Micah Stock stars as Kevin Franklin in FX’s Kindred, which is a television adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name. All eight episodes of the season begin streaming Tuesday, December 13, exclusively on Hulu.
FX’s Kindred is centered on “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. But, before she can get settled into her new home, she finds herself being violently pulled back and forth in time to a nineteenth-century plantation with which she and her family are surprisingly and intimately linked. An interracial romance threads through her past and present, and the clock is ticking as she struggles to confront the secrets she never knew ran through her blood, in this genre-breaking exploration of the ties that bind.
We discussed the sci-fi genre, having the book as a resource, the most interesting aspects of his character, his excitement for fans to see Octavia’s work adapted for the screen, and much more! Keep reading for our full conversation.
To start, I want to ask what attracted you to the series?
Micah Stock: Oh, so many things. I mean, right off the bat, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins was an attractive prospect to me. I knew Branden socially and as a theater artist, we worked together and so that was very exciting to me. Then, once I dove into the script and of course, sort of step-by-step read the book, got to know Octavia’s work, it sort of became this incredible amalgamation of all these wonderful reasons to do it, but that definitely started with seeing Branden’s name on an email.
As you mentioned, it’s based on a book, so I’m curious, did that affect your preparation at all or your approach, especially since you read had it?
Yeah, I mean, I think being able to go back to the book, read certain passages, and have it as a resource was a really wonderful thing. There were times when it felt like we had a lot of backstory and sort of that iceberg to draw from because we had the literary reference as well. But in terms of day-to-day work, I think it was important to sort of honor the way the television show is its own sort of property, at least as an actor because there’s a lot of similarities, I think the spine and the heart are the same, but the flesh and the organs are different. And so I think for me it was sort of like, I would go back to the book occasionally, but there were times where it’s kind of like, “Okay, I have to see, who is Kevin in our version?” But yeah, certainly, I mean, Octavia’s writing and Octavia herself were an inspiration to all of us throughout shooting.
I think it’s so interesting to see the translation to screen from different mediums. You do have to change a little bit and make it your own when it comes to a show.
I think you do, yeah. I mean, you would be doing a disservice really to the source material itself to not, especially with this novel, right? Because when Octavia Butler wrote it, the present day in the book was the late seventies. So there’s a whole sort of cultural context that’s naturally built in, but the major question is how is now mirroring the past? And so certainly Branden adapting it thought we need to move this up because the mirror is different, we’re looking at things differently. That extends both to the way in which Kevin and Dana’s relationship is different from in the book, and just the wider, broader sociological context.
What did you enjoy most about the genre? I mean, sci-fi is such a fun one to watch and do.
Yeah, I’m a self-professed nerd and so the genre certainly appealed to me. I mean, my family didn’t have much of a shared religion, but we did have a shared religion in fantasy and sci-fi novels, and that’s true to this day. So there was a huge part of me that felt like, “Oh, this is an incredible kind of convergence of my life as a fan, my life as an actor, as a theater actor, as an avid reader, as an activist in whatever ways that I’m able to be.” It just felt like a really rich prospect.
In terms of your character, what interested you the most about portraying him? Were there any challenges specific to the project or a theme you were really excited to explore?
One of the things that I liked most about Branden’s adaptation, and that I feel is present in the original novel too, is that the time travel, for lack of a better word, is realistic, which is to say that there’s no sort of tropes of, like, “I get back in the past, I’m a perfect hero and I know exactly what to do in this situation,” you know? There’s a real contemporary man, one who’s not that far away from me in a lot of ways entering into this situation. And so I think a lot of the conversation Branden and I had was, what are the ways in which he succeeds and the ways in which he fails? We don’t know that he’ll get through this, and his reasons for staying are complicated or not staying, given that unlike in the book, they’re not married.
So there’s this sort of extra tension, I think of, like, “Oh, do I stay around this person when they seem to be the cause of this incredibly terrifying experience?” That to me was the most interesting thing and that Kevin wasn’t perfect, that he didn’t respond to these things perfectly. I think it would be a disservice to think like, “Oh, he’s this sort of model, woke citizen who is fully aware of the privilege that his whiteness affords him.” Do I think Kevin is progressive and has a basic understanding of systemic oppression and racism? Yes. But it’s one thing to live in a world where those systems are somewhat invisible and then go to a world where those systems are fully on display.
Can you tease the dynamic between Kevin and Dana on the show?
I think where we meet them in the pilot is they’re both sort of open to possibility, right? We meet them in a place where it’s actually like they’re open to sort of accepting fruits into their life. Dana has moved to a new city, is sort of starting a new journey and pursuing a new existence— and Kevin too. We meet him at a time where I think he’s sort of on the upswing and so he meets this amazing woman, and I do think that it’s those few moments in life when you fall in love where you just feel you have to be around that person and you don’t know why. Maybe it’s not even love yet, you’re not even ready to call it that, but you just know that this person is significant. I think that’s a huge tether for them. Then also, of course, they start to go through something that no one else in their world can possibly understand, or at least they think they’re the only two people who this has ever happened to, and it’s hard to run away from that.
What are you most excited for fans to see from either your performance or Kindred overall?
I mean, first and foremost, it feels really cool to be strapped to this horse because Octavia always wanted her work to be adapted for the screen, and people tried for years and it was just due to the faults of our system that it never got made. And so, it’s bittersweet, I think, that she’s not here to witness this happen, and it’s not just us, right? There are multiple properties of hers that are sort of coming into fruition, we just happen to be first out of the gate. I think that’s really, really cool to feel like this is the result of not just the lifetime of her work, but a lot of people championing her work and being fans of her work. It sort of feels like this grand reward for the people who’ve been on this train for decades, right? Because this is not a new fan base, Octavia Butler is well-loved and well-regarded and has been for years.
So well said, I’m excited for everyone to see it come to life.
I am too. I mean as a fan, it’s really cool to be in something that you want to see.
Yeah, and I can tell just by listening to you talk about it how passionate you are and that you are a fan of the work.
Yeah, well, it’s easy when it’s this good, you know? It really is and I don’t mean to toot our own horn, but I’m stoked as a fan.
When I watch something, I always walk away with something, whether it’s a message or resonating with a character. When you finished filming this or even when you read the script, was there anything that really resonated with you unexpectedly?
It would be difficult to identify one because I think it was, you know, part of the evolution of filming this show was maintaining this tension that actually happens quite quickly in the timeline of the narrative of the show. We were living in that space for six months and I think that the story itself, that difficulty meant different things to different actors and to different people on the crew. That’s both, you know, in terms of obviously, the racial diversity of our company, I think that for a lot of our Black actors and Black crew members, there was a real, real sense of connection to sort of the land that we were shooting on, to the idea of their ancestry. So it’s really hard to pinpoint one, it would sort of feel like folly to reduce it to one thing, but it is a rich question.
As long as we work on this, and I hope we get to work on it for a long, long time, we will never get to the bottom of it. We’ll dig and dig, but we’re never going to scrape the bottom and that’s the gift that you get when you get a great story.