Steven Norfleet on doing the HBO’s Watchmen 1921 Tulsa race riot scene: ‘It was hard’

Dajour Ashwood, Steven Norfleet, and Alexis Louder in Watchmen. Credit Mark Hill HBO

Dajour Ashwood, Steven Norfleet, and Alexis Louder in Watchmen. Credit Mark Hill HBO

Watchmen is now airing on HBO, and it takes place after the events of the Watchmen comics from writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons. Like the comics, the live-action series touches on a dark history in America and brings them to light. In the first episode’s prologue, it followed a family during the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre where a father is trying to protect his son from a mob. Nerd Reactor had the chance to chat with Steven Norfleet, who played the Father, and he talks about how the show and how it’s helping to bring a forgotten history to the forefront.

Nerd Reactor: The show is now airing on HBO, and what has the experience been like for you?

Steven Norfleet: The feedback from the show has been awesome. It’s been overwhelming in the best way. It was amazing, from the day of the premiere and everyone talking about it and anxiously waiting for the first episode to come out.

The love that I’ve been receiving is from people learning. A lot of people didn’t know about the Tulsa race riot before the first episode premiered, and so many people have taken it upon themselves to find out what was it, why they didn’t know about it, what happened, and what can be done now to help the victims.

Nerd Reactor: I was one of those people watching it and went, “Is this a true event?” So I had to look it up and was like, “Holy crap!”

Steven Norfleet: Exactly.

Credit: HBO

Nerd Reactor: Your character was featured in the Tusa race riot prologue. What was the feeling like to just be a part of it?

Steven Norfleet: It was breathtaking. It was hard because as actors and everybody else who was dealing with this moment on set, we do it, we live it, but then we go back to our regular lives. These people back in 1921, this was their life. This was what they had to experience. Parents had to deal with putting their children in boxes or trying to sacrifice their own lives to make sure their children’s lives didn’t get taken away. They had to live this. It’s a very unfortunate thing.

What I love about the director, Nicole Kassell, was that she was very hands-on with all of us. She was conscious about everything and knew that it was going to be hard to live this moment and be so true to what was happening in our history. We made sure as a team to do it the best way possible and to give it justice.

Nerd Reactor: The subject matter can be tough to watch, but I think it’s able to capture a history similar to how the comics captured its own history.

Steven Norfleet: I applaud Damon and everybody else who was a part of bringing this to life. Even though it may be hard to watch, it’s our reality. These are things that happened. We should know our history. We should know the things that happened in the past so we can know how to handle our present and know what to do in our future. Stories like this, this is not something we should try to stray away from. These are stories that people need to know. I think the beauty of entertainment is not only are you enjoying what you’re watching, but with a show like this, you’re also learning. Learning not only about the world of Watchmen, but also the world we live in.

Nerd Reactor: With this type of show, there’s a lot of mystery involved. How hard was it to not give away a lot of secrets?

Steven Norfleet: It can be challenging. You know, people are eager. You want to share the amazing experiences that you got to live, but you also want to not take away the surprises that people get when they tune in and see it for the first time. It’s so cool when you have millions of people in front of the TV at the same time experiencing the same thing. So keeping that in the forefront of my mind, it makes it easier to just tell everybody, “Just wait until Sunday. The question that you’re asking, they possibly will be answered. If not this Sunday, then maybe the next one.”

Nerd Reactor: Was there a lot of secrecy surrounding the script? Did you know where the story was headed?

Steven Norfleet: I know the necessities. I think that’s also the cool part because I get to be surprised too. Just as much as I get to be involved, there are things I get to experience for the first time when we tune in on Sundays. They are very careful with highly anticipated television shows, and they wanted to make sure that not only were they protecting the content, but they also give people the chance to experience it with the rest of the world.

HBO is airing new episodes of Watchmen Sundays.

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