Damon Lindelof on the unique writing process behind Watchmen’s Adrian Veidt scenes

November 15, 2019 Danny Munso

For your reading pleasure, please enjoy this excerpt from our longer interview with Watchmen showrunner Damon Lindelof from Issue 39 of Backstory.


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By Danny Munso

Damon Lindelof’s Watchmen features two major characters from the comics among its ranks. Laurie Blake (Jean Smart) was the Silk Spectre in the comics, and in the show she is a hardened FBI agent who suddenly has a major distaste for masked vigilantes. She is dispatched to Tulsa to help police investigate Crawford’s death. Then there is Adrian Veidt (Jeremy Irons), a billionaire known as the world’s smartest man. In the comics, he ends up being the villain of the entire series after he sacrifices three million citizens in order to avoid nuclear war. (It involves a giant squid—you either know or you don’t.) But in the series, Veidt is, well, it’s not exactly clear what he is up to…or where he is…or why he seems to be surrounded by clones of his own making…or why he seems to be a prisoner of some sort. If you’re confused as a viewer, you’re supposed to be. As the series currently stands, Veidt’s scenes are completely removed and separate from the events going on in Tulsa, and because they’re of a drastically different tone—zany as opposed to weighty—they make for a nice antidote to Angela and Laurie’s investigation into who killed Crawford as they battle the Seventh Kavalry. “Obviously it’s all the same show, and I hope it’s not such an aberrant tonal shift that people feel like this is a fantasy sequence or it’s not really happening,” Lindelof says. “I feel like we’ve tried to message as much as we can that these two storylines are going to intersect. They’re not on parallel tracks that will never meet, they’re actually headed toward one another. How they intersect is part of the fun of the story.”

The separate storyline was actually inspired by a subplot in the original comics wherein Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons would sometimes cut away to a man named Max Shea, who was mysteriously working on a deserted island. It turns out he was aiding Veidt’s endgame, only to be eventually killed for his efforts. Lindelof wasn’t so much inspired by that specific story, but he enjoys the occasional random sojourn that wasn’t always clear how it would link up to the main arc, much in the same way his series uses Veidt’s subplot for the same purpose. “One of the things I loved about the Max Shea stuff is I didn’t know where or when it was or what it had to do with everything else,” he says. “But I did feel I would have been so much more engaged if it had been one of the central characters of the comics as opposed to Max, who is an ancillary figure. So I loved the idea of dropping Adrian Veidt into the middle of almost a Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoon. The scenes have this manic, violent energy that is also absurd, fun and ridiculous. I think the audience needs occasional relief from the narrative intensity of what’s happening in Oklahoma, and for now it provides that.”

The Veidt storyline is unique from a writing perspective as well. After HBO viewed the pilot and gave the series a greenlight, Lindelof gathered the writers and they broke the story for the remaining eight episodes of season one. However, before any of the new scripts could be written, they discovered the location they had used in Wales to shoot Irons’ scenes as Veidt would be hit by bad weather during the period they planned on filming the series. If they wanted to use that location, they would need to get all the Veidt scenes done in September and October of 2018 before production on the rest of the season commenced a few weeks later in Atlanta. So Lindelof and the writers broke the entire Veidt storyline first and actually created a separate 60-page script that just featured the Veidt scenes from all of the episodes. And sure enough, before episode two went into production, all of the season’s Veidt scenes were filmed. As entertaining as they are at this point in the series, Lindelof warns their tone may soon change. “As the show moves into its endgame, the Veidt story intensifies a bit,” he says. “It starts to feel more tonally in tune with the rest of the show in anticipation of their ultimate collision.”

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