The stars and creatives of FX’s “Kindred” arrived at the Avalon Theatre on Monday for the show’s global premiere in the heart of Hollywood. The FX series, which premieres Tuesday December 13th on Hulu, is the first adaption of Hugo Award-winning author Octavia Butler’s work.
The FX series tells the story of “Dana” (Mallori Johnson), a young Black woman and aspiring writer, who has uprooted her life of familial obligation and relocated to Los Angeles, ready to claim a future that, for once, feels all her own.
Before Dana can get settled into her new home, she finds herself being violently pulled back and forth in time to a nineteenth-century plantation. This plantation era life is surprisingly linked to her family’s future and an interracial romance threads through her past and present as Dana as she struggles to confront the secrets that she never knew ran through her bloodline.
The series was adapted for television by writer and showrunner Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Jacobs-Jenkins executive produces the series with Joe Weisberg, Joel Fields, Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel of Protozoa Pictures, Courtney Lee-Mitchell, and Jules Jackson. Janicza Bravo directed and served as an executive producer on the pilot.
Kindred stars Mallori Johnson as “Dana James,” Micah Stock as “Kevin Franklin,” Ryan Kwanten as “Thomas Weylin,” Gayle Rankin as “Margaret Weylin,” Austin Smith as “Luke,” David Alexander Kaplan as “Rufus Weylin,” Sophina Brown as “Sarah” and Sheria Irving as “Olivia.”
Having graduated from Juilliard, actress Mallori Johnson was uniquely trained to handle the challenge of portraying series lead Dana James. However, the young actress certainly felt the pressure of helming a series during the arduous Georgia shoot.
“The shooting was rigorous and I was shooting every single scene, everyday, every minute,” Johnson recalled. “Some days it was just me there without any of my cast to rely on, so I went back to the page and utilized my training.”
For Showrunner and Creator, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, this was a decade-long passion project. “I’ve been an Octavia (Butler) fan since I started reading,” Jacobs-Jenkins said. “I know the book so well and anytime we could use her dialogue and her words, it was the most thrilling thing… you’re breathing life into something you’ve only imagined.”
It was clear the entire cast and crew wanted to honor Octavia Butler in this series based on her groundbreaking best-selling novel. Executive Producer Jules Jackson was proud of his team.
“Everybody who has worked on this project, we call them ‘Octavia-ites’ because they are so passionate about her,” said Jackson. “You have to remember that in fifty years nobody has done anything with her material.”
The dedication of this team was evident throughout the lengthy Georgia shoot. Actor Austin Smith (“Hamilton,” “Russian Doll”) plays Luke in the series. “It was Georgia in the middle of the summer,” Smith shared. “Some days we were shooting when it was 106 degrees and there were plenty of rain delays.”
“At the end of the day, it was so worth it because this adaptation is long overdue,” said Smith. “We knew this was for fans of Octavia and the book and that’s what kept us going.”
Lead Actor Ryan Kwanten (“True Blood,” Dead Silence”) did an extensive amount of research to portray Thomas Weylin. “I was inspired by the work of our costume team and our artistic directors,” Kwanten said. “The sheer attention to detail was really profound to watch and that enabled us to embody these characters.”
Actress Eisa Davis, who plays Dana’s Aunt Denise, acts as a proxy for the audience in the series. “My character is trying to understand what is happening to Dana,” said Davis. “This is about bloodlines and blood memory and what that evokes in us.”
All episodes streaming December 13, 2022 on Hulu