DeVon Franklin On 'Jesus Revolution,' Honoring His Gifts And What To Learn From The Moment In History The Film Explores
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Film , Interviews

DeVon Franklin On 'Jesus Revolution,' Honoring His Gifts And What To Learn From The Moment In History The Film Explores

In the late 1960s and into the 1970s, America was changing. Black people were demanding equal rights, women were taking a stand against sexism and inequality, and young people — no longer content to exist in the status quo, were looking for something to believe in. In their new film, Jesus Revolution, co-directors Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle spotlight the true story of Pastor Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney), Pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammar), and charismatic street-preacher Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie). These men, from varied walks of life, came together to launch a radical faith revolution. 

In the film, DeVon Franklin portrays Josiah, a TIME Magazine reporter initially reluctant to cover The Jesus Movement. Ahead of Jesus Revolution’s theatrical premiere, Shadow and Act spoke with the producer, author and motivational speaker about standing in front of the camera, why this story is so impactful today, and what we can all learn from this exceptional moment in history. 

“Listen, it was something that chose me,” Franklin said when reflecting on transforming into an actor for this film. “I didn’t necessarily choose it. My good brother, Jon Erwin, who I’ve known forever, co-wrote this script, and he co-directed the film. He and the film producer, Kevin Downes, came to me and said, ‘Our co-director Brent, really thinks you’d be perfect for this role of Josiah, the reporter that works for TIME Magazine.’ At first, I was going to say, ‘Well, you guys know I’m not an actor, right?’ But I didn’t say that.”

Once Franklin was committed to stepping into Josiah’s shoes, he did the necessary work. “I worked with an acting coach for months and really worked on understanding the history of the time and what was going on, especially with Black journalists at that time,” he explained. “And my character comes from New York to Los Angeles. So I put a lot of process in making sure that when I got on set, I didn’t embarrass them, and I didn’t embarrass myself.”

So much of what is seen in Jesus Revolution resonates with what’s happening today. Amid tumultuous times, many people are looking for connection and understanding. “I think the movie does a brilliant job of articulating exactly what’s needed,” Franklin reflected. “There’s that incredible scene where Kelsey Grammar, who plays Pastor Chuck Smith, is saying, ‘Listen, these doors of the church are going to be open 24/7. Everyone’s going to be welcome. Anyone has a problem with that; those doors are open for you too.’ And that is the message for today. The church says, ‘Come as you are.’ But truthfully, a lot of the church is built upon come as you aren’t. Because you come, dress up, and present who we want to be during the weekend. But the reality is we’re something far different. And right now, what people want is authenticity, and they want love. And that’s what the movie says. The movie says the love of Christ is available to everyone.”

Not only was making Jesus Revolution a beautiful experience for Franklin, but it also allowed him to reflect on his path and gifts. “Often we pursue a professional goal or a title, and while that is great, it creates a box,” he explained. “We are all more than whatever the title on our box says. So I learned, don’t put myself in a box. Don’t worry about how other people perceive you. Be everything. Use every gift and let people figure out what it is and isn’t. That’s not your business. I learned to explore all my gifts and not be afraid to fail. I could have done this, and it could have been terrible. I don’t think it is; y’all are going to have to be the judge of that. But living fearlessly and outside the box and not letting a label of how people see me determine who I am.”

Jesus Revolution premieres in theaters this weekend. 

Aramide A. Tinubu is a film critic, consultant and entertainment editor. As a journalist, her work has been published in Netflix’s Tudum, EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes or A Word With Aramide or tweet her @wordwitharamide.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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