Sebastian Stan exploded when he became the Winter Soldier in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the actor had been working in Hollywood long before his days suiting up next to Captain America. One of his early projects was Kings, an NBC series that unfolded the biblical story of King David in a modern setting, and it is available now for purchase on Amazon.
Sebastian Stan was part of the ensemble in Kings, an ambitious NBC drama that retold the tale of King David from the Old Testament.
Kings aired from March to July of 2009. Though it only ran for one season, this ambitious series creates an enthralling story world that comments on modern technology, social issues, and politics.
It is set in the fictional, modern-day kingdom of Gilboa, a monarchy ruled by Ian McShane’s King Silas Benjamin. Sebastian plays Silas’s son, Jack, a closeted homosexual who toils over the murky future of the throne. During a battle with a warring nation, Jack is rescued by a soldier called David, played by Christopher Egan, who proceeds to take down a Goliath-class tank single-handedly.
David slaying the Goliath becomes an instant headline, and David finds himself entrenched in the royal court. Sebastian Stan broods in his role as the jealous heir when signs begin pointing to David’s divine appointment as Gilboa’s next king.
As David rises to fame, he navigates political corruption, assassination plots, a scandalous romance with the king’s daughter, and a reckoning with his emerging destiny as a ruler. The characters of Ian McShane, Christopher Egan, and Sebastian Stan serve as counterparts to the biblical figures King Saul, David, and Jonathan.
They are joined by Susanna Thompson as Queen Rose Cross Benjamin, Allison Miller as Michelle Benjamin, the princess of Gilboa, and Eamonn Walker as Reverend Ephram Samuels. Their biblical counterparts are Ahinoam, the wife of Saul, Michal, the first wife of David, and the prophet Samuel.
Sebastian Stan’s character, Jack, is the modern counterpart to Jonathan, the son of King Saul, while Ian McShane is saul’s equivalent, King Silas Benjamin.
David and Jonathan forge a deep bond throughout their biblical account, but in Kings, Sebastian Stan cuts with a villainous edge as Jack Benjamin. The character brims with frustration, desperate to find where he fits in his kingdom, his family, and the world.
As Jack wrestles with his sexuality and identity, he lashes out in anger and spite, often with tears in his eyes. Sebastian Stan turns in a layered performance that sparkles with pain and depth, portraying a man whose life fell apart the day it was saved.
Sebastian Stan is just one part of a stand-out cast. Kings is packed with powerhouse performances, none quite so memorable as Ian McShane’s work as King Silas. Kings creator Michael Green wrote the part with McShane in mind but was doubtful that the show could land such a high-profile actor. McShane loved the script, and after his positive TV experience with HBO’s Deadwood, he agreed to join the cast.
Even with actors like Ian McShane and Sebastian Stan, Kings failed to find an audience. Its run on NBC was tumultuous, shifting its airtime around until its eventual demise. Those close to the project called the show’s inability to pick up steam a failure of marketing.
NBC excluded the biblical slant of Kings from its marketing, leaning on its alternate reality politics instead. It was difficult for audiences to grasp what the show really was, and after a dismal premiere, Kings was destined to die young from the day it began.
Kings only ran for one season, but those who watched it tended to love it. Some criticized the series as pretentious and soapy, but others embraced it for the exact same reasons. Its life was cut short, but the failure of Kings did nothing to slow down actors like Sebastian Stan.
Even with actors like Ian McShane and Sebastian Stan, Kings failed to find an audience.
In 2010, Sebastian Stan followed the show with parts in Hot Tub Time Machine and Black Swan, as well as a reprisal of his Gossip Girl role. Everything changed for Stan in 2011 with the release of Captain America: The First Avenger, in which he played Captain America’s best friend, Bucky Barnes.
TV appearances on shows like Political Animals and Once Upon a Time bridged the gap to Stan’s next Marvel film, which resurrected his character as the Winter Soldier, a role he continues to play a decade later.
Sebastian Stan will hit the big screen again this month with Dumb Money, the true story of the GameStop stock boom. The film marks yet another collaboration between Stan and director Craig Gillespie; the pair previously made I, Tonya and Pam & Tommy together.
Kings burned fast and bright. This early work from Sebastian Stan is must-see material for fans of the actor, and you can buy this late 2000s drama now on Amazon.