Nicole Kassell, known for directing episodes of The Closer, The Killing and The Americans, was tapped to direct the first two episodes of HBO’s Watchmen. Her episodes are gritty, visually stunning and show badass Angela Abar in her essence. After diving deep into her episodes, The Beat was on hand to chat with Nicole about the technical aspects and honoring the source material and other iterations that came before.
On tackling a well-established property
“I did not read the book before I read the script. I knew Damon (Lindelof) was doing it, but I had not grown up with it so I decided to wait. I called Damon and said I want to do it. I still had to win it by pitching myself for it. But I figured at that point rather than read it I wanted to be fresh eyes. Knowing it’s in his DNA, let him have a partner who is not beholden to the book but beholden to him. And then once I started working on it, then I went very deep. I read it multiple times and I watched the motion graphic version of it because it allowed me to see even just details like how things move in the frame. To really study the aesthetic. However, I did not see the movie because I didn’t want to risk at all you know copying something. But it was very important to me you know take this script and be able to feed fans through framing, props, production design, and any little Easter egg we could, and that was fun.”
On capturing Watchmen’s very famous nine-panel grid style
“I absolutely was inspired by the grid style. I haven’t read a lot of comics but the vertical format was so original and so within the horizontal it was like how could we find the vertical? So, framing within things and then the essence of it being very cynical and noir was a huge influence. But there’s literal frames where you know I would set the camera on a set dresser would run up with a picture from the book and say “Is that the shot?” Yeah. You know and I wanted to do that to really say like I love you guys (comic book fans) too and I know you’ll be psyched to see that. The transitions, you know the book is so brilliant for the jump cuts and match frames, the center punching, the vertical format and angles.”
On determining what would make it in
“I mean we weren’t doing the book. So, I would take a scene and determine which nods could go in. For example, Regina at some point carries some flowers. The opening of the book is so iconic with the red bouquet, you know, so, there was no doubt that we were going to do that.”
On the evolution of Gender Politics in this universe
Cal (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is Angela’s husband and Yahya is playing the role so well. We talked about gender politics being different in this universe, things have evolved differently. The scene where Cal takes the gun from Angela, no questions asked, I love that scene. We talk about all the masks in the show and layers of who you are, but when Angela’s with Cal, that’s when she’s her most truthful. We chose to costumer her less around him, to say this is the one space we see her at her essence.”
Check out Nicole Kassell’s episodes of Watchmen, when they air only on HBO! And if you missed it, make sure you read our recap of the first episode.