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A Talk with Actor DeVon Franklin: Finding Spirituality in ‘Jesus Revolution’

A Talk with Actor DeVon Franklin: Finding Spirituality in ‘Jesus Revolution’

The new film Jesus Revolution takes viewers on a spiritual journey. This film recreates Southern California in the 1970s at a time in which the power of faith brought together emotionally damaged youth in what would soon become a rising movement in society. 

In an interview with Black Girl Nerds, DeVon Franklin, one of the film’s stars, opened up about recreating a spiritual awakening, connecting to a greater audience, and ultimately leaving viewers with a message of finding hope and love.

What was the process like recreating a major time in history that represented what many considered a spiritual awakening?

I know the filmmakers well. I’ve known them for years and their process was years in the making. John Erwin, the co-director/co-writer of the film, had been working on this movie for close to 10 years. A part of that is getting the story right, doing the research, and getting the personal story of Greg Laurie, Lonnie Frisbee, and Chuck Wright. So it took years in order to get to a place where the movie is authentic as it is, and that just came because the filmmakers were committed to getting it right. The great script attracted an incredible costume designer, production designer, and set decorator, and all of these great artists came together to make sure that this movie was done authentically and truthfully. I was just honored to be a part of it and wanted to add and make a contribution to such an incredible opportunity.

How often did you stick to the original portrayal of historical events versus adding your own elements to the story?

This story is true, and my character is a composite of a number of journalists at the time. So I had some leeway in terms of creating that character in the backstory for the character. I did a lot of research on Black journalists in the late ’60s and Black newspapers and what was going on with the civil rights movement and what was happening politically. I really wanted to bring that research and that understanding to the portrayal of Josiah, who is a journalist I play in this film. Josiah, we come to learn, works for Time Magazine and he becomes the driving force behind contextualizing this movement. I don’t know that we would be here talking if Time hadn’t done a cover story called “The Jesus Revolution.” That cover put this movement into a historical context. So, my character is there as a composite to be the eyes and ears of the audience as we go through this journey to figure out if this is real or not. Not only do we find out that this is real, but my character also gets transformed in the process. 

Were there any challenges you faced in the production of this film?

When you do a film, there are a lot of late days and you have to adjust for weather and elements. When I arrived in Mobile, Alabama, there was a tornado. So we had the production shut down. They had to rearrange the schedule. There were some late nights. I think that one of my scenes didn’t shoot until two in the morning. With production, there are always challenges, but the key is to stay ready. So for me, I worked on my lines and made sure I knew what my intent was so whenever they said, “Hey DeVon, we’re ready,” I was ready to go. 

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This film alludes a lot to religion. How do you hope people respond to the film emotionally?

I hope the emotional response is cathartic. I’ve seen this film play with audiences all around the country already as part of the filmmaker’s pre-opening process. Wow, it resonates with people on a deep level. It reminds people of the power of love, the power of family, the power of community, and the power of Christ. It does it in a way that doesn’t preach. It doesn’t pander. It just shows and portrays. I hope people are moved emotionally and transformed and reminded that love is powerful, but it’s not just love alone. It’s love that’s backed up with action. It’s love that’s backed up with acceptance, it’s love that backs up with family. 

Because this film depicts real-life events in history, are there any parts in the film you hope resonates with viewers? 

I hope the whole thing resonates with viewers. From the beginning frame of the film to the final frame of the film, it captivated me, and it’s been captivating audiences so far. There’s so much in the film to resonate with through Greg Laurie’s story, Lonnie Frisbee’s story, and Chuck Smith’s story. There’s romance in this movie, a phenomenal love story. This is a movie for all ages, all families, all races, and all genders. This is a movie for everybody. I’m hoping that people come to see this film in theaters on February 24 and are moved by it but also to put Hollywood on notice. I want the audience to let Hollywood know, yes, we want blockbuster films in theaters, but we also want movies like Jesus Revolution too. 

What do you hope viewers take away from this film?

We have to be more loving. Love is the key and acceptance. When we can do that, we can tune out all the other noise. So often, especially in our church culture, there’s just so much noise. This movie just says, let’s cut through the noise with love and acceptance. I hope that people walk out of the theater saying, wow, that’s what love is all about. That’s what a life of Christ is all about. 

Jesus Revolution is out now in theaters everywhere.

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