ABC mines Bible for ‘Of Kings and Prophets’

The new ABC drama “Of Kings and Prophets” features Olly Rix as David.
The new ABC drama “Of Kings and Prophets” features Olly Rix as David. ABC

ABC is taking on a project of biblical scale with “Of Kings and Prophets.” The series is told through the eyes of the battle-weary King Saul (Ray Winstone), the prophet Samuel (Mohammad Bakri) and the young shepherd David (Olly Rix).

One thing creators of any TV show based on religious teachings has to keep in mind is how much they can stray from the Bible. In the case of “Of Kings and Prophets,” there are a lot of areas filled in by the writers.

Executive producer Chris Brancato says that even when the series looks at areas not from the Bible, they will always have the characters who populate this world believing and having faith in God.

“Fundamentally, this story is one of the greatest stories in world literature. And it’s about a very unlikely hero, a shepherd named David from the corner of the kingdom, who has a kind of self assurance and will to go for greatness, to ascend in life,” Brancato says. “And I think the show in general is an examination of how we utilize faith in our lives, what higher powers we feel responsible to.”

The challenge was to figure out where to begin the story. So instead of seeing Saul’s rise to power, “Of Kings and Prophets” starts with David as he makes his way from the outskirts of what is a nation that is just forming into the royal courtroom. There, he ends up finding a royal family and essentially a surrogate father in Saul.

Over the course of the season, David ends up in fierce competition to attain a crown that he never asked for, that was anointed to him by God through the prophet Samuel.

The production benefited from all of the research that has been done over the last decade about David.

Executive producer Reza Aslan, says they remain faithful to the biblical David but take advantage of an enormous amount of historical work about the world in which David lived. That meant the series is as historically accurate as they could make it.

Bringing all that to life fell to Rix, who was drawn to the the role of David because the character is so flawed.

“He’s kind of the brightest star in the firmament, but the brighter the light the darker the shadow. And his shadow is quite dark and he engages in things that are pretty morally questionable,” Rix says. “But equally, he has a conscience and possibly a slightly overactive conscience, which is quite a redeeming quality for him.”

Where the producers will be able to create more attractions for non-believers is through the way the show is put together. They are taking full advantage of how the Old Testament is so full of sex and violence it could be considered the first soap opera.

The show has such a gritty quality that the producers have had to fight with censors over several scenes. Even if some scenes have to change to fit network standards, the producers know their original vision will be seen online.

But, the producers are also aware that the nature of the show will draw viewers who might have a problem with seeing too much sex and violence

“We do not truck in gratuitous sex, nor gratuitous violence. There’s no discussion about trying to add more sex or violence for the simple sake of doing so. We’re trying to tell the story that you will read in 1 Samuel,” Brancato says.

The production actually scaled back some of the violence depicted in 1 and 2 Samuel to fit broadcast standards. But, they kept enough in the production to make viewers feel the same pressures, the same motivations that these characters struggled with on a daily basis.

Rick Bentley: 559-441-6355, @RickBentley1

Of Kings and Prophets

  • 10 p.m. Tuesday, March 8, ABC30