“Prophecy” creator, writer and director Randy McKinnon completed the 250 page first draft of the upcoming Audible and QCODE original drama series starring Kerry Washington in just over two weeks.
In conversation with senior entertainment writer Angelique Jackson for a Variety Streaming Room presented by Audible, McKinnon revealed how the project took shape so quickly, and what inspired him to craft the audio series, which will also star Laurence Fishburne and Daniel Dae Kim.
“I was driven by this being literally a love letter to Black women, if I’m being honest,” McKinnon said. “It was just essentially this strength that I see from my mom, the people who raised me, the women who raised me … that was my north star to begin with. And I think once I had that in play, everything else sort of built out from that.”
“Prophecy” is a modern-day retelling of three Biblical stories: the Virgin Mary, Daniel in the Lions’ Den and Jonah and the Whale. After a string of mysterious events happen at the same time all over the world, hydrologist Virginia (Washington), zoo veterinarian Daniel (casting yet to be announced) and commercial driver Jonah (Kim) find themselves under investigation by a government agent, Thomas (Fishburne). The three soon realize their stories are all connected.
McKinnon explained why he tied these tales to the Bible.
“We never really got to see the second act of so many things,” he shared. “We always get to see that Mary had this immaculate conception. Mary gave birth to the son of God, but how did Mary carry her pregnancy? What happened during that time?”
“And was Joseph really okay with the fact that his wife was knocked up with the son of God?” Washington interjected, teasing the tension that a conversation like that could hold — and the types of questions this story asks.
Executive producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, who produced the project alongside Washington and her Simpson Street banner, recalled the first time he heard McKinnon’s idea.
“When I heard the pitch, I levitated out of my seat,” he said. “It felt really magical, and it felt like that every step of the way — with all the rest of the actors that have come to this process, and the production process that we’ve gone through.”
The panelists, which also included Audible Studios head Zola Mashariki, divulged behind-the-scenes details of the eight episode series and discussed the unique opportunity that audio storytelling provides to creators, without the confines of filming locations, budget restrictions or hair and makeup.
“I came to audio from a career in film and TV, and it is so exciting to be partnering with the listeners’ imagination — that four people could hear the same story and the world that they build in their mind is totally different, and each one, so dynamic,” Mashariki said. “There’s things you can’t do with brick and mortar that we can do in audio.”
As a producer, Washington relished that freedom. “I’m not thinking, ‘Oh, we don’t have the budget for that,’ or ‘No, we won’t be able to fit that crane in there,'” she explained. “There’s none of that. You can just fly; you can let your imagination soar.”
Another benefit to the partnership was Mashariki and the Audible team’s commitment to diversity.
“This story is so big, because these phenomenons are unfolding all over the globe, so we have actors with accents and ethnicities that really represent the globe,” Washington said.
Because this is an audio-only production, she noted, “You can do a project very quickly and have the sounds and the cultures and the vibes and the identity for a global story in such a phenomenally fast and flourishing way.”
“Prophecy,” the first of three upcoming collaborations between Audible and Simpson Street, is set to premiere later this year.
“We’re in the lab, trying to figure out some more to bring ASAP, because it has been really such a positive experience and so much fun,” Washington added. “I really think the sky’s the limit when it comes to audio.”
Watch the full conversation above.