God Friended Me star Brandon Micheal Hall has been on a roll. Almost as soon as he graduated from Juilliard, he landed a regular role on the TBS comedy series Search Party. He then went on to star in his own comedy on the ABC network The Mayor. Though a critical favorite, it lasted just one season. Then, Hall got a call from his representatives telling him that CBS wanted a meeting with him. They ended up offering him the starring role of Miles Filner in the new drama, God Friended Me.
In a nutshell, Hall describes God Friended Me as, “an uplifting drama about a young, outspoken atheist who is befriended by God on Facebook and he joins with his friends Cara (Violette Bean) and Rakesh (Suraj Sharma) to track down who is behind the God account.” The God account interrupts Miles' normal life and coerces him to, in one way or another, help others. They are usually people who are in some sort of crisis. In the series premiere, God directs Miles to a man in distress who Miles ends up saving from jumping in front of a train, just in the nick of time.
Like his character, Hall has had his own wild experiences on social media. He recalls a strange coincidence that unfolded around his Instagram account several years ago while he was starring as Courtney Rose in The Mayor, a struggling young rapper who runs for mayor to help promote his mixtape and ends up winning. “Funny enough,” Hall says, “I had a twenty-five year old mayor [reach out to me on Instagram]--I think he was from Alabama. His name was Brandon as well.”
“He was like, 'you’re basically telling my entire life story; you should give me a call.' I called him and everything that we had talked about in The Mayor was what he had done to become the youngest African-American mayor in Alabama. It really blew my mind.”
Doing a show like God Friended Me at a time when the world is in the midst of a great deal of social upheaval is significant. It’s very premise goes to the heart of the type of existential questions many people will be asking themselves in this time of vast social and political change. Hall sees his role as an actor is to provide some relief from the harsher realities of everyday life. “I’m hoping people can have an hour out of their day they can have the opportunity to watch something that will uplift them and give them a sense of hope."
The similarities between Hall and his character are endless. Though he's actually quite devoted to his faith in contrast to the atheist Miles, both grew up with parents who were preachers. On the show, Miles' father is Rev. Alfred Finer (Joe Morton). Hall's mother was a Southern Baptist preacher for many years but has retired. “She left the church,” he explains, “Because of the boundaries stemming from being a woman.” He says she now considers herself, "More of a motivational speaker since she has left the church." Still, familiarity with the church culture, he admits, was a huge attraction for him to the role. "As someone who grew up in the church, it’s interesting to play someone so different from who I am. It’s brought me closer to my beliefs.”
Another similarity Hall has with his character is having a sister who's got his back. Javicia Leslie plays Ali Filner, the sister who tries to their father be more supportive of Miles, despite their faith differences. Likewise, Hall has a ride-or-die sis named Octavia. “Growing up with Octavia, she’s my rock, she was my best friend, my ace boon," he says of his older sister who is also a singer. "She also paved the way for me to feel comfortable pursuing the arts.”
His turn toward the performing arts wasn't necessarily intentional, though it happened fairly early in his life. He says, “Originally, theater was just a way for me to get all my energies out.” Eventually, he realized, "This was the thing I needed to do.”
Now, he's starring in a heartstring-pulling hit alongside the legendary Morton. “I like to describe working with Joe as what it would be to train with Muhammad Ali in his prime," Hall says of the Scandal star. "You know you’re gonna have so much fun out of the ring because of who he is. He’s so open and mesmerizing and when we work, we work!”
When he's not working, the South Carolina native is taking time to get to know Brooklyn, where the show is filming. “I love exploring,” he says, recounting an experience he had at Refinery 29's proto-psychedelic interactive art installation 29Rooms. “I just love exploring the city and when I’m not, I love making music.”
Though more actors than not struggle through long stretches of unemployment and under-employment in Hollywood, Hall admits that in nabbing three great roles in a row right out of school, he has been fortunate. It’s no less scary though, when tasked with finding the next project, no matter how well things went before.
“It’s a humbling experience actually,” he says. “Once The Mayor was done, I was back at Ground Zero. I had to get back and start hustling again. I had the backing of being on a network show and coming out of Julliard, but at the end of the day, there were a lot of roles I went in for that I did not get. So it put me back in the position of everyone else and reminded me of the amount of work I have to do to maintain."