Regina King acknowledged the power of including moments of Black history, such as the Tulsa race massacre and Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves, in her hit show Watchmen.
"We have this revisionist history in our country that some people just refuse to acknowledge is revisionist history," she said, referring to how details of Black history are overlooked or ignored in American education and culture.
HBO recently released Watchmen for free as the country experiences a racial reckoning following unjust deaths from police brutality and racist violence.
Regina King underlined the importance of bringing forgotten moments of Black history to light while discussing the cultural impact of her HBO show, Watchmen, with fellow actor Reese Witherspoon in Variety's Actors on Actors interview series.
The 2019 limited series is a pointed adaptation of Alan Moore's famous graphic novel, meshing the comic's supernatural universe with African-American history and the modern-day threats of white supremacy. The pilot episode, for example, began with a scene from the Tulsa race massacre of 1921, one of the worst instances of racial violence in the United States, when white citizens murdered Black residents and destroyed businesses in the booming community known as Black Wall Street. The tragic event is sidelined in history books, let alone mainstream TV; its inclusion in the hit HBO series unearthed a painful but inextricable part of the nation's history. That was not lost on King, who stars as protagonist Angela Abar, a.k.a. Sister Night.
"One of the things about Watchmen that blew me open when I read the pilot was all of these historical things that actually happened that are within the story," she told Witherspoon. "Then the pilot airs, and how many people had never heard of Bass Reeves? And when I see so many people not knowing, of all races, of all ages."
Reeves, one of the first Black U.S. deputy marshals west of the Mississippi River, was also incorporated into Watchmen. A legendary, Lone Ranger–type fugitive wrangler in the late 19th century, he's portrayed in the series as a character in a silent film—a caped, lasso-swinging hero. Reeves's legacy is an overlooked one, much like the covered-up Tulsa race riots. Witherspoon admitted that even she didn't know who Reeves was prior to watching Watchmen.
"But we have this revisionist history in our country that some people just refuse to acknowledge is revisionist history," King said, referencing how the U.S. history that's widely taught and known centers around white American history and its male leaders.
Watchmen showrunner Damon Lindelof (Lost, The Leftovers) learned of the Tulsa riots after reading “The Case for Reparations,” King revealed. She recalled that Lindelof was ashamed to have not learned of the Tulsa tragedy sooner, but she remembered telling him, “You shouldn’t be embarrassed, but what you’ve done with your discovery is quite powerful and part of what is the point of the human beings’ plight on Earth.”
The actress continued, "If he did know about the Tulsa massacre a long time ago, and learned about it in school, he probably wouldn't have written about it today. But having that discovery today, and it blowing him back, he was able to give a lot of people history lessons."
Though Watchmen premiered in October 2019, HBO made the series available for free last week to promote Black stories as the Black Lives Matter movement continues to inspire people to educate themselves on anti-racism and fight against the ongoing injustices the Black community have faced.
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