TEL AVIV – A new TV show based on Samuel I, which tells the story of Israel’s legendary King David, is being set up as a biblical Game of Thrones.
The show’s creators Adam Cooper and Bill Collage promise to stay true to the biblical source material, but are still hailing the show as “a non-dragons Game of Thrones.”
The show, Of Kings And Prophets, will air on Tuesday nights starting March 8 on ABC. Originally set to be released in Fall 2015, the pilot was reshot and a new cast hired in the wake of criticism surrounding the writers’ former efforts on Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, which was released in 2014.
“This show is set in 1,000 BC and it needs tender loving care,” said Cooper, explaining the delay.
At a TCA panel on Saturday, Cooper said that he and Collage “were pretty bruised by how [Exodus] came out, the criticism about whitewashing is something that matters to us very much.”
The two said that as a result of that experience, they aimed to gather a more diverse cast than the standard white European actors they had representing the Exodus story.
“We look for the best cast possible,” said Cooper. “We do it with an eye toward diversity, but also with finding the best cast possible.”
In 2009, NBC put out a show called Kings that placed King David in modern times in a fictional kingdom modeled on the US. Of Kings And Prophets aims to stay more accurate to the source material, and the creators are turning to Reza Aslan, a religious scholar and author, to serve as executive producer.
As a Muslim Iranian-American, some are questioning why Aslan and not a Jewish scholar was recruited to assist a show about the most famous Jewish king in history.
“When you’re talking about David, you’re talking about a man who is revered by almost half the population of this planet,” said 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 3,000 years ago, we are still singing today. He’s called ‘messiah’ in the Bible. His blood courses through the veins of Jesus Christ.
“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.”
“What we’re doing is a faithful translation, inspired by Samuel I, of one of the great stories of world literature,” promised Chris Brancato, executive producer of the show. “It’s suspenseful. It’s extraordinarily violent. It’s sexual. And it’s a power struggle between two men. We don’t view this as a revisionist history, nor do we view it as a literal translation. We’ve sought to make the show modern. … This is a non-dragon version of Game of Thrones.”
The show’s creators also say that the cast is as large as Game of Thrones’.
However, they have scaled back the violence from the original Samuel I, and attempted 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,” said Brancato.