Wednesday’s portion of the winter Television Critics Association press tour was focused on all channels that are part of the WarnerMedia empire, including HBO, TNT, and truTV. This brought news ranging from a potential Game of Thrones prequel premiere date and portrayals of Stephen King characters in shows like HBO’s The Outsider to a release date and trailer for TNT’s Snowpiercer and an overall deal between Steven Soderbergh and HBO and HBO Max.
HBO’s programming chief Casey Bloys didn’t offer a formal executive session at the winter TCA, but he did do interviews with select outlets — all of which had obvious questions about the Game of Thrones prequel, House of the Dragon, and whether there would be another season of Watchmen.
Bloys told Variety that his “best guess” is that we’ll see Dragon in 2022.
As for Watchmen? He defers to creator Damon Lindelof.
“He’s said publicly, if he’s got an idea, he’s willing to do it,” Bloys told the industry news outlet. “But nothing has come to him, so I will just wait on him and see what he decides to do.”
HBO miniseries The Outsider is just one of many adaptations of Stephen King novels that’s currently, or about to be, on television — many of which, like the author’s books, feature the same characters. How does that impact the various writers and actors bringing these stories to the small screen?
“With King’s blessing, I just made the character mine; not the Holly even in the novel The Outsider. I just wanted to do my thing,” he told journalists during his show’s TCA panel, adding that he’s “not answering to” the version of the character that David E. Kelley created for Audience Network’s Mr. Mercedes.
“Forget everything you know about that Holly, this is my Holly,” he said.
Erivo, who joined the panel via satellite from Tokyo, added that “I feel like the character is really fully realized. I was given a gift in the character and it was written very beautifully for me.”
In HBO’s adaptation of Wally Lamb’s novel I Know This Much Is True, Mark Ruffalo stars as both protagonist Dominick Birdsey and his identical twin, Thomas. While they might look similar, the story focuses on the fact that Thomas has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.
Filming required the actor to gain 30 pounds to play Thomas — an act that is not as much fun as it sounds, because Ruffalo said it was hard to force-feed himself.
But he also had to find differences between the brothers beyond the physical.
“Dominick is a man who grew up in an Italian household, and Thomas was more feminized,” Ruffalo told journalists at TCA of finding the two mens’ voices.
I Know This Much is True is written and directed by Derek Cianfrance and premieres in April.
On March 16, HBO will premiere The Plot Against America, creator David Simon’s adaptation of the 2004 Philip Roth novel. The story is a revisionist history that examines what would have happened, particularly to Jews in America, if aviator — and noted anti-Semite and anti-communist — Charles Lindbergh had been elected president. It also co-stars Zoe Kazan, whose grandfather, director Elia Kazan, was instrumental in the Hollywood blacklist scandal of the 1950s, naming members of the Communist Party to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, an association which ended the careers of many entertainment industry professionals when studios would no longer hire them.
Asked what it means to work on The Plot Against America given her grandfather’s history, the actress and writer silenced the room with her reply, saying she has given a lot of thought to her grandfather’s adaptation of the John Steinbeck novel East of Eden — specifically how a character in the book investigates the Hebrew word timshel:
“The question at hand is that God says to Cain, in some translations, ‘You can triumph over sin,’ and in some translations he says, ‘You will triumph over sin,'” Kazan recounted. “And Lee, this character in the book, does a kind of deep-dive into the actual word in Hebrew and what he comes up with is ‘Thou mayest.’ Thou mayest triumph over sin, but it’s in the hands of the next generation — that it’s a choice.
“I have not wanted to weigh in on my family’s political history, partially because of the other people it involves in my family who have prized their privacy over a public life. So I’m not going to go into it. But I will say that I thought a lot about how the history of our country affected my family’s history, what it meant for my grandfather as an immigrant to this country to have his Americanness tested and the choice that he made from that,” she continued.
“And I thought a lot about my own choices that I’ve made, the way that I choose to live my life. I think thou mayest choose a different life, and I think that the reason that Steinbeck put that in his book about the foundation of the West in this country is that it’s also about Americans choosing to recognize who they have been — Cain did kill his brother — but also recognize that they may choose a different future for themselves. I think it’s meaningful in the book that it comes out of the mouth of an immigrant. So those were the things that were on my mind as I worked on this. It was a profound experience for me working on this, personally, politically, artistically,” she said.
HBO Max head of original content Sarah Aubrey confirmed to journalists Wednesday that Greg Berlanti’s plans for to air a Green Lantern TV series on the soon-to-launch streaming service are still very much happening.
She told journalists that “it’s going to span several decades on focus on two stories about Green Lanterns on Earth.” She also said that there will be a space side of the story that goes “into the Sinestro story,” referencing the villain and former Green Lantern Corps member. She said that the story will travel through various decades.
Aubrey also teased that things are looking good for all the Upper East Siders waiting for a Gossip Girl sequel update.
“We have gotten the first script, and I can tell you we all breathed a big sigh of relief because it’s very good,” she said of the new series written by Joshua Safran.
Things aren’t looking so promising for that Friends reunion special, however.
HBO Max chief creative officer Kevin Reilly told journalists at TCA that “there is interest all around and, yet, we can’t get the interests all alighted to push the button on it.” So, he said, “today it’s a maybe.”
“We talk about where we want the show to go,” Rae said while promoting the new season at TCA. “I think we have an idea but, yeah, nothing we’re sharing yet.”
When asked by TCA reporters if she’s concerned about being an influencer through her show and whether she has qualms about some of the more risqué portrayals on her series, like marijuana use, Rae reminded the room of a few facts.
“One, we live in California, it’s legal. Two, we’re on HBO, there’s a TV-MA rating, so if anybody who is not supposed to be watching is watching, then you’re a bad parent,” she said to laughter.
Season 4 of Insecure premieres April 12.
Also, HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is back February 16, and the second season of truTV’s Tacoma FD premieres March 26. New truTV series It’s Personal with Amy Hoggart and Hot Ones: The Game Show will premiere February 26 and February 18, respectively.
TBS has also ordered two new season of American Dad!
HBO Max has partnered with Ant-Man screenwriter Adam McKay on upcoming series The Uninhabitable Earth, an anthology series based on the David Wallace-Wells book and New York magazine article. According to the release, it “will be comprised of stand-alone fictional stories covering a wide range of genres and possible futures that could result from the rapid warming of our planet.” McKay will write and direct the first episode.
Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh has signed a 3-year overall deal with HBO Max and HBO. His projects will include the previously-announced film Let Them All Talk. Starring Meryl Streep, CandiceBergen, Dianne Wiest, Lucas Hedges, and Gemma Chan, it follows a celebrated author who reconnects with old friends to have fun and heal old wounds. It will air in late 2020 on HBO Max.
HBO Max has also ordered the eight-episode unscripted series The Event, which will give a behind-the-scenes look at celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck’s catering company as they prepare to serve at A-list events.
Meanwhile, truTV has green-lit the unscripted family comedy Tirdy Works about artist Mary Winchenbach and her family. According to the release, Winchenbach’s talent is making “arts and crafts created out of moose turds.” And TBS has greenlit Lost Resort, which is described as a 10-episode social experiment that’s also “an upstairs/downstairs look at the booming subculture of exotic wellness retreats.”
HBO is also working with investigative reporter Ronan Farrow and Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady of Loki Films on a film that looks at the threats, intimidation, and violence directed at journalists while also working to expose corruption and abuse by governments, corporations, and other powerful interests.
And Clemency’s Chinonye Chukwu will direct the first two episodes of HBO Max’s Americanah. The limited series stars Lupita Nyong’o and is written by Danai Gurira based on the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie novel about a Nigerian-born woman who comes to America.