Interview: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone Star Anjelah Johnson-Reyes
Posted on January 17, 2017 at 3:52 pm
“The Resurrection of Gavin Stone” is a sweet, gentle Christian romantic comedy about a spoiled, arrogant former child actor who is sentenced to 200 hours of community service following some bad behavior. He begins as a janitor for a local church and ends up being cast as Jesus in their Easter passion play. It opens January 20, 2017 at theaters across the US.
I spoke to star Anjelah Johnson-Reyes (preacher’s daughter and play director Kelly Richardson) about making the film.
Johnson-Reyes, perhaps best known for her “Bon Qui Qui” skit on “MADtv,” was delighted to play her first romantic lead role. The necklace with a key pendant she wears throughout the film is her own, given to her by her husband when he proposed. She is used to doing standup, improv, and comedy, so she really enjoyed the chance to play someone who is a bit straight-laced. In the early scenes, her hair is pulled back into a rather severe style, but as the movie continues both she and her hair get to loosen up a bit. “I was not sure how well that was going to go come off actually, but I feel like people will get the journey that she’s on and where she is starting from. She begins in this place of by the book rules and regulations and then by the end of it she’s learned to extend grace not only to others but to herself. It was my first read romantic role and I was really excited about that, just to be able to do some work on a character where I didn’t just come in for a day and be that guest star but to come in and actually be a part of the project from the beginning to the end and be a real core part of the story was a lot of fun. I wasn’t the funny character in the film, so it wasn’t really a place where I had a lot of opportunity to improvise and try to crack a joke or two. Although of course I have my natural genius comedic timing . I would stick to what was written more times than not to help guide me actually because otherwise I’ll end up trying to be the funny one.”
She got caught up in her role as the director of what appears to be a very ambitious version of the story of Christ’s life. “In the movie we didn’t actually film the entire play, but by the end of it we kind of wanted to see the whole play.”
She created a backstory for the character to give depth to her interactions with D.B. Sweeney, who plays her preacher dad. “I really just tried to think about the conversations that I would have…I was going to say with my dad but I have a different relationship with my dad so it’s definitely not that one but more the kind of conversation I guess I would have with a parental figure, my mom or somebody to where I would come in like confide in them. I really just tried to kind of put that relationship with him. I will tend to lean on the stories that I’ve built in my mind and the memories I have built in my mind for this character and then DB is just like the icing on the cake when he comes and he adds his flavor to it then it’s all fun. It really helps to build my back story of my character and being able to rely on that as opposed to my own wounds and hurt that I have experienced in my own life that I go to therapy to get rid of. I would say that one of the best piece of advice I’ve gotten from a fellow actress was, ‘Listen, you pay all kinds of money in therapy to heal those wounds and be a better person. You don’t need to be digging them up every time you are in an acting scene.'”
She hopes that audiences “would walk away from this film thinking about a person that they need to forgive in their lives and thinking about a person that maybe they need to extend grace to. And maybe it’s themselves.”