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Has Game of Thrones showrunners' controversial series Confederate been cancelled?

Writers David Benioff and DB Weiss have signed an exclusive deal with Netflix – but the alternate history drama isn't officially dead yet.

Published: Wednesday, 14th August 2019 at 12:03 pm

Having fended off accusations of gratuitous violence and sex for years, Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss are no strangers to controversy. However, the writing duo faced a backlash like never before in 2017 after pitching a divisive new HBO series called Confederate.


Set in an alternate reality where the American Civil War ended in stalemate, the show follows an America where “the Southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution.”

This idea didn’t go down well on Twitter. At all. In fact, many described the show's premise – laid out by two white men, remember – as “slavery fan fiction” and the hashtag #NoConfederate soon trended online.

But despite all this, the show never actually got scrapped. And after a two-year cease-fire, the battle surrounding Confederate is raging once again. Here's why...

Why is Confederate being talked about again?

It’s all down to a new Netflix deal signed by David Benioff and DB Weiss for a reported nine-figure sum.

Although this contract means the showrunners will be producing a series of new TV shows and films for the streaming service, they won’t be allowed to be involved in projects elsewhere. While there are some exceptions to this exclusivity rule – Benioff and Weiss will still be producing an upcoming Star Wars film trilogy – it means they won’t be allowed to develop new HBO shows while the deal is in place.

And it’s this turn of events which has people asking one big question…

Will HBO still make Confederate?

Short answer: nobody seems to be too sure at the moment.

Some have suggested that without Benioff and Weiss commanding the project, HBO won't mobilise Confederate – The Hollywood Reporter recently claimed that their Netflix deal "wipes Confederate off HBO's books".

This would chime with comments made by HBO president Casey Bloys, who appeared to suggest in February 2019 that Confederate’s development was dependent on the writers. "The delay [with Confederate] has to do with [the fact] that they were offered three movies,” he told to TV Line, referring to the duo’s Star Wars project, adding that the series’ gameplan would be “really up to [Benioff and Weiss]."

However, while HBO itself declined to comment, Sky – who own Sky Atlantic, the channel currently airing HBO shows such as Westworld in the UK – told that the project is still officially in development.

Malcolm Spellman
Writer Malcolm Spellman

It's entirely possible that the series could still emerge at some point, as Benioff and Weiss weren’t the only writers hired for the show. When Confederate was first announced, Nichelle Tramble Spellman (The Good Wife) and Malcolm Spellman (Empire) were also confirmed to be penning scripts for the show.

This means that, in theory, the husband-and-wife team could head the show. However, Malcolm is now busy putting together upcoming Marvel series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, due out 2020 on new streaming service Disney+, and neither writer has commented on Confederate's future of late.

Could Confederate come to Netflix?

Don't bet on it. Since Confederate was first developed at HBO, it’s the broadcaster, not the individual creators, who will own the rights to the show.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sure, there’s a possibility that Netflix could buy the rights to Confederate if the show is no longer in development with HBO. But given the option, wouldn’t they want to present themselves as the home of innovative original TV rather than reviving a series plagued by controversy before it was even made?


But who knows, maybe they’ll pick the third option: Make the show anyway, change the name, stick a great big “Netflix Original” banner on it and hope everyone forgets about its origins. Works every time, eh, Lovesick?


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