Sex, diversity, accuracy and more: the Of Kings & Prophets producers speak

Sex, diversity, accuracy and more: the Of Kings & Prophets producers speak January 10, 2016

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Two weeks ago, I linked to a story about the sex scenes in Of Kings and Prophets and wondered how graphic they could really be, given that this series is being made for network television. Well, now we have a partial answer: the producers, speaking on a panel to promote the series yesterday, said the network might put racier versions of the episodes online, after the more censored versions have aired on television.

Here’s what series co-creator Adam Cooper had to say on that subject:

“We have more leeway with online content,” Cooper told Variety after the panel although he cautioned that doesn’t mean they have no restrictions. “For instance, how much skin or sexuality we can show? I think we can show it in its pure form, but I think we’re really talking about subtle distinctions” between online and broadcast. It’s not like in the online version we’re going to be showing scenes with people’s heads being hacked off.”

As for sex scenes, Cooper continued, “In the broadcast version, we kind of have to cut around it and do it in pieces, but in the online version, I think we can show it as we originally intended. Certainly not added scenes, just different edits.”

Executive producer Chris Brancato added, via The Hollywood Reporter:

“The minute we leave this stage we’ll be fighting with broadcast standards and practices,” he joked, continuing on a more serious note: “We’re going to go as far as we can. … This story is an Old Testament [one that’s] violent [and] sex-drenched. It’s one of the world’s first soap operas. … You will watch a show that is tasteful but that also tells the story you can read if you want to pick up the bible.” . . .

He also emphasized that none of the sex or violence displayed is gratuitous: “The love story is essential to this pilot story. We were seeking in that scene to suggest the pent-up passion and sexuality between these two characters. … There is 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 is in 1 and 2 Samuel, which has plenty of sex and violence on its own.” Exec producer Jason Reed added that they’ve actually had to scale back some of the violence as it’s depicted in the biblical text in order to meet broadcast standards.

(Let me guess: we’re not going to see the dowry of Philistine foreskins?)

Deadline says the producers also addressed the “accuracy” and “diversity” of the show.

Cooper and his co-writer Bill Collage, who worked together on Exodus: Gods and Kings, said they were “bruised” by the controversy over the alleged “whitewashing” of that film, so they made a point of hiring a truly global cast for the new series.1

Meanwhile, Brancato said the series will expand the text in a way that is faithful to it:

“What we’re doing is a faithful a translation, inspired by Samuel 1, one of the great stories of world literature,” said Executive Producer Chris Brancato, adding that “we have, as dramatists, to breathe emotion” into the story. “We have to fill in what we call the negative space, the psychological complexity and motivations of these characters… we’ve sought to make the show modern, to have a modern pulse.”

Entertainment Weekly notes that the producers repeatedly compared their show to Game of Thrones — similar to how A.D. The Bible Continues producer Mark Burnett promoted his series last year — and it passes along this interesting quote from executive producer Reza Aslan about the character of David:

“When you’re talking about David, you’re talking about a man who is revered by almost half the population of this planet,” said executive producer Reza Aslan. “He is the model of kingship. He’s not Israel’s first king, but…He’s the world’s first rock star. This is a man whose songs that he wrote 3000 years ago, we are still singing today. He’s called ‘messiah’ in the Bible. His blood courses through the veins of Jesus Christ.[2] And yet — and I think this is what makes him so fascinating — he’s deeply flawed. He’s vain. He’s vengeful. He’s lustful. He kills his friends and betrays his wives, and he had a lot of wives. But he also loves God and God loves him. In fact he’s the only character in the entire Bible that God gives a nickname to. God calls him ‘The Beloved.’ And I think it’s precisely that complexity of his character that will draw audiences to him, whether it’s a faith-based audience or not.”

As for one other possible hot-button topic, TV Guide reports:

. . . the often-debated relationship between David and Jonathan [is] intentionally left ambiguous. “If you want to read into it that there’s a physical attraction, please do so,” Brancato said.

Viewers will get to interpret it for themselves when the series premieres March 8.

1. Ironically, the cast of Exodus was actually somewhat random — with Anglo and Italian-American and Palestinian actors all playing members of the same Egyptian royal family — and it looks like Of Kings and Prophets will do something similar, with an Anglo actor playing King Saul, a part-Maori actress playing his wife, and actors of African, Arabic and Indian-Singaporean descent playing their children.

2. The gospels of Matthew and Luke both have genealogies that draw a link between David and Joseph, the legal father of Jesus — but both gospels are adamant that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. So if any of David’s blood coursed through Jesus’ veins, it would have had to come through Jesus’ mother Mary — but I am not aware of any tradition to the effect that Mary was descended from David.

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