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Interview: The Cast and Creator of ‘Kindred’ on Bringing a Meaningful Time-Traveling Story to Life

“KINDRED” -- Pictured: Mallori Johnson as Dana. CR: Pari Dukovic/FX

FX’s Kindred, an adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s 1979 book from creator Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, tells the story of Dana (Mallori Johnson), who is mysteriously able to travel back in time to a nineteenth-century plantation, where she learns plenty about herself and her family. The show blends science-fiction with rich historical drama, with a bit of comedy mixed in to lighten the mood when appropriate.

Awards Radar had the chance to speak with Jacobs-Jenkins and the show’s cast about their experiences with Butler, the book, and turning it into a TV show. Jacobs-Jenkins shared his first brush with the novel and its path to the screen:

Kindred felt like a book that was very much about me and where was I was in my life and my family. Three or four rereads later, I was in my mid-20s, and I was like, I think this is a TV show, and that became my obsession, to bring this to the screen. That was 2010, maybe, and here we are twelve years later, and it’s on the screen, that’s insane.”

Austin Smith, who portrays Luke, expressed what it’s like to truly get into the roles:

“At first it was a struggle to just day in and day out live in the pain and sadness of American slavery, but it got to a point where it actually became secondhand. And that, I think, is exactly what Octavia Butler is interrogating, just how easily you can accept slavery.”

Gayle Rankin, who with Ryan Kwanten portrays the plantation owners, Margaret and Thomas Weylin, commented on what it’s like to portray despicable characters:

“I would rather be engaging in the conversation that this book I hope elicits, and that this series elicits, than not be. If I can show up for Brandon or Octavia and their legacies, I’m there for it. I’m ready to jump in and do that, even though it’s uncomfortable. The ways it’s uncomfortable for me are minimal in regards to what other people are feeling. That’s another thing for me too, where it’s like, as uncomfortable as it is and horrible and despicable, I can’t put myself in the position of people of color who have experienced what they experience in the show or watching the show.”

Johnson discussed the show’s lighter moments:

“The same discordance that I feel as an actor trying to figure out, is this something that I would lean towards, that I would react in this sort of way, or is this an emotion that I would try to conceal and stay determined to survive? I don’t know. That not knowing was essential to the journey of the characters, as well.”

Watch the full conversations below.

Season one of Kindred is now streaming on FX on Hulu.

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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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