Sterling K. Brown Gets Deep on His Controversial Pastor and That Awkward Bedroom Scene in Honk for Jesus

SPOILER ALERTDo not read if you have not watched “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.”

After playing Randall Pearson on NBC’s “This Is Us” for six seasons, Sterling K. Brown was ready to play a completely different character. So, he took on Lee-Curtis Childs, a closeted pastor accused of sexual misconduct who’s relaunching his church, in Adamma Ebo’s satirical comedy “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.”

Styled as a mockumentary, the film follows Lee-Curtis and his wife’s struggle to reopen their church and the public backlash from Lee-Curtis’ scandal. Regina Hall co-stars as Trinitie Childs, who’s also mired in the controversy as she’s forced to stand by her husband. After the #MeToo movement, the movie echoes many stories of real-life celebrities held to account for their bad behavior, but it now hits home even more as those figures attempt to re-emerge into public life.

Brown and Hall play off each other as a picture-perfect Christian couple when the movie-in-a-movie documentary cameras are rolling, but behind closed doors their marriage is on the rocks. “Honk for Jesus” juxtaposes these comedic and dramatic moments by changing the aspect ratio of the frame, going from an “Office”-style handheld camera and first-person interviews to a wide-lens shot for a more serious shift. Hilarious scenes, like Lee-Curtis and Trinitie singing the Atlanta anthem “Knuck if You Buck” or a repeatedly failing a baptism, are starkly contrasted with moments where Lee-Curtis struggles with his queer temptations or is confronted by a young man he once sexually harassed.

Brown explained his process of playing a flawed character like Lee-Curtis and whether or not the character should be allowed to make a comeback to public life.

What made you want to take on a character like Lee-Curtis?

There’s a natural theatricality that he has, which necessarily makes him different than Randall. Coming off six years of a show, trying to show a different color is important. For Lee-Curtis, the struggle is being LGBTQ and not being able to articulate that in the name of being a child of God, the complexities of wanting to be of service authentically and then having to deny full expression of who you know yourself to be. 

How did you decide while filming when the movie would switch aspect ratio?

There was always just asking the question, “Who are we performing this for? Is this for the documentary film crew?” Sometimes the doc crew is there and we know, “Are they shooting? Are they not shooting?” Regina and I were always trying to make sure we knew who exactly we were performing for because it affected our characters differently. When the doc crew was filming, she becomes more wary and he becomes more confident. He just loves to to peacock.

How many different sides to Lee-Curtis did you have?

Lee-Curtis when he’s around young men is going to be a very specific version of him, in the pulpit is very different, when the doc cameras first come. There’s this unbridled enthusiasm, like “They’re about to see the ultimate comeback.” Then there’s Lee-Curtis with his wife alone, and there’s different versions that occur there, especially the bedroom scene — you can’t call it a love scene. 

Why would you not call it a love scene? 

They’re two people who love each other. Under different auspices they could be best friends. Because they miss each other sexually, it’s a heartbreaking scene. As soon as we read it, both Regina and I were like, “This one hit me in the freaking stomach” because you want to see that these folks are good in every setting you put them in. Then you realize this doesn’t work for them. They’ve tried to force a square peg into a rectangular hole — pun not intended, but kind of. The whole idea that they can only connect when he can’t see her, it breaks my heart.

And it’s a double entendre that they’re trying to have missionary sex. What was that day on set like?

First of all, the covers were real, real hot. I’m gonna be honest with you, “I was like, I gotta throw this shit off, man. I’m sweating here.” You hate to sweat on your co-star, beads of sweat popping off on your girl. I remember that acutely. I think the missionary pun is unintentional, but intentional in that it is considered the holy way, face to face being able to take each other in fully and completely. For Lee-Curtis to be able to fully take her in a lustful way, it doesn’t work. He’s as mad at himself as his wife is. He is an individual who does not see himself as queer, but sees himself with a particular struggle that he needs to work on to eliminate. He wants to be straight and loving with his wife, and the fact that he can’t kills him.

How did you approach the basketball scene where it’s first revealed that Lee-Curtis is queer?

Lee-Curtis is like a moth to a flame, burnt by the fire. He truly wishes to be of service to young people and mentor them. The purity of his intention becomes muddied the closer he gets in proximity to the young men. His flesh is activated at the same time as his desire to do the right thing is. Depending on the day, cologne or how much scruff the young man has on his face will determine which one of those things wins out — the purity of his intentions versus the lustfulness of the flesh. You see someone who’s trying to find the right vessel to put everything into so that he can do God’s work. But like he says later on in the film, “I did try to help you. You may be beyond what I can personally do for you, so I have to remove myself from the situation.” But he’s not very good at removing himself from the situation. He likes and appreciates feeling attractive and attracted to young men.

Do you believe that Lee-Curtis actually wanted to be a better person?

I absolutely believe that. Lee-Curtis is a Christian. He recognizes his sinful nature, that we are all sinners. It’s not a matter of how many times you fall down, it’s how many times you get back up. He has seen how his sermons can impact people’s lives, and he takes joy in knowing that he has done God’s work. I don’t think he’s paying lip service. He really wants to do the right thing, and sometimes puts himself into situations — you know that person who’s like, “I’m trying to stay off of sweets, but I just like walking through the candy store for old time’s sake.” Why are you walking through the candy store? Go to the farmers’ market. He does not always make the smartest choices, but a lot of us do the same thing. 

Do you think he should be allowed to make a comeback? 

That’s the first time I’ve been asked that. That’s a good question. I believe in forgiveness, but forgiveness doesn’t mean necessarily total acceptance and things go back to the way that they were. If I were a congregant, I’m probably not going to go back to that church. I think he deserves forgiveness, and maybe the constituency of his congregation has to be one that doesn’t provide temptation. 

Read More About:

Source: Read Full Article