The star and executive producer of this new NBC series talk about this brand new drama
NBC's brand new drama series Kings is set to premiere on Sunday, March 15 at 8 PM ET on NBC. Two of the big reasons viewers will be tuning in are Ian McShane, who plays King Silas Benjamin and executive producer Michael Green, recently held a conference call to discuss this new series and here's what they had to say.
I just have to find out, is it good to be king?
Ian McShane: It's marvelous to be king. Not for too long but it's going to be good for awhile as our dear friend Mel once said, yeah.
I'm just wondering is Al or the king; who would wind up standing in a battle between the two?
Ian McShane: I think I'd find myself fighting myself so. No, Michael very - it's almost a year ago since I met Michael and Francis to discuss this. And it's been a great year. We're just about finishing up - we finish up in two days. And off it goes on the air. It's been terrific and extraordinary and it's a brave thing - well I think NBC needs to be brave, so it's a good time to be part of a brave production that Michael has put together. And it's a great story, I mean, the bible - it's got some great stories in it so...
Michael Green: Sure.
Ian McShane: ...we're just part of that story. And it's been a terrific experience, yeah.
Michael, I have a question for you. Besides the biblical references, the David and Goliath angle I'm wondering if there are also religious undertones because I know the butterfly is a Christian symbol for resurrection and also there's a quote from the Talmud which is sourced here in the show, "To save one life is as if you have saved the world." So I'm just wondering if besides biblical there's religious overtones?
Michael Green: I think so, I mean, it's a show where religion is as much a subject as politics is. So we drew from a lot of different sources and, you know, it just let the story take us wherever it was going to take us.
Do you see yourself as someone who's involved in heroes worship, becausea lot of your products whether in the comic books, a lot of your material whether in t he comic books or...
Michael Green: Oh okay, I just, yeah. I wouldn't say worship but I do definitely - I'm definitely drawn to heroes' journeys, stories or, you know big themes, you know, archetypes in general and one of the biggest archetypes and the ones that sort of yield the most story, is the hero.
I'm just wondering if David and Goliath really stands up in this day where it seems that there are more Goliaths and a real need for Davids in today's modern times?
Michael Green: I think the answer to your question is in the phrasing of your question. If there are more Goliaths than Davids then you need a lot of Davids.
Michael, could you talk about how NBC has responded specifically to the more religious or more overtly political aspects of the show?
Michael Green: Very supportive, I mean, this isn't a religious show in the sense of most people expect it. I think when people ask if this is a religious show, they're thinking more like the Hallmark movies. I think the definition of a religious show is a show that's designed to inspire religious feeling where this is not a show that's designed to do that; this is a show that's designed to tell the best story it can. So our goal is good story telling. To that extend having religious as a subject or a - something that's a preoccupation of characters within the show no one has had any problems because it just makes for good storytelling I hope anyway. So NBC has been nothing but supportive about that or about the political aspects of it, I mean, the politics just lends itself to good stories as well so we've had nothing but support on that really.
Well going back to the beginning of that answer there, is there a clarification that you'd want to make between the show being religious in the dogmatic sense and being about faith perhaps?
Michael Green: You know, it's for the critics to, you know, make those determinations. I think our goals is best story telling. I liken it to, you know, Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark is a movie that is very much about religious but it is not a religious film; it just takes as its tropes and as its subject things that are important in religion.
And going back to the beginning of the writing process how much of the history and the culture of Gilboa did you have to know about before you could write a single word? And how much have you sort of built it all up into a mythology or a bible that you keep somewhere?
Michael Green: It started with definite ideas and let it evolve and build as we went. One of the best things about working in series television is you get a group of very talented writers together and let them take your original idea and improve upon it and that's definitely happened. I had an idea of what this country was and felt like and an aesthetic for it and then our director, Francis Lawrence came in and really helped explode that and make it so much more real and vivid than I had ever imagined it. And then every subsequent person who comes in whether they're the terrific actors or the terrific writers keeps - or a production designer who just keeps building a bigger and bigger city; it just all keeps improving on that original nugget that I brought to it.
Michael, this show seems to just be going against all the TV trends because TV gets kind of smaller and more conservative, you know. And this thing is just huge and epic; just in its look, I mean, the first two hours just looks huge. And like you're saying you keep building from that. First of all did people tell you along the way if you're taking kind of a risk by building something this large in scope and that it's difficult on modern budgets to create something this large?
Michael Green: The risk was less mine than NBC's, to take a risk on a show that was going to be expensive and be a larger scale show. You know, you're talking about television landscape and the question is more for me what is the job of network television in a world where cable is taking over niche shows. And I think the job of network television is to adapt to that and create smaller niche shows but also to create larger shows that will be, you know, more cultural touchstones, more pop culture shows, things that are more akin to summer blockbuster movies rather than just, you know, pitching the fast ball of another cop show. That doesn't mean they need other cop shows and it doesn't mean that they're not going to make other cop shows, Lord knows they will. But every network I think feels like they want to have shows that stand out from that and are a bit more signature. And to that extent I find that in the development process they encourage bigger ideas. They don't make as many of the bigger ideas because they're so expensive but they're necessary; you need shows like Lost, Heroes, you know, Alias...
Michael Green: ...the Kings, yes please, that - break that mold.
This David is one of the most likeable guys I've seen in a long time, I'm going to really latch on to him right away. And then I worry about the whole thing about power always crops and in the biblical story David eventually sends a lady's husband away to war just so that he can be with the lady and sends him away to be killed. Are we going to have to worry - are things - is David really going to be corrupted by power and how strong an affect do you think this is? Does power always corrupt?
Michael Green: I think no one stays good forever. I think this is actually a good question for Ian.
Ian McShane:: Yeah.
Well, yeah, okay, Ian, let me ask you that first. I mean, you're pretty far along, we can't tell right away just how corrupt and how honest you are. You seem to be both in this show. How do you feel the king is at the beginning of the show?
Ian McShane: Silas as a character is - that's been king too long. Anybody that does something for too long eventually it overtakes them. And he sees in David a rival, a - maybe a protégé both of which are conflicting to him because nobody wants to give up the reins of what he's got. And that's the journey in the first season that happens. And Chris Egan and I both have a relationship. And, you know, as Michael said, nobody is good forever. And, you know, and especially where ladies are concerned, so maybe passion overtakes all but that's for them to find out in whatever season, you know, Michael places that particular hurdle. But Silas is - also it's, you know, there is (unintelligible) turned in the other day which was talking about, you know, the crazy idea you had in the first one when he talks to God. I think God, you know, he talks to God. And I said to Michael who's playing God and Michael said well no, being a good Jew God only talks in thunder with no face and lightening, which is true, which is great unlike some other famous people. So I think that's important that God - you know, and Silas is looking for a sign that he's doing the right thing all the time. And he's talked about what a crazy idea it was to have a kingdom, a monarchy, to replace whatever there was before warring factions. And human beings are human beings, they will react and they're fallible and that's the story of this too, I think.
In a way Silas is kind of gutsy to bring this David into his court and so forth because he could have just, you know, kept his son who seemed weaker around. And bringing David into the court shows that Silas is at least trying to do right...
Ian McShane: Well a part of that he may have read Machiavelli too, you know, I mean, that's part of it. I mean, it's keep your enemies close is always a good thing or keep your friends close; keep all close. And that's part of Silas's strategy and his personality too.
Ian, when Michael said, you know, I want to redo David and Goliath what did you think and what was appealing to you about that?
Ian McShane: Well, you know, if I'd done that I'd say so I'm a little old to play David so maybe - no, I mean it was the book of Samuel which is - and the bible - it's a great read, you know, whether you believe it or not it's a terrific read. And when he started explaining the way the show would be and Francis wanted to create this world it was very appealing. And at the time, the last thing I wanted to do was, you know, some network show that was simply a procedural and this seemed something that was a carry - more fitting to cable if you'd like. Which I think, you know, the regular networks have to face up to; they've got to do shows that are ambitious and have a broad appeal. And, you know, there's this - and there's this country, you know, that came out the other day that 35% of people don't believe in evolution. You know, I mean it's a God-fearing nation so I think they'll be watching.
Michael, you know, it sounds like King Silas is Sal from the bible. There's so many great characters in the David story, you know, Sal and Jonathan and Bathsheba; how did you decide who makes the cut and when they make the cut and how sort of biblical in that regard are you going to get, you know, as far as the incorporation of the characters?
Michael Green: It depends on how long we get to keep doing the show. There's a lot to draw from. As far as what I decided made the cut it was much more of a decision of where to start David's story and where to start Silas's story. And the stories sort of overtook and answered that question for me. You know, you want to leave some room to grow; you don't want to give everything away in the first two hours so you meet more people as you go and you decide what lessons you need people to learn at various points.
And talk a little bit about casting these parts. I mean, obviously Ian has a great reputation for what he's done in television but talk about your whole cast and the selection of them.
Michael Green: That could take a while so maybe I'll narrow it down if that's okay, just because we have a very huge cast. First of all we have a terrific cast and it was a difficult show to cast in that way. We got extremely lucky in that every role was filled by someone really extraordinary to the point, you know, the definition of that being that they take the role you've given them and turn it into something bigger and better than you ever intended. And that's what's happened in trying to, you know, trying to have a Silas it was just difficult to find the right idea and which was why we were so fortunate to get Ian aboard because there wasn't anyone really who could have done it that wouldn't have been disappointing after imagining him as it. As far as the David we spent a lot of time looking at a lot of people trying to find someone who was appealing and who felt like he was at the beginning of a journey but also had the acting chops to show that he would be able to grow with his role. And that was one of the goals for this show and it was something I talked about even back at the beginning that this was the show designed that no one would be one character forever, that characters will evolve.
Ian McShane: But Chris hasn't - if I may - I think just watching Chris and know - having, you know, grown very fond of him over the season. He has a natural goodness about him which is...
Michael Green: Yeah.
Ian McShane: I think you need to play this part and that shines through above all which I think is hugely important.
Michael Green: Yeah. And then just to do the very short answer for the rest is we just had a very long and far, you know, reach for every character we looked at, you know, hundreds of girls to play Michelle. Until we found Allison Miller; we looked at, you know, many, many people for every role and we ended up with just a cast that I think will really impress.
I was just wondering if you could talk a little bit about the most challenging part of playing this king character and what it's been like for you to kind of get in his head?
Ian McShane: It's - I like the format of this kind of show having come from Deadwood and working with David when I met Michael and Francis. And Michael is the creator of the show. The whole idea of taking on a journey for 13 episodes, well this year 13 episodes, was appealing and it's worked out very well. The character has to grow; he's the king. He's been a worrier; he's been in many situations. He's now grown a little soft if you like, and aware of his own power, so he's got all those qualities that make a human being on TV fallible and fascinating; a mixture of ruthlessness, a mixture of ruthlessness, good, corrupt in the right way, Machiavellian. And also sees the larger picture than most people except of course can't see the large picture about himself in a way which is where we all come unstuck sometimes. So I hope that's answered your question.
When you play him do you think about the decisions he's making? Do you have empathy for him or, you know, how do you view him or do you...
Ian McShane: I don't view him; I let him take over. I let him come in every day and if it's, you know, I put on the corporate suit because that's what he is, he's a corporate king. And that's another part of the question, you know, this is a world which has been invented by, you know, Michael and Francis, the actors and the set designer, (Kaleena), he's done an extraordinary job. And the fashion designer who's designed, you know, nobody wears futuristic costumes although it's set if you like in an alternate reality. You know, you know you're in New York but it's not quite New York, there's something off about it. And it's this country you're not sure about. So it's a constant renewal every day. And they've done a great - I think they've done a great job with the script and I hope NBC realize too.
Michael Green: And to flush out in case anyone's looking our production designer (Kaleena Evanoff)...
Ian McShane: Yeah.
Michael Green: ...the costume, (Daniel Lawson).
I'm wondering if we're going to see how it became so full of turmoil and destroyed and - are we going to see flashbacks or...
Michael Green: We do see some flashbacks. There's room for more. We stay more in the present because right now we're trying to just build up. But we insinuate things; we drop hints. And we're always looking to flush out the rest of the world.
Are we going to see more outside of their particular country like going into Goth and seeing how their government is run or anything like that?
Michael Green: We do, yes we do. I don't want to give it away in spoilers but sooner than you think we do take a visit into there.
Do you guys have any guest stars you can share?
Michael Green: Quite a few. We've been very, very fortunate with guest stars as well, Brian Cox comes in as soon as the first episode after the pilot and plays Vesper Abadon. We have Macaulay Culkin coming in. We have Leslie Bibb. We have Michael Saul David. Oh, goodness, we've had a lot of really great people...
Ian McShane: Yeah.
Michael Green: Titus Welliver who is also of Deadwood fame. Yeah, that's a good number right there.
Awesome, well thank you guys so much. I really...
Some producers have the final episode in mind and work backwards from there. Do you have a final episode? Is that how you are approaching this or are you taking it, you know, one season at a time type of thing and building from there?
Michael Green: I would say both. I don't know if I have the last episode in mind because you never know how far you're going to get to go. I believe and treat every script like it's your last because chances are it will be. But I've been approaching it season by season. We knew what we wanted Season 1 to be about beginning, middle and end. We have an idea for what Season 2 if we're lucky enough to have one will be about, beginning, middle and end and so on.
And then Michael just a quick follow-up; Green Lantern is on your radar. I know I may not get a chance to ask another question later so let me throw it at you now; how's that going and what's your take on the material?
Michael Green: Off point but sure what the hell? It seems to be moving ahead. I love the material. I was fortunate enough to get to adapt something that I've loved for a long time. They have a director attached to it now and seem to be moving forward. They being Warner Bros and I hope they do because I would really like to - as a fan of it I just want to see the movie.
Ian to you, a side project for you is Case 39 which I think sounds like it falls into the fantasy genre realm. What's the basic setup and what do you play?
Ian McShane: That's a - sort of a bad seed scenario. You have Renee Zellweger and this extraordinary young girl who plays the kid that you think is the parents are evil but of course is not. And I play the good cop; I play a good guy, a good regular cop who meets - no I shouldn't say that; I won't give that away. No but, yeah, that's this kind of, yeah, it's a bad seed child is Case 39.
Ian, I have to ask you, you know, your character is obviously a natural born leader. Were you ever a leader of the pack, you know, kind of growing up with your friends, in sports clubs or bands or anything like that?
Ian McShane: No quite the - no, I prefer the word rebel outsider I think would be - rather than leader. All right, chaps, we're all going now to the Mets ballgame. No, I never organized things like that. I think things happen to people and that's what Silas - I think Silas was probably - I always, you know, you go into the back story. I'd see Silas as somebody who was rebellious in the ranks but rose through personal lunacy or heroism -- they're quite closely aligned, those two -- you know, and became a leader and became extraordinary and then became king because, you know, God told him that he should be king. And it happened - and it just happened to their family, the Benjamins as we call the alternate type of a show is the Meet the Benjamins.
And if you were a leader of sorts like Silas I mean what kind of leader would you be; would you be strong, demanding, those kinds of things?
Ian McShane:: Oh that's, no, I'm just an actor. I follow orders...
Michael Green: He's often turned into a leader of our set and I can say he's a very kind and beloved leader.
Ian McShane: A beloved leader. Yeah, I mean, when - it's funny, you know, when you do lead a company if you'd like and when you play the sort of pivotal role in a show you have a responsibility. And having I think a little bit of experience it sort of, you know, it's got good over the years. And this has been a particular pleasure to work on over the last six months.
Michael Green: And I would say - this is Michael saying watching Ian in that role I think he's the leader that makes the people around him laugh.
Michael, I wanted to know, you know, of all the great stories out there biblical and otherwise what was it about David and Goliath that really made you want to work on it as opposed to other stories?
Michael Green: You know, it was just the epiphany of if you started with the David and Goliath story look at all the amazing places you could get to go and look at the all amazing stories you could tell from there. It was a story, sort of I'd - grew up hearing and had been rattling around in my brain for a long time and I had always wanted to see it done well or done at all. And it felt like a really good opportunity. I wish I had a better answer for that. But you're asking about the writing process which I don't have much insight into; as a writer I can just do it.
Ian, the research for your role assuming you did some, did you look at history or did you kind of look at what's going in the political landscape today?
Ian McShane: I take it as it comes. I mean, Michael presented me with a 20 pound 18th Century German bible. Not in German of course but produced in Germany which the book of Samuels - no I love it, I mean, the Bible is a great read. So, you know, it gets better all the time. Saul I've found, or Silas, Saul/Silas has been a tremendous part to play over the last six months. I mean, very - if you like it's a natural progression from Al - Mr. Swearengen, I think is to be made king. But they offer the same, you know, leaders have their fallibilities and they have their moments of great clarity and they have their moments of down. And I think the story is fantastic of a young, you know, a king with a young guy who he thinks could be a protégé, could be an enemy, could be a rival, who knows but he takes the chance with him. And of course it's ordained by somebody else; it's got nothing to do with what Silas does in the end. It's far greater forces are at work like fate, kismet, you know, Sanskrit, Karma, whatever you want - whatever language and whatever kind of - among the (unintelligible) religion or whatever you can refer to, you know, we all have things in store for us we don't know about.
Michael, I wonder if you could talk a little bit more about the look of the show and the world you've created and sort of how far off reality, you know, our own reality it might be?
Michael Green: Sure. It's hard to talk about it at all without starting with - talking about our director Francis Lawrence who - he and I spent a lot of time taking, again, the original nugget idea I had which was the script which had descriptions of the world and a lot of insinuations of what the world would be. But that needed to be rendered into reality so we talked about whether we, you know, we wanted to shoot it in New York but did we want it to be pure Manhattan or did we want to start augmenting the city itself and we decided to do that. The goal of it all being to create a plausible reality that is both familiar but yet different. So that it would feel like a city that could live in our world but isn't necessarily our world; that people who know Manhattan might recognize some structures but then they would see oh wait, that building behind it doesn't exist on that block; they must have added something. So we created this city called Shiloh. Again we took the Manhattan skyline and carefully painted out certain landmarks and created our own new landmarks so the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building are suddenly replaced by the Unity Tower and the CrossGen Building. We created in the center of the city this idea of Unity Plaza which would be around where Bryan Park is. (Kaleena Evanoff), our production designer, she also did some amazing sketches on both what the cityscape would look like and individual buildings. We wanted it to be a very proud city; one that had - we came up with this idea that it was very much built into the DNA of this show was this idea of the new built upon the old. So it was a city that, you know, had been rebuilt recently but had foundations underneath it that were older. So we did things like took the edifice of the New York Public Library but then had a gleaming spire of a new building come out from it. Similarly since it's a proud country we wanted it to have clean streets and recycle bins. And so, you know, when we do shoot on the street, and that's often, we get a lot of really good New York landscape. We do subtle things that I hope the audience will enjoy and, you know, sort of participate in the process of what have we done to the landscape to make it Shiloh and not New York. The street signs may or may not be different; mailboxes may or may not be different. The country has a very bold flag that appears sort of (recurringly), and they use that in the same way we would use red, white and blue in our more patriotic times. It's a very patriotic country where they do believe in their leaders. And that creates a different feel for the capital city itself. Again it's not a city where people just throw their garbage on the ground because they all fought to help build that city. In a way it was inspired a bit about - in some ways in Israel where they've taken, you know, a city and built it sort of from scratch and had to fight for it so there's a pride in the ownership of that city.
And is Shiloh, is it sort of a city/state or are there other outlying parts of the kingdom or...
Michael Green: The capital city is called Shiloh; the country is Gilboa. It's - there are a lot of different cities. Within it there are different sections we sort of get to exploring them. We slowly unveil the map of the country and the world surrounding it. And there's a lot of natural curiosity coming and people asking about what that would be. And we don't want to give it all at once because we want to expand the world slowly and let people enjoy the process of watching it get bigger as opposed to just throwing out a globe and saying here's what it looks like.
Ian, what was your reference point for your character's like dialogue and persona, did you model him after someone specific?
Ian McShane: No I didn't model him at all. I took the - well Michael's (done) an interesting which I haven't mentioned so far actually. Which is, you know, he's created a language too in this which is not - which is part ordinary speak and part, if you like, part Gilboa-speak in the terms that it's got its own natural rhythm and sometimes it goes into a sort of a formality. But it's its own formality. It's a very original - a hugely original show I think. And it's been a pleasure to say it. You know, he's a very gifted writer. The situations have been extraordinary. And it's been a pleasure to say the words. I haven't modeled him; I didn't need any much more modeling than, you know, than reading the book of Samuel for a bit and realizing that these people haven't changed through the ages, you know. That, you know, obviously fear is still - really rules a bit, you know, life is brutal and short and nasty, it can be. And that is often the case it just happens that nobody's come up against Silas for a few years. And in this case this person is not brutish; this person is David played by the lovely Christopher Egan who, as I said before is a natural. I also said I think I made a mistake before and said this is an alternate reality, it's not, it's a parallel reality; that's what I think Michael is going for and what we're all going for in the show.
Michael, now how do you think being a hero in today's world is different than decades past, like, do you think there's still the same sense of nobility or do you think that can be - it can be a vulnerability?
Michael Green: I think every generation changes its sense of virtue and sort of its yardstick for what makes a hero. A lot of it depends on what are the challenges. I think today especially honesty is a lot harder a virtue or a lot more heroic a virtue than it might have been before, where honesty was not as difficult a thing. It's just I think we tend to talk about people who are honest as virtuous when in another generation they might have thought honesty is a given whereas, you know, physical bravery might have been valued in other times. Right now it seems like ethics seems to be more heroic which, you know, is - there's a PhD thesis to be written by someone on this call -- that's really not going to be me -- about how the definitions of heroism change based on the politics of the time. And, you know, how the definitions of a hero in a generation define what that generation is. We, in our discussions of what stories will be, always go back to what are the hardest things to try to put a person through be they any of the characters in the show, Silas or David. And we find ethics is always the one that keeps coming back.
Because it's set in a parallel reality is the God in Kings the God of the bible as we know it? Do the citizens of Gilboa read the old and new testaments in the bible as we know them?
Michael Green: I don't think we can answer that question; it's a little bit too - well first of all I think it's an unfair thing to even say we, the bible - the God we know because I don't think there is much consensus in our world... But I don't think I can answer specifically what bible they're reading or what religion they're worshiping. We don't get - there are different denominations; we don't really get into them quite yet. I'm sorry, so I'm sorry, that's a harder question to answer without spoiling things.
What were your thoughts on, first of all, getting plotted on Thursday and then later getting moved to Sunday night?
Michael Green: I was actually really happy about it initially when they talked about us going Thursdays at 10:00. I'd resisted the idea as much as it was - it's hale to the coveted spot. My personal belief about the television landscape now is that character shows as opposed to procedural don't really do that well at 10 o'clock on network. There are a few out there that are sort of chugging along but the better opportunities were at 8:00 and 9:00. So we'd had a lot of discussions about that. At the time they wanted to try us on at 10:00. And then when they said an opportunity opened up on Sundays at 8:00 I was - I jumped at it; I thought it was much better for the show. Sunday is much more a chance to eventize the show; it really felt like, you know, 8 o'clock, 9 o'clock on Sunday, when we premiere from 8:00 to 10:00 on Sunday March 15, you know, Sundays are a night where people get together and watch their favorite shows and sort of, you know, get on the couch with the family and the popcorn and make it an event. And that's what we're really hoping this show is.
And can you talk a little bit about creating the pilot which is very subtle, there are a lot of blink and you miss the moment. And then going forward with subsequent episodes which seemed a little more streamlined, was there a decision made that the show needed more clarity or easier for people to get into?
Michael Green: That's a really long question, we just got a note saying that there are 10 people after that want to get in otherwise we're going to have to cut this. Can you distill that into a - let me try to give a quicker answer to that question because - we definitely wanted this first episode to be an encapsulation of what the series would be which means doing a much larger, broader episode; it's a two hour pilot. But I always knew that you wanted individual episodes that people could come to without having seen every minute before, they could enjoy them on their own. So we did make sure that subsequent episodes all had a jumping off point and a story, if you will, that you could come into without really knowing anything so you would still be able to enjoy and reward that experience and not have any barriers for entry so that was more us being polite to future viewers.
as there a moment when this occurred to you or creating this show did it come in a flash or is it something that you developed, you know, where did the idea to take the biblical story and turn it into this series come from?
Michael Green: I think it was a lot of small a-ha moments. I'd always had an interest in telling these stories but I had no idea how. And I think the first a-ha was to tell it modern and not go period and not wait until HBO would let me do it, you know, set in Jerusalem and 3000 years ago. And there were just a series of...
Ian McShane: I hate sandals too.
Michael Green: Yeah, sandals, not very comfortable.
Ian McShane: No, no.
Michael Green: Yeah, everyone wants the process to be more romantic than it is; mostly it's sitting there until the idea comes, you know, until you have something to say. But it wasn't anything as romantic as waking up from a dream with a fully formed script.
Ian, the one thing that kind of struck me of your character Silas in comparison to Al Swearengen were they both were characters that deal with power and holding on to power or, you know, striving for power. What is it for you as an actor that attracts you to roles that like where power seems to be, you know, such a touchstone for them?
Ian McShane: It's terrific, I mean, it's, you know, we said at the beginning of this session that it's good to be king or it's good to be going to be king. Al had the problem of, you know, ruling a town and realizing that the old ways couldn't go on. In many ways Silas has been in power for a long time and Silas has gone soft with it; it's like he expects things. And no matter how, you know, power does corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. And as has been shown too often in the last, you know, however long our solar system has been going - human life has been around. But that's what happens. And it's Silas it's the question of being this young kid who seems to have powers. And he's told by Samuels, the reverend, (unintelligible) Walker, you know, things will happen to you; go with them if you believe in God. And of course he tries to fight it and it's like fighting whatever God you believe in, if you fight nature, nature is God, if you fight nature you will lose. And that's what happens to him. And of course characters are much more interesting when they're fatally flawed, well not even fatally, if they're flawed, I mean, they're much more than playing a goody two shoes which is why, you know, I don't think David is going to be too goody two shoes for too long either.
Michael, for you, obviously, you know, looking at your background you've done a lot in the comic book world - book genre where, you know, working within an existing mythology and building on that, you know, is, you know, kind of a day at the office. Could you tell me how that background helped you or influenced in creating this world of Kings?
Michael Green: Sure. You approach material and sometimes it's material that you have to be a very sort of diligent custodian of and you have to be very cautious with it. Take for example if you're writing Superman there's certain things that you can toy with and there's a lot you can't otherwise you're changing the fundamentals; it's sort of this American civil religion of don't fuck with Superman. And then there's other material that is a lot more open. We approach this as, you know, there were tropes and archetypes and a blueprint out there for what stories and character relationships and dynamics would be. But we weren't going to let that define us to the point where we couldn't move outside that box. So it's knowing when to stay faithful and knowing when to surprise and knowing when to expand and not being afraid to just make a mistake.
Ian McShane: First of all I think the Deadwood movies were a myth to begin with and I don't think that myth is about to be revisited. I think that was a panacea to real fans and it hasn't worked out. Secondly, yeah, I would hope that they would follow absolutely to Kings, which is it could be, you know, it could be the beginning of, you know, Al became king in a different kind of a way. No, I mean, they both dealt with big things, I mean, David (unintelligible) with big themes on that on a small scale in a town. He dealt with the fact that powerful figures coming together who couldn't escape but they knew it was their last chance at some kind of humanity. This goes on from there in a big situation of real - of people dealing with bigger, if you like, but they're not bigger because all our lives are important, every human being, you know, is important. So it's building on - it's a bigger canvas but it's the same - those same big things which are terrific to play.
Ian, can we expect Silas to be as questionably barbaric as Saul was short of collecting the foreskins of his enemies?
Ian McShane: Oh that's a good one. Michael that - let's start next year.
Michael Green: Yes, we are getting all the prosthetics foreskins right now.
Ian McShane: No I think you can expect him to be quite malevolent, yes. I mean, this is a made up world, it's a parallel reality which Mr. Green makes up - rather like I think, you know, Michael was talking before about the writing process seems to be influenced not only by the previous episodes they've written by the way the characters react to each other. Would you say that Michael?
Michael Green: Yeah.
Ian McShane: It comes it, you know, the way that we interact, you know, actors take a script and then they mould it into something and you see the relationship developing or falling apart and how it comes together. And I think that's what he's - what he's aiming for in this. And you will - certainly Silas is, yeah, he's a king. That's what he does.
Michael Green: The question sort of under that question is a lot of times people ask if we're concerned about, you know, since this is religious material are people going to, you know, be worried about it being too graphic. In the meantime the actual biblical material is about as graphic as one can get and if we were to be accurate about it we'd be in more trouble than if we interpreted it.
Now are the Gilboans behind Silas's tactics?
Ian McShane: They are to begin with. And they may change later on otherwise I'll give it away. But I think, you know, well you could ask, you know, you can lull people into a sense of - sense of complacency much like has been done in this country for quite a few years now; they're lulled into a sense. But people eventually I think will react if you push them too far about situations, conditions and the Gilboans, yeah, they do trust Silas and they have good reason to. And that situation may eventually change.
One other thing, is it true that director Francis Lawrence is also working on a modernized retelling of the Sampson story?
Michael Green: I believe he is developing something about that, yeah.
Ian McShane: That sounds right, he likes to create new worlds, Francis... that's what he's about so...
Michael Green: Yes it seems like it's a very different modernization and it sounds really cool actually.
First of all is this something that wouldn't have been possible a few years ago before digital technology became better to - the way you're dropping, you know, buildings in and taking out things and so forth?
Michael Green: I think it wouldn't have been possible a few years ago just because of the television landscape; I think every new show that's really ambitious is built on the backs of the ones before it. I don't think Heroes could have happened without Lost and I don't think we could have happened without, you know, Heroes, Alias before it. Like shows that break new ground in teaching the audience how to watch in different ways; without HBO doing strongly serialized almost novelistic shows people wouldn't, you know, would still be expecting things to be the way they were. So it's less about digital technology and more about how the audience has evolved to want and if not demand more sophisticated storytelling, more involved storytelling that they could participate in.
What's Macaulay Culkin playing?
Michael Green: Macaulay Culkin plays...
Ian McShane: My nephew.
Michael Green: Silas's nephew.
Ian McShane: Yeah, my nephew. My wife's brother who runs sort of the, if you like, the industrial complex of the country; he plays his son so he's my nephew.
Michael Green: Dylan Baker...
Ian McShane: Dylan Baker.
Michael Green: ...his character name is Andrew Cross and his father is William Cross.
Kings will premiere on Sunday, March 15 at 8 PM ET on NBC.