Blindspotting creators Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal joined writers Priscila García-Jacquier, Alanna Brown, Nijla Mumin and actor Benjamin Earl Turner on Saturday to talk about the unique challenges adapting a film for television.
The show is a spinoff of the 2018 film of the same name written and produced by Casal and Diggs. The half-hour dramedy premiered June 13 with new episodes 9PM EST every Sunday.
The series centers on Ashley (Cephas Jones), who was nipping at the heels of a middle-class life in Oakland until Miles, her partner of 12 years and father of their son, is suddenly incarcerated, leaving her to navigate a chaotic and humorous existential crisis when she’s forced to move in with Miles’ mother and half-sister.
On adapting the movie to a series, the Hamilton co-star initially turned down the offer from Lionsgate only to realize Ashley’s character deserved more time on screen, motivating him to write more material for her.
“We said, you’re probably going to say no to this, but, it’s not about us if we’re going to do that. It’s about Ashley. We had a bunch of other ideas set on a block. We pitched a bunch of ludicrous ideas that we assumed they would say no to, and we could go on about our lives. Then they said yes. We were shocked but also it had gotten exciting. We were actually excited to make this thing,” Diggs said.
Casal explained though he wanted to maintain much of the tone present in the film version, he wanted room to play with the character’s development since the writers had gotten older from the initial writing of the film.
“We didn’t know s**t about character, really writing too far outside yourself. You kind of start it yourself and then gain the skills to embody other characters. I think by the time we were bringing in these four lovely humans, we knew kind of where we wanted things to go. We had some episode ideas and what characters we would start with. And in the process of us all sitting down and talking it through, a lot of that got redirected. A lot of the humor does come from circumstances that were brainstormed in that room,” Casal said.
Casal further articulated that the challenges of spinning off a film about two men to a female-centric television show wasn’t the easiest mission.
“I think that was the big task. You’re always having degrees of failure and success, but that was this daunting goal. When they were like ‘who do you want to bring in’, I need to get four people in this room that I think will get fed up enough with me if I’m on my bulls**t. Be like ‘that doesn’t work’ and ‘that doesn’t compute.’ There’s nothing more profoundly sobering and clear than three women in a room being like, ‘no.’ Like, ‘oh, all right, we’re not gonna do that,'” Casal said lightly.
Writer Priscila García-Jacquier wishes Blindspotting can show the industry and audience that film and television about unique communities of color deserve to be made in the future.
“I hope that people begin to see the value of making hyper-specific shows. We’re not trying to represent the whole thing. We’re trying to tell this very specific story. There’s so much beauty in that. The specific is what’s universal. A beacon of what TV can really be,” García-Jacquier said.