted in for this episode and only this episode and had to connect with the narrative bandwidth that we had established before and were going to continue on after this episode,” reveals the director, adding, “He didn’t so much act the part as exist inside the part.”
On top of all the technical challenges of this episode, it also had to serve as a demonstration of racism and whitewashing we see so often when it comes to American history. “This Extraordinary Being” begins with Will Reeves’ alter ego, Hooded Justice, depicted as a white man in a modern-day TV show. The true identity of Hooded Justice is unknown to the public, largely representing the Black hidden figures that are egregiously not included in the average American history textbook. This is also seen in the very first episode of “Watchmen,” which recreates the Tulsa massacre in 1921 that many viewers were not even aware of before the episode. “There are large swaths of America’s social and cultural history, specifically as it revolves around the axis of race, where much has been buried or ignored or simply not told,” explains Williams, “and part of our mandate was to excavate and shed light on some of these aspects and truth about our own shared American history and to bring some of them to the fore.”