In a lengthy interview with New York Magazine, Weiss, Benioff and their co-executive producers on the upcoming show, husband-and-wife duo Malcolm Spellman and Nichelle Tramble Spellman, addressed the controversy.
"You're dealing with weapons-grade material here," Malcolm Spellman, who, along with his wife, is black, recalled telling the "Game of Thrones" creators, who are white. The team has all known each other for about a decade.
The brainchild of Benioff and Weiss, "Confederate" ― a fictional, historically-influenced drama set to begin production after the eighth and final season of "Thrones" ― will follow a variety of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone in an alternate version of the United States. Having successfully seceded from the North, the South has allowed slavery to remain legal for decades.
Benioff and Weiss' interest in Civil War history is known to loyal fans of their fantasy show; they've talked about using descriptions of Civil War battlefields as inspiration for their "Battle of the Bastards" episode.
Critics, however, were quick to voice doubts over the political timing of a show like "Confederate." "It is exhausting to think of how many people at [HBO] said yes to letting two white men envision modern day slavery. And offensive," tweeted writer Roxane Gay.
All four producers have defended their upcoming series, although it's yet to be written. Read through their explanation over at New York Mag, or read on for some of the highlights:
On the interest in Civil War alternative history:
D.B. Weiss: ...It goes without saying slavery is the worst thing that ever happened in American history. It's our original sin as a nation. And history doesn't disappear. ... One of the strengths of science fiction is that it can show us how this history is still with us in a way no strictly realistic drama ever could, whether it were a historical drama or a contemporary drama. It's an ugly and a painful history, but we all think this is a reason to talk about it, not a reason to run from it. And this feels like a potentially valuable way to talk about it.
Why the Spellmans decided to get involved:
Malcolm Spellman: 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. We deal with it in Hollywood, we deal with it in the real world when we're dealing with friends and family members.
Nichelle Tramble Spellman: I think what was interesting to all of us was that we were going to handle this show, and handle the content of the show, without using typical antebellum imagery. There is not going to be, you know, the big Gone With the Wind mansion. ... What was also exciting to me was the idea that in order to build this, we would have to rebuild world history ... "OK, if this had happened here, how did the rest of the world change?"
On the controversy:
NTS: The concern is real. But I think that the four of us are very thoughtful, very serious, and not flip about what we are getting into in any way.
MS: We don't have an outline yet. We don't even have character names. So, everything is brand-new and nothing's been written. I guess that's what was a little bit surprising about some of the outrage. It's just a little premature. You know, we might f**k it up. But we haven't yet.
DBW: We knew that we could do something easy, and that there are many, many easy things that we could've done. But we also knew that we could use the fact that the show is successful and the fact that this gives us a certain amount of leverage to attempt something difficult ... and we think the difficult idea was much, much more valuable to us, and much more worthwhile to us than any of the easier ideas would be.
Dan Benioff: This is scary, for all of us. It's scary for different reasons. But it is a pretty terrifying prospect getting into it. We knew it would be, and now it's come true. It's obviously creating a lot of controversy before anything's happened just on the basis of a press release, and that will only continue as we get closer.