HBO boss breaks silence on Game of Thrones plans, Joss Whedon controversy, more
With HBO/HBO Max dramatically increasing its content ambition to stay competitive in the streaming wars, there was much to discuss when EW interviewed the company's chief content officer Casey Bloys on Wednesday as part of the semi-annual Television Critics Association press tour. Our rapid-fire discussion tackled everything from And Just Like That... to Watchmen. But first, the obvious question was whether the company would move forward with Joss Whedon's fantasy series The Nevers, which is set to premiere April 11, in the wake of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Charisma Carpenter speaking out about allegations of Whedon's "toxic" behavior.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Obviously, Joss Whedon has left The Nevers but he's still the show's co-creator, producer, writer, director... given the accusations against him Wednesday morning, do you still plan to air his series?
CASEY BLOYS: Yes.
Any sort of elaboration on that in terms of making that decision?
No. I mean, he has left the show and it's a wildly talented cast. I think there's no reason to delay it or not put it out there. So, no plans to do that.
I know you don't want to yet get into which specific projects might be officially developed in the world of Game of Thrones, but can you give a sense of how many of these prequels you're ideally looking for? What's the breadth and depth of your vision for the company's post-Thrones future right now?
Here's what I would say about Game of Thrones. As you know, George R.R. Martin has created a very large and detailed universe. What's great about it is there are roadmaps and histories and characters that lend themselves to adapting for TV. And you know we've got House of the Dragon coming, we start shooting in April. I rather not come up with like an arbitrary number — I want three shows or five shows or 10 shows or whatever it is. I really try to talk to the team about what are the stories we're telling, what are the characters worth highlighting? The number of shows that I want are the number of shows that are good. So I try to let that be our guide as opposed to picking a number and working backwards. If the show is good, that's what we'll do.
So 10 then?
Something between zero and 10! I mean, obviously, 10 would be too many. We'd be lucky to have more than one. But I want it to be a show that everybody feels really excited by and these shows are hard to get right. So we want to make sure we take our time and do it correctly.
And the rumor that you might do Thrones movies?
Nope. That's not something we've talked about.
Damon Lindelof has been adamant he's not doing any more Watchmen. But after all those Emmys, is HBO meeting with other writers looking for ideas for another season of Watchmen?
No change there. Never say never. But that adaptation was so from his brain it's hard to imagine somebody else doing it. But there are no active conversations, or courting anybody, or putting it out there in the way that we're doing, for example, with Game of Thrones.
Lisa Kudrow caused some confusion by saying she's already shot some things remotely for the Friends reunion. They're all going to be together in person, right? Can you clarify what that meant at all?
I don't know exactly. I would imagine maybe they're doing some bits here and there. But yes, the idea is that they would be together. The COVID situation has been complicated — not just for this, but for television production across the board. So we're kind of dealing with that as it comes, but it will be this spring.
A lot of people were surprised — including Stephen King — that The Outsider was canceled despite solid ratings. What led to that decision?
We try to approach everything as if there's going to be season 2. It's always hard. And it's always a challenge when you have something that is based on a book and obviously with The Outsider you've got a great roadmap. So if you're going to go and do more without that, you got to make really sure there's a story to tell. We just didn't feel like we landed on a story that would live up to the first season.
Speaking of King, as a Shining fan, I have to ask if there's any update on J.J. Abrams' Overlook Hotel project?
We haven't seen anything. I'm excited to see it. They seem encouraged and happy, but I don't have any update other than they're busily working away at Bad Robot.
With the Sex and the City limited series, And Just Like That, Kim Cattrall is not coming back. But are you reaching out to other familiar actors from the show? Or is the rough draft plan to strictly focus on the three female leads moving on with their lives in a new story with new characters?
I think it would be fair to say there will be some familiar faces for sure. In talking to Sarah Jessica and Michael Patrick King, they are not trying to tell the same story. This is very much about women in their 50s. Now they're in a different stage of their life. This is not going to be the women going out like they would have in their 30s. By virtue of that, it will be different storytelling, But I think you'll still see some familiar faces. As in real life, you keep some friends and other friends move on and you meet new friends. So hopefully it will be reflective of relationships in real life.
Speaking of classic HBO reboots, David Chase has his Sopranos prequel movie, The Many Saints of Newark, coming out. Have there been any talks about revisiting that world for HBO?
[Michael Gandolfini playing a young Tony Soprano] is great in the movie. He was great in The Deuce. I hadn't been in any conversations about doing anything. I think the movie should come out and stand on its own and people can enjoy it. I hadn't been in any real conversations about doing more. I have no idea if David is even thinking about that. He's just been focused on the movie.
Any update on The Last of Us with the great Chernobyl producer Craig Mazin? It was announced as in development but it has been very quiet for a while now...
He's been working away, writing scripts and coming up with a production plan. It will be a very visual and cinematic and big show. A lot goes into planning that. They are in the thick of casting. We'll probably have some announcements soon [Game of Thrones actress Bella Ramsey] was just announced to star. It's looking good, feeling good. We're otherwise moving ahead and excited.
There are a few projects that HBO has been developing in wake of the success of Insecure, like a pilot with Travon Free, and Issa Rae's idea of doing a Black 90210. With Insecure ending, are any of those projects coming to fruition that will serve that same Insecure audience?
I would say yes, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a half -hour. If you look at something like Lovecraft Country, which is predominantly African-American, or A Black Lady Sketch Show, or I May Destroy You, I think the larger point is there should be diverse stories across the board. That being said, it would be nice to have another half-hour, but I don't think that it has to be just limited to the half-hour format.
Obviously, Warner Bros. made waves with its decision to release its 2021 slate on HBO Max day-and-date with theaters. Is there any indication that that will continue in 2022? Or is the expectation at this point that a more traditional release schedule will be used moving forward?
I don't want to comment on that specifically other than to say, I believe that [Warner Bros. chairman Toby Emmerich, Chairman, WarnerMedia Studios Chair, and CEO Ann Sarnoff, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar] have all said this is very much the result of COVID. So I don't think that would be the case in 2022. However, the idea is for Warner Bros. to do a slate of movies for us at HBO Max going forward. But that particular strategy about going day and date with theaters was very much COVID dependent.
Speaking of which, with the arrival of Zack Snyder's Justice League exclusively on HBO Max, are there any conversations about continuing that relationship with a follow-up project with Zack in the DC world?
No news on the Zack Snyder world for you. I think that is a topic that is very well covered elsewhere online. But I'm happy that it's coming out because it feels like there's been a lot of anticipation. So I'm excited for it to finally come out and for fans to actually get to see it as it feels like a long time in the making.
Legendary has reportedly pushed back on Dune being on HBO Max. Is there any chance that does not stream on your service day-and-date with theaters as announced?
I don't know. I am the very fortunate recipient of these films on HBO Max. But the deals and working with the talent are with Warner Bros. So I can't comment on the specific deals or on who's pushing back. I have no insight into that.
And finally: HBO Max issued a rather unusual statement to deny it is currently developing a Harry Potter series. But admit it, Casey: Don't you totally want a Harry Potter universe series?
There are no deals in place. There are no writers. There's nothing. So I can't add anything to what everybody's already speculating about. However, to your question... do I want to Harry Potter series? Of course, I would take more Harry Potter. That would be great. But there's nothing to add.
—Rosy Cordero and Marcus Jones contributed to this report.