No matter where you live, it’s been impossible to miss the image of Regina King as her new superhero character Sister Night, looming over city streets and on bus-sides and shelters.
Standing before a yellow clock – dressed in an all-black, hooded cape, a mask painted across her hazel eyes and a cornrow braided down the left side of her head – she’s ready to pounce in her new HBO series Watchmen, which premieres on Sunday night.
Based on the DC comic book written by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in the 1980s, the new adaption explores an alternate history in which the police force embarks on a killing spree of the town’s superheroes, who are considered outlaws.
The Oscar-winning King plays Angela Abar aka Sister Night, a superhero who is also a Tulsa Police detective.
“I feel like she represents everybody,” King told ESSENCE of her new character. “She’s the window into this world, which we see through her eyes, and from the first episode, we get to see three of the masks she wears. When I read the script, I thought about how we’re always putting on one mask, then another, to protect ourselves, to adapt or to not show who we really are.”
“Angela is a woman I’ve never seen on TV, so this was an opportunity to play a superhero who is rooted in truth,” she continued. “Even with some of the outrageous things that are happening, it still feels real.”
The show is set in “an alternate 2019,” says Emmy Award-winning writer and executive producer, Damon Lindelof, who read the comic book series when he was a teen.
“Watchmen had a massive impact on me and I read it over and over again,” he told ESSENCE. “I love comic books and superhero storytelling, but the thing about Watchmen is that it politicized superhero storytelling. So, I thought, ‘Well, if we did Watchmen today, in 2019, what is the big issue in America that is creating incredible angst?’ The answer is race.”
To bring the story to life, Lindelof gathered a hefty roster of talent, including King, Louis Gossett, Jr., Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Frances Fisher and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II.
“I’m having a really fun time playing [a character] who lives in a superhero world, but who is also just a solid guy,” says Abdul-Mateen II, who plays stay-at-home dad Cal Abar, the husband of Angela. “A lot of these characters are dealing with so much chaos and with Cal, I was able bring an open heart and a clear conscious to this world. And working with Regina made the work really easy.”
For Gossett, Jr., who plays 105-year-old Will Reeves, the literal and metaphoric masks we’ll get to see worn on the show also tells us a story about the masks we wear in real life.
“Some people wear masks to hide their insecurities and ineptitudes,” he said. “We have to tell the truth and drop all of the prejudices and hate in order for us to make it.”
When you tune in for Sunday’s premiere, just know that you must watch and listen, carefully…closely. There’s a lot of story to follow, yes, but there’s also a history lesson, which draws you in as soon as the episode begins.
Watchmen premieres tonight at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.