DMZ, the cynically-prophesizing DC Comics-published Vertigo title depicting a United States left literally divided after a second Civil War, is the next comic-book-inspired small screen project embraced by HBO. Indeed, the premium cable channel has brought in a prominent name in Ava DuVernay – who happens to have her hands full with DC film adaptation The New Gods – to direct the pilot.
There’s certainly an intriguing and potentially controversial Civil War premise with this project; politically-charged peril that HBO recently opted to avoid by officially cancelling Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss’s long-stalled TV project, Confederate, which carried similar themes of an alternate universe in which America has experienced a second Civil War. HBO’s retention of this project, however, seems to imply that DMZ will take a more nuanced approach to the theme.
An order was made back in October for a DMZ pilot, set for streaming platform HBO Max. The would-be series is under the purview of Robert Patino, who has been appointed showrunner and executive producer, bringing experience from HBO’s Westworld, along with Kurt Sutter shows Sons of Anarchy and the short-lived The Bastard Executioner. Besides directing the pilot, DuVernay will produce via her Array Filmworks shingle, in association with Warner Bros. Television, with which she signed a multi-year deal last year.
Rosario Dawson will headline HBO Max’s DMZ, reported Deadline. She will star in the prospective series as Alma Ortego, described as “a fierce medic who goes on a harrowing journey of saving lives while desperately searching for her lost son. As she contends with the gangs, militias, demagogues and warlords that control this lawless no man’s land, she becomes the unlikely source of what everyone here has lost…hope.” Dawson’s television CV just added the currently-running USA series, Briarpatch. She recently appeared in 2019 films Jay and Silent Bob Reboot and Zombieland: Double Tap.
Benjamin Bratt subsequently joined Dawson on DMZ as a regular, reported Deadline. He will play Parco Delgado, described as “the popular — and deadly — leader of one of the most powerful gangs in the DMZ. He wants to rule the DMZ and will stop at nothing to secure that outcome. Delgado is known as a wildly magnetic, affable and equally influential man.” Bratt, a veteran actor, perhaps best known for his 1995-1999 run on NBC’s Law & Order, most recently fielded a regular run on Fox’s Star, and – amongst an array of film roles – appeared in 2017 Marvel movie Doctor Strange, and even did some previous DC work as the voice of Hernan Guerra/Superman in 2015 animated feature Justice League: Gods and Monsters.
2005-2012’s DMZ comic series – written by Brian Wood, who co-created the title with artist Riccardo Burchielli – was essentially a post-9-11 parable for the broadening political divisions in the U.S., especially under the context of the Iraq War and the country’s overall interventionalist policies. Consequently, the comic’s Second Civil War occurred after the rise of secessionist forces of the Free States of America, which, having formed in Montana, quickly spread, touting isolationism, leading to a bitter war that – amongst several other demarcations – left Manhattan as a DMZ (demilitarized zone) between the now-separate entities of the USA and FSA. Consequently, the comic series begins five years after said war, chronicling life in the eponymous DMZ.
Interestingly, while the DMZ comic tended to focus on the travails of male photojournalist Matthew “Matty” Roth, the HBO Max television adaptation will follow Dawson’s female protagonist, Alma Ortego, an apparent remix of comic character Zee Hernandez. As the official logline explains:
“[DMZ] chronicles the harrowing journey of a fierce female medic who saves lives while desperately searching for her lost son. But as she contends with the gangs, militias, demagogues and warlords that control this lawless no man’s land, she becomes the unlikely source of what everyone here has lost: hope.”
This is the second television project for pilot director Ava DuVernay, who recently helmed the Netflix miniseries, When They See Us. She’s currently working on her upcoming directorial turn with The New Gods, adapting the seminal DC Comics otherworld mythology created by Jack Kirby, working off a screenplay by comic book scribe-turned screenwriter Tom King.
HBO Max’s DMZ is the second attempt at a television adaptation, with the first attempt going back to early 2014, during which Syfy was set for a version that was to be developed by Mad Men executive producers Andre and Maria Jacquemetton.
DMZ doesn’t have any kind of projected release window, but the pilot is set to begin production sometime in early 2020.