After Warner Bros.’ success with Andy Muschietti’s It duology, the studio seems keen to explore more stories in its central town.
Back in February, HBO Max greenlit a prequel series, Welcome to Derry, with the intent to “expand the vision” of It and its sequel, It Chapter Two. Muschietti will return to direct several episodes, as will Chapter Two co-producer Jason Fuchs. So far, they’re the only It alums involved. Bill Skarsgård, who portrayed the titular antagonist in the films, isn’t slated to appear. Whether or not the role will be recast remains to be seen, but there’s a chance that Pennywise won’t be the main villain of Welcome to Derry. Instead, the series seems to be eyeing an unexplored Derry experience — and that may speak to a new conflict for the franchise.
Taylour Paige (Zola), Jovan Adepo (Watchmen, Babylon), Chris Chalk (Perry Mason) and James Remar (Dexter) have been cast in Welcome to Derry, per a recent report from The Hollywood Reporter. Naturally, this is an interesting departure for the It series. Black characters are few and far between in the films, and in the Stephen King novel — but for good reason. King set It primarily in 1950s Maine, but he was still able to explore the ramifications of Jim Crow through a Black protagonist, Mike Hanlon. Mike’s childhood is marred by racist bullying, but it’s exactly what qualifies him for the Losers Club, a group of marginalized misfits that eventually team up to defeat IT.
Mike’s father, Will Hanlon had his own encounter with the entity in 1930. The elder Hanlon was an Army vet that settled in Derry in the ‘20s. He co-founded a speakeasy, The Black Spot, with other Black GIs in the area. The club was designed as a refuge for the Black residents of Derry, but as it grew in popularity, it became the spot for white patrons as well. That didn’t sit well with the Legion of White Decency, a riff on the Klu Klux Klan with strong ties to Derry. One night, the group set fire to the Black Spot with patrons still inside. Will nearly died in the fire, but he was saved by Dick Hallorann (who also played a role in The Shining).
The Black Spot massacre is a gruesome moment in Derry’s history, but one necessary to establishing IT’s influence on the town. Though the It films allude to this moment, it’s only to a degree. The films push the timeline forward 30 years into the Reagan era, which alters crucial elements of Mike’s story, and the story of his family. In the films, Mike is an orphan. His parents died in a fire, but it wasn’t the Black Spot. There’s no mention of that specific tragedy in It or its sequel. Though Muschietti got a lot of flack for this choice, there’s a chance for him to make up for it in Welcome to Derry.
It’s widely assumed that Welcome to Derry will take place in the 1960s. As IT returns to the town once every 27 years, it’d make sense to go back to the entity’s return in 1962. Since the Black Spot isn’t mentioned in the films, it could be the focus of the series. Paired with the turmoil of the Civil Rights Movement, it could marry real-world politics with genre storytelling — not unlike HBO’s own Lovecraft Country or its adaptation of Watchmen. The only question now is whether Muschietti and his team are equipped to tell this story.