What if the bible wasn't about parables from the past, but instead, was a message of what's yet to come? That's the question asked in Audible's new podcast The Prophecy. Kerry Washington stars as a modern-day saint alongside Laurence Fishburne and an all-star cast.
EBONY spoke with Washington, who also executive-produced the series, and Fishburne to learn more about their must-listen project, and what’s next to come.
EBONY: This story is an exciting romp that turns religious beliefs on their head.
Kerry Washington: The series does ask the big question, what would it be like if the stories that we know from the Bible were actually a prophetic document about things that were going to happen in the future? And what if that future was right now? We keep saying we live in these unprecedented, almost biblical times. But what if these really were those times? What would that mean and what would it look like?
Laurence, how did you get involved with this project?
Laurence Fishburne: I had just worked with Kerry on a project called The School for Good and Evil, and she sent me [The Prophecy] scripts. I read them and caught up in it from the word “go.” I thought, this is really cool and it's just really, really well written.
The series has an A-list cast. Kerry, did you get on the phone with all your friends and say, “You got to do this.”
Washington: Laurence and I were looking for other opportunities to work together, I'm such a huge fan. And in the audio space, I wanted to make sure that we had voices that could really carry the gravitas and the level of drama that the series requires. Laurence has the ultimate voice, he transports you immediately.
You also work with Daniel Dae Kim and David Oyelowo.
Washington: This story is so global, right? I started to think if the “Jonah and the Whale” story is happening in Asia, there’s Daniel, who I’ve known for many years. I’ve been such a fan of his and I thought he would be a great person to bring on board. And then of course for the sound of the UK, knowing especially how spiritual and Christian David Oyelowo is, I thought he might really respond to the material, and he did. I was really grateful.
Laurence, how did you approach the role of Agent Scott Thomas, who represents Doubting Thomas in the series?
He's a man who is wrestling with questions of faith and wrestling with his own belief. He’s very much the audience listening, in many respects. The circumstances of this story really create his dramatic tension: where do the stories of the FBI and the Bible intersect? Does it really happen that often? It’s such a strange intersection.
Kerry, you’re playing the role of the Virgin Mary. How did you approach this part?
Washington: Randy McKinnon, our incredible writer/director, this all came from him. He really built out this world. I just loved the idea of trying to find the real meaning of these biblical stories in our lives today. And there is so much responsibility. I love the idea of centering Mary as the hero of this at this stage of the story — what was it like for this woman to have to come to grips with this really tremendous responsibility that was being placed in her life? What does it mean for her, for her marriage, for her community, for her?
Laurence, a lot of people probably won’t realize that you also play another small role in the series, a caregiver.
You don’t realize that it’s me because I had to just find a whole other space in my voice, a different sort of region of it, and another way of using it. To play that character was really the most challenging bit for me.
What was your experience of recording this production, did you shoot it together?
Fishburne: I recorded in a booth with just the director and another actor, like a standard recording session. They had some sound effects for us to reference what would be accompanying the piece. But really, this thing is so beautifully written, that's really where it gets its strength and its power.
Washington: It's a tremendous cast all the way through and it was really exciting for me because I was listening to the recordings throughout the process. As a producer, I was really heavily involved in the edit. It was really exciting to hear voices come together and then to layer those voices with all the sound cues. I remember the first time that I heard Jonah's episode with the ocean sounds and the wind, and I just thought, “Oh my God, this is so exciting.”
The sounds come to you from all angles.
Washington: It’s fun because my company is named after the street in the Bronx that my mother grew up on, Simpson Street. My mom talks about sitting around the radio and listening to radio plays when she was a little girl. It does really feel like sort of a full circle moment, paying homage to where my family comes from, and the original storytelling that my mom fell in love with as a little girl.
Reinterpreting the Bible, some people might be a little riled by that. What do you want people to take away when they hear this story, especially people of color?
Washington: For me, in my relationship with God, I always want to be able to bring my full heart, my full mind, and my full imagination to task. I think what we want people to do is to open their hearts to stories that include faith and be willing to ask questions and not deny anyone's beliefs, but just to always deepen our relationship with God and its spirit, however that feels. For me, it's really about having the courage to explore these texts and bring them into the current moment and see how that informs our beliefs. I'm a believer in God. I'm a Christian. I feel really passionately about my relationship with God. But part of that relationship is being able to ask questions and move into deeper and deeper relationships.
And Laurence, what do you take away from the series?
Fishburne: It's a refreshing way to revisit these stories that come from the Bible that are respectful of the source material. Think of the old costume dramas of the 1950s and sixties, that one that's called The Greatest Story Ever Told. It’s a great story about the life and death of Jesus. There are a couple that always play around Easter. The Prophecy is a retelling of an old story in a modern kind of context. It's beautiful.
So, is season two in the works?
Washington: I hope so. We definitely have some fun ideas about it, so we're talking about it. It would be really fun. It's so wonderful working with Audible on the material and working with Randy and this cast. And I love getting to act without having to go through hair and makeup.
Laurence, would you be back for Season Two?
Fishburne: Oh, absolutely. I'm very interested to see where our writer is going to go, how he's going to present it, and which stories he's going to present.
Kerry, you’re also producing Reasonable Doubt for Disney’s Onyx Collective. What should we know about that project that's coming up in September?
Washington: I’m so proud of this project. It's the first scripted series in the already Oscar-winning Onyx Collective. We're really thrilled. It's an all-Black writer's room and star, with Black directors, a Black showrunner, and Black department heads all working together to bring together this story about humanity. She’s a really complicated Black woman. She's successful and married. Her kids are knocking on their adolescence. She's multitasking and balancing a lot. And we get to watch her courageously brave her life in a messy, exciting way. And there's a thrilling mystery at the center of it.
When it comes to balancing it all, there can always be that reasonable doubt of “am I doing enough?”
Wahington: There's been this celebration of “Black Girl Magic” in the last few years, and obviously there's something to that. But I think one of the things that this show tries to unpack is, what's the real work behind the magic? Because magic isn't easy, When we have this, when we walk around in the world with this “Black Girl Magic,” it's an everyday miracle and we're making it happen. And the show is really about what it takes, what’s the cost, and what does it look like from the inside? It's just really fun and very real, and I'm super proud of it.
The Prophecy is available on Audible. Reasonable Doubt premieres Sept. 27 on Hulu.