Mallori Johnson lands lead role on 'Kindred' shortly after graduation

BySandy Kenyon OTRC logo
Thursday, December 15, 2022
Mallori Johnson lands lead role on 'Kindred' after graduation
Mallori Johnson lands lead role in FX series 'Kindred' now streaming on Hulu shortly after her graduation from Juilliard. Sandy Kenyon has the story.

NEW YORK -- She was a pioneer who placed African American characters at the center of science fiction at a time when few though to include them in the genre. Now Octavia E. Butler's novel "Kindred" has been adopted for TV.

It's the story of time travel and how a woman travels between today's Los Angeles and a time when slavery was the law of the land in Maryland.

What makes the limited series all the more remarkable is Mallori Johnson - the actress who plays the lead role.

Entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon said one of the greatest joys he gets in his job is the chance to discover a star of tomorrow who is here today.

Johnson arrived on the set of the show less than a year after graduating from the famed Juilliard School.

Her name is listed there along with others in her class right below a shot of Viola Davis taken when she was at the school learning her craft from professors.

And of the elite group of students at the school, very few manage to score a lead role in a limited series so soon after graduation.

"I really spent the whole time on set just learning on my feet, like trial by fire," Johnson said. "Like having no idea what it meant to lead a show."

Her demanding role in "Kindred" made the task all the more difficult. Her character moves to LA but then finds herself traveling back in time to meet her ancestors who are slaves in the South.

"It really explores historical events and challenges our ideas of historical events through the lens of science fiction," Johnson said.

This led her to a more profound understanding of the period.

"When you actually recreate it, and you really realize what it meant for people who look like you to go through that experience, to go through that trauma, it's an entirely different thing," Johnson said.

Long hours on the set left her totally drained.

"You end the day being devastated, being disgusted, being traumatized," she said.

Which made her first visit back to Juilliard all the more emotional.

"It makes me feel like it was all worth it," she said. "All that I went through filming that show, and yeah, it's exciting."

During her visit with Kenyon, Professor Richard Feldman revealed the writer in charge of "Kindred," Brandon Jacobs Jenkins, called him before Johnson was hired to ask if she was up to the task of performing such a demanding role.

"Oh yes," her former professor said. And she was.

The entire season of the FX series "Kindred" is streaming now on Hulu, which is owned by the same parent company as this station.