It’s a story perfect for Hollywood. A handsome farmer boy, youngest of seven sons, joins the army. An act of heroism catapults him onto a national stage. The leader of the country, fearing his popularity and yet wanting to exploit it, brings him to the capital.
Women love him, including the leader’s daughter. As a fresh new face of hope, the people see him as a successor to the leader’s increasingly erratic behavior, but the powerful are not going to let him take over without a fight.
It’s the stuff Hollywood is made of. And now Hollywood has returned to the biblical story of David to create a TV show called Kings. The show takes the story elements out of ancient times and sets them in the imagined modern kingdom of Gilboa. The king is more CEO than warrior-king. The princess fights for health care reform. And Goliath is a military tank. It’s like one of those Shakespearian plays set in 1940 instead of medieval Genoa, following the source material but adapting it to the setting. The two-hour pilot airs on March 15 at 8:00 P.M. (ET) on NBC.
With Hollywood involved, it’s amazing how much they draw from the story and how much they involve the faith of the characters. King Silas (Ian McShane), the biblical King Saul, wavers between the desire to follow God and arrogance. Rev. Samuels (Eamonn Walker), representing the prophet Samuel, voices God’s displeasure and ultimate rejection of Silas. And David (Chris Egan) is anointed by God, not through oil as in the biblical account, but through a gathering of butterflies.
Like other modern adaptations, creator and executive producer Michael Green and his team add, tweak, and simplify the original story while trying to remain true to it. This is not a sandals-and-veils epic Bible story. They add a war-mongering puppet master, William Cross (Dylan Baker), who connives and manipulates to keep the kingdom at war. Both Princess Michelle (Allison Miller) and Queen Rose (Susanna Thompson) are modern women with their own roles to play in the political game. Finally, the character of Jack (Sebastian Stan), who represents the biblical Jonathan, is hinted to be gay. “I thought it made the best conflict, the best story,” explained Michael Green at a recent press event. Jack’s storyline is not the focus of the pilot, nor does it involve David, but for many who love and are inspired by the dear friendship between David and Jonathan in the Bible, this particular change may come as a shock.
It’s nice to see Hollywood return to the Bible for source material, as in the Golden Age of movie making. Those who study and love Scripture know that the stories are rich and deep, full of nuanced characters, like David, who fail and are redeemed over and over. King Saul, who slowly loses God’s favor and goes mad, is as complex as a Shakespearian king. Perhaps it will lead to a renewed interest in the life of David. It should give those who know the Bible a good conversation-starter with those who are being introduced for the first time.
For more information about NBC's new series, Kings, please visit here.
**This article first published on February 16, 2009.