Watchmen HBO series release date, trailer, cast, and everything else you need to know

Watchmen HBO series
(Image credit: HBO)

Who watches the Watchmen? Well, we do. The Watchmen HBO series is fast approaching and, as the TV show adaptation begins to show us what it's looking to deliver this October, we've charted every bump and Damon Lindelof Instagram post (yes, really) along the way.

Below, you'll find everything you need to know about the Watchmen HBO series, including a release date (of sorts), full cast list, the latest news, plus a look at which Watchmen comic characters will be returning, and which ones have been consigned to sitting down on Mars for a few decades.

Of course, there's the small matter of the story and the setting. With the Watchmen show taking place years after the original, and in a universe torn apart by Ozymandias' actions, there's plenty of prior knowledge that needs readjusting. This isn't the Watchmen you grew up loving. As Lindelof, the show creator, is keen to point out, things have changed and nothing can quite be taken for granted. We've tracked the major movements and how things have moved on from the comics in surprising (and unsurprising) ways.

Fast facts

  • Watchmen HBO series release date: October 2019
  • Watchmen HBO series creator: Damon Lindelof
  • Watchmen HBO series cast: Regina King, Don Johnson, Jeremy Irons, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Adelaide Clemens, Andrew Howard, Sara Vickers, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II

The Watchmen HBO series release date is October 2019

As revealed during the San Diego Comic-Con 2019 Watchmen trailer, Watchmen will begin airing on HBO in October 2019. Beyond that, we know nothing about a set date. With Game of Thrones now gone, Watchmen could feasibly take up its prime-time Sunday slot for the foreseeable future. If that’s the case, expect the Watchmen release date to land on October 6, October 13, October 20, or October 27.

Of course, nothing is set in stone, so we’ll have to wait for official confirmation from HBO for the time being.

The Watchmen HBO series trailers are here to make you question everything

There have been two Watchmen trailers so far. The first was released in May 2019 and features several hallmarks of the Watchmen series remixed into something fresh and exciting.

Case in point: even though Rorschach is no longer around having died in the original comic run (this is a quasi-sequel that apparently keeps the comics as canon), a cult of vigilantes wearing the ink-blotched masks have risen up to take his place, presumably after the grizzled vet’s diaries eventually made its way to print as implied by the comic book’s ending. This has ended up kickstarting a revolution of-sorts.

The first trailer focuses heavily on the destruction left in their wake, though we also get shots of a new masked figure, played by Regina King, as well as an older Ozymandias (Jeremy Irons). Watch the explosive entry for yourself now:

The second trailer was released during the weekend of San Diego Comic-Con 2019. It’s a little less abstract and offers a clearer look at what’s to come when Watchmen debuts in October. There are shots of a few more unnamed masked heroes, plus the revelation that Adrian Veidt (aka Ozymandias) is officially confirmed dead. He’s still alive and well, though, judging by the trailer and the fact Jeremy Irons is playing him.

Regina King’s character, Angela, also gets some backstory. The previously-introduced Rorschach cult seemingly breaks and enters into her home and kills her husband. That’s a superhero origin story if ever I’ve heard one. The trailer ends with a final, scene-stealing kicker: Dr. Manhattan is back. The blue, omniscient demi-god is seen walking down a street as the three-minute long trailer (which you can see below) comes to an end.

The Watchmen HBO series cast includes a few familiar faces

I wish I could rundown the cast of Watchmen and tell you all there is to know about them. The truth is, outside of a handful of returning characters (which we’ll mention in just a minute), we only know their names. For now, we’ll have to let the mystery be and just provide you with the heavy hitters from the confirmed Watchmen cast, including Jeremy Irons, The Leftovers’ Regina King, Fargo’s Jean Smart, and Don Johnson, who played Crockett in Miami Vice.

  • Jeremy Irons – Ozymandias/Adrian Veidt
  • Regina King – Angela Abar
  • Don Johnson – Chief Judd Crawford
  • Louis Gossett Jr. – Old Man
  • Tim Blake Nelson – Looking Glass
  • Adelaide Clemens – Pirate Jenny
  • Andrew Howard – Red Scare
  • Frances Fisher – Jane Crawford
  • Yayha Abdul-Mateen II – Cal Abraham
  • Jean Smart – Laurie Blake/Silk Spectre
  • TBC – Doctor Manhattan

Watchmen HBO series characters: who is returning from the comics?

So far, only three Watchmen HBO series characters will return from the pages of Moore and Gibbons’ comic. They are Jeremy Irons’ Ozymandias, Jean Smart’s Silk Spectre, and an unnamed actor as Doctor Manhattan.

Ozymandias (who ‘won’ at the end of Watchmen by inventing an alien invasion to unite the world’s powers) is legally declared dead by the time the HBO series starts. However, he’s shown in his estate plotting… something. Knowing him, it’s bound to be world-shaking.

Silk Spectre, meanwhile, has joined the right side of the law. She’s now under the alias of Agent Blake (via IGN).

Doctor Manhattan is the most curiously-poised of the triumvirate. He’s back on Earth after his self-imposed exile on Mars, and he’s seen in the second trailer picking up a Doctor Manhattan mask, though we don’t know what role he’ll have to play in the grand scheme of things just yet.

Elsewhere, the two original characters we’ve gotten to know the most so far are Regina King’s Angela, and Don Johnson’s police chief, Judd Crawford.

Piecing together the two trailers tells us that Angela appears to be lashing out at the world as a masked vigilante after her husband’s death at the hands of the Rorschach cult that’s plaguing the new world. On the other side of the coin is Judd Crawford, a police chief who has had to deal with several police murders and who appears to have instigated a change for law enforcement: covering their own faces with masks. That’s an interesting tactic.

Watchmen HBO series story

Let’s get this out of the way first. The Watchmen HBO series story won’t be an adaptation of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ iconic Watchmen comics. It will, in fact, take place in the same universe in 2019, decades after the original 12-issue run’s conclusion.

Showrunner and series creator Damon Lindelof has laid out his story plans in a detailed five-page letter posted on Instagram in May 2018: “Those [Moore and Gibbons] issues are sacred ground and they will not be retread nor recreated nor reproduced nor rebooted. They will, however be remixed… Those original 12 issues are our Old Testament. When the New Testament came along, it did not erase all that came before it… and so it will be with Watchmen.” Make of that what you will, but just to doubly confirm: we’re not getting the original story for a third time, after the 1980s comics and the 2009 Zack Snyder-directed Watchmen movie.

Lindelof, helpfully, also adds a quick recap of what happened in the original series, which he confirmed will be ‘canon’ for his show. “The Comedian is dead. Dan and Laurie fell in love. Ozymandias saved the world and Dr. Manhattan left it just after blowing Rorschach to pieces in the bitter cold of Antarctica.”

Day 140. Damon

A photo posted by @damonlindelof on May 22, 2018 at 11:00am PDT

But this isn’t a sequel, at least not to Lindelof. In his words, “This story will be set in the world its creators painstakingly built… but in the tradition of the work that inspired it, this new story must be original… it must ask new questions and explore the world through a fresh lens…. The heroes are villains are playing for different stakes entirely.”

Nice and straightforward, right? Who am I kidding? So far, so very Lindelof. The man who made his name and built his reputation on pulling one last rabbit out of the hat when you least suspect it is shaping up to do that once again with the Watchmen HBO series – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Not much else is known about the story, though the key figures of Chief Judd Crawford (on the side of the law) and Regina King’s Angela (on whatever side she happens to be fighting for) will be crucial in this new world of Watchmen and Watchmen imitators alike. Abar has even taken up arms as a new kind of superhero in the wake of her husband’s murder.

If Lindelof’s past shows are any indication, don’t expect to find out much more about the plot until the show itself airs, and even then, we might still be none the wiser.