The actress couldn’t contain her excitement when sharing news of the Lifetime movie’s airing with EUR’s Lee Bailey. According to Richardson-Whitfield, the project’s delay stemmed from “some issues with one of the producers.” Despite the setback, the entertainer is “very happy” with “Pastor Brown” finally seeing the light of day.
“I put a lot of my heart in to this film and I’m happy that a lot of people are gonna finally get to see it,” she said.
Originally slated for a 2009 release, “Pastor Brown” centers on Jessica “Jesse” Brown (Richardson-Whitfield), a wayward preacher’s daughter who returns home to take over as pastor of the family church after her father’s (Keith David) death and is forced to face her sordid past and mend fences with her son (Michael B. Jordan) and sister (Nicole Ari Parker).
Others featured in the Rockmond Dunbar-directed vehicle include Tisha Campbell-Martin, Amir Rahim, Ernie Hudson, Tasha Smith, Michael Beach and Dunbar himself.
Although she plays one person, Richardson-Whitfield’s role embodies two different mind states by playing a woman who transformed from a stripper to a church pastor. Dual personalities aside, Richardson-Whitfield had no trouble getting into character in light of her growing up in a Baptist church.
“This was not a foreign subject for me as far as once we got into the church stuff. I know what that is,” she stated. “I know what it’s like to watch all those preachers preaching and what sort of that rhythm is, especially in the Black church like that. I know about the women who are the “church women” who are supposed to be living by the Bible and being very Christian but sometimes aren’t necessarily like that. And then you also have the good people.”
As for getting into stripper mode, luck was on Richardson-Whitfield’s side as “Pastor Brown” came along as the acting veteran just began taking Sheila Kelly’s S Factor pole dancing classes.
“I had literally been taking them for a few months. So I was like ‘great’ and we were about to do this,” Richardson-Whitfield recalled. “I found actually a stripper to work with me even harder. And so I was prepared for that too. So it just kind of came at a perfect time for me.”
“You know it’s very easy for people to lose their way in this world. And I think that that is really what the movie is about. It’s that no matter, and it should be this way, no matter how low you’ve gone in your life, if you decide to make a change and repent and ask God for forgiveness and change your life, God is always there and willing to give you that opportunity. And that’s really why she’s given this opportunity,” Richardson-Whitfield said. “And at the end, they’re not saying that she can’t. They didn’t say she’s gonna take over the church. They’re giving her an opportunity to prove herself and give a speech and in the film she knows that this probably may not be the place she’s supposed to be. And it is her father’s church. It is her family’s church.”
All in all, redemption is something Richardson-Whitfield feels many people can identify with. No matter where you’re at in life.
“There are people who are very accomplished people who do the wrong thing and get pulled in to the wrong situation all the time in their life and they find their way back,” the former “Eureka” star stated. “I think that that’s why it’s a wonderful universal story because, especially in this day and time, a lot of people find themselves in situations that they never felt they would be in.”
In the coming months, look for Richardson-Whitfield to develop two projects as well as engage in directing, as evidenced by a Mekhi Phifer-produced pilot she helmed. The Chicago native is hopeful that viewers’ support of “Pastor Brown” will give way to more small-screen projects featuring talented Black actors.
“Lifetime is doing a great job of putting some quality Black films on with good people and we need to support,” she said. “When they put these films out we need to watch them so that they make more of them and they know that we will come and they will get the ratings. And if we don’t, if people don’t then they’re not gonna make them.
“Pastor Brown” – starring Salli Richardson-Whitfield – premieres at 8:00pm ET/PT Saturday (Feb. 16) on Lifetime.
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