You might recognize Yaani King from shows like Mad Men and Saving Grace, and now you can see the talented actress on Lifetime’s upcoming two-hour event Deliverance Creek from best-selling romance novelist Nicholas Sparks.
The original movie, which is Sparks’ first television event and essentially a backdoor pilot in hopes of telling even more of this period story, revolves around a group of men and women living two years into the Civil War. Not only do they face the struggles of the war, but also the uncertainties of life. Lauren Ambrose plays leading lady Belle Gatlin Barlowe, whose family is tested in more ways than one, especially when she has to decide whether to become an outlaw in her town of Deliverance Creek, Missouri.
As for King, she plays Kessiah “Kessie” Washington, a slave living on a cotton plantation in Arkansas. Like Belle, Kessie is all about taking risks and ensuring the safety of her husband and sons — even if it means taking extreme measures.
I was lucky enough to chat with King about her role and the project, where she compared it to FX’s hit series Sons of Anarchy — it too features strong, independent and influential women. Check out what she had to say!
Honest Reviews Corner: To start, I was lucky enough to screen Deliverance Creek the other day, so I know quite a bit about your character. For those unaware, or for those who have to wait to watch the movie, how would you describe your character?
Yaani King: Kessie is a woman who has found herself in a period of time that she knows she does not belong and has decided to take her knowledge and her quick wit and put it to use and get her family out of this terrible situation. She’s trying to survive. She’s trying to find a better life — for her husband and her children by any means necessary. [She’s] willing to do whatever she has to do to achieve that.
HRC: What I enjoyed so much about Kessie is that she’s willing to take all kinds of risks when it comes to herself and her family. She’s a very strong, influential woman. Did playing Kessie influence you at all? Is that what intrigued you about joining Deliverance Creek?
King: Absolutely. Reading her character from the beginning was so exciting, and I remember just auditioning for it and wanting it so bad because this is a rare opportunity to play this type of woman. Being African American and to be able to play someone from this time period and tap into that and who she is and how smart she is and quick-witted — she’s always the smartest person in the room, but she doesn’t necessarily always let on to that, which I think also is a really smart plan on her part. It was exciting to be able to jump into those shoes and give her her life.
HRC: Obviously, this isn’t the first project to focus on the Civil War, so how would you say Deliverance Creek differs from other stories that take place during this time period?
King: Well, I think, first and foremost, we follow the female lead perspective here. Belle Gatlin Barlowe played by Lauren Ambrose, [she] does an amazing job (laughs). A lot of the war movies that we see are from the men at war and that perspective, and I think it’s nice and refreshing to see this is what’s going on at home. Her [Belle] husband’s away at war and she is ready and has to defend and protect her family and her land, at any cost, and what that looks like. Of course, it’s Nicholas Sparks, so there’s some love and romance in there (laughs), but it doesn’t take away — I feel like it’s a fine balance that both stories play the action and suspense and the drama of it all with some love and some romance in there.
You know, the story’s about this woman that is ultimately trying to survive and the people that come in and out of her life. When Kessie and Belle meet and what that looks like. These are two women who don’t realize they have very similar pasts and desires and how they have to work together. I think that’s something we’ve never seen before. It’s about time we do, because I think it’s a great story to tell.
HRC: Do you think we’ll see more Deliverance Creek?
King: The goal here is that we get enough viewers and we get enough people watching that it does become a series. So, that is our hope — from our end of it that it does become something that is a weekly event that people will get to watch and participate in. There’s so much story left to be told from every character’s point of view. Of course, that was done quite on purpose to see what the response would be — do you want to see more about these characters and where they go and how they develop?
HRC: Lastly, why would you encourage others to watch Deliverance Creek?
King: I think it’s a great ride. I think it’s something that we don’t have happening on television right now. In the beginning, we’ve got tons of action and some gunslinging. I was talking with my husband the other day about it and it has a similar feel to Sons of Anarchy, but you just take out the bikes and put in horses. It’s these outlaws that are coming from a small town, defending themselves and trying to survive by any means necessary. Then, you’ve got these really strong female characters that just compliment these guys and can ride alongside them, and I think that’s something we need to see more of. It’s just some really cool stories and some great characters. I think it would just be a fun watch.
Deliverance Creek premieres Saturday, Sept. 13 at 8/7c on Lifetime.