It’s the “ultimate comeback” story.
On Monday evening, the cast and creators of Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. gathered at Regal L.A. Live for the film’s premiere. Filmed in a satirical documentary style, the comedy follows the Childs family — Trinitie (Regina Hall) and her husband Pastor Lee-Curtis (Sterling K. Brown) — who once lead a Southern Baptist megachurch, before a scandal forced their congregation to temporarily close. In an attempt to rebuild, Trinitie and Lee-Curtis attempt to make the biggest comeback that organized religion has ever seen.
From executive producer Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. comes from twins Adamma and Adanne Ebo in their feature directorial debut, inspired by Adamma’s 2018 short film of the same name.
“I’ve been saying all night that the Ebo twins are the next titans of Hollywood,” said Conphidance, who plays Keon Sumpter in the film. “They are amazing. This is their first film and look at this!”
He’s referencing the purple carpet, along with the event’s full turnout. Prior to the arrival of talent, the carpet kicked off with a gospel choir performance by DeP Entertainment and Asher Entertainment presents: We Sing. The choir jammed out to covers of hits like Beyoncé’s “Break Your Soul” before A-listers like Peele, Daniel Kaluuya, Hall and Brown arrived on the carpet.
“It’s elevated, it’s smart, it’s nuanced and it’s also very specific,” said executive producer Dana Gills. “It’s very culturally specific. It’s very Black. And that is the Monkeypaw way. We’re always looking for projects that feel like they’re stepping into something that’s very specific thematically, but also for specific cultural groups, that then have the potential to speak universally.”
Frequent Peele collaborator Kaluuya also produced the film under the banner of his production company 59% Productions.
“Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown, they’re incredible actors,” said Kaluuya on the chemistry between the film’s lead actors. “And they give an incredible performance. They’re so experienced, and they’ve got so much to give. There’s so much more of a side to them that you don’t really get to see. It’s amazing that this [movie] is a great platform for that.”
“They have the tonal chops,” added director, writer and producer Adamma Ebo. “You know, they could do the super funny and they can also do the super dramatic and everything in between. And that’s what we needed. There’s so much improv.”
Coming off Emmy-winning dramatic performances in NBC’s This Is Us, Brown flexes his comedic talents in this film — a side to him that perhaps hasn’t been fully seen until now.
“Sterling was really giving it,” said co-star Nichole Beharie, who plays Shakura Sumpter. “It’s surprising because we know Regina for all of her comedy, and she’s funny — no one can take that away from her, she’s brilliant. But I was just surprised, from This Is Us, to see [Sterling] pulling so many colorful and off-color comments and improvisations out. It’s nice to see his range. I think people are going to be blown out of the water by them.”
“It was exhausting,” added Brown on flexing his comedic chops. “I mean, this was a fast shoot, but a full shoot, shooting six to nine pages almost every day. But I had a great scene partner [in Regina], and I love my directors and the production team. I felt supported in such a way that anything I wanted to do or try was right. There was freedom to play every day. Whenever you feel like you have freedom to play, that’s the best environment you could be in.”
And while the film is certainly a comedy, it’s also a satire, calling attention to deeper aspects of what it’s like to be a part of a megachurch congregation. In making this movie, the Ebo twins were able to explore their own questions and relationships to organized religion in a unique way.
“It was pretty freeing,” said Adamma Ebo about telling this story as a satire. “It was freeing to tackle something that isn’t necessarily new, but doing it in a way that I don’t think many people have. In a way that allowed us to come to terms with where we are with our own faith and how we feel about our own participation in organized religion.”
“I think what we want audiences to take away from this is to always ask questions,” said Adanne. “Question everything.”
“I certainly loved the themes — the megachurch, prosperity, the LGTBQIA [experience], all those themes — those are universal,” said Hall about what resonated with her the most in this film. “I think we’ve all struggled with things that maybe don’t feel right in our spirit, and [we’ve] evolved as a generation that is open minded and ready for the church to evolve. I just think having the opportunity to play characters that are complex, but also beautifully flawed and beautifully human. I think that’s what it really is. Being able to bring who you are to that, so everyone can enjoy it. I make it for everyone. I make stories to be human.”
“I feel like there are quite a few stories about the church, but not in this way,” added Beharie. “Not dealing with the taboos, not taking the risks. I think that’s the key — not making everything so pristine, so aspirational all the time, and showing all the undercurrent and the nuance and the gray areas.”
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. hits theaters and Peacock streaming service on Sept 2.