*Principal photography recently wrapped on the independent faith film “The Reason.” Based on a best-selling novel of the same name by William Sirls. The film stars Academy Award-winner Louis Gossett Jr. as Jim, a blind pastor who befriends a mysterious drifter named Kenneth (Alan Powell) who has seemingly miraculous powers.
Tatyana Ali plays a brilliant oncologist in the drama, with a supporting cast that includes Beverly Todd (“The Bucket List”), Kelly Carlson (“Nip/Tuck”), Burgess Jenkins (“Nashville”, “The Young and The Restless”), Sara Antonio (“House of Cards”), former NFLer Michael Montgomery and Jessejames Locorriere (“Ant-Man”).
“The Reason” was filmed during February and March in and around Augusta, GA, including on location at Children’s Hospital of Augusta, and is the first full-length feature to be shot in the town. The story follows several ordinary people who experience extraordinary miracles. EUR/Electronic Urban Report caught up Ali, Todd and Montgomery on the set to chat about the production, spirituality and weigh in on the age-old question that the film explores: Where is God when bad things happen?
Has working on “The Reason” forced you to question your own spiritual beliefs?
Tatyana: I think we’ve all been questioning. We’ve had deep conversations while making this film, trying to determine what the reason is, and what the take home message. You know what they say, you don’t talk about politics and you don’t talk about faith with people you just met. But we’ve had such deep, theological, philosophical and very personal conversations about what the reason is, and even our purpose as artists and the stories we tell. As an actor, you really want to make very defined choices, and we can’t judge our characters either. So, yeah – it’s been an interesting battle and balance to find.
Beverly: Not really, because this script is about everyday happenings that people have to deal with, and they’re not necessarily unusual happenings, but they do question your faith. I’ve already been down that road in my personal life. I felt the script underscored what I believe.
Beverly says she was offered the script after Lou agreed to sign on but only if producers hired Todd to play his wife. The “loving, warm, caring, kind” way in which her character was written is why Beverly accepted the role.
“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” alum Tatyana explained how this role is yet another in her career – which spans three decades – that is “teaching me something.”
Tatyana: Every person that I’ve been given to play, or every story that I’ve been a part of, either is ministering to me, and teaching me something that I need to know right now. Or is on the heels of something that I was trying to figure out and now I have to learn it, or I do it and three months later it’s like (life imitating art). It’s a pattern that keeps repeating in my life and career.
Ali confessed that playing the role of Macy in “The Reason” hit close to home, primarily because her character seeks to overcome a strong sense of pride. And not the type of pride that is encouraged. It’s the A-type personality, competitive pride that Tatyana believes may not be such an admirable quality to possess, and it’s a lesson the actress says she has had to learn.
“It’s something that I can relate to” because “it’s something I’ve had to work on very personally,” Ali admits.
Why do you believe faith-based projects are resonating so well with the audiences?
Beverly: Because nothing else has been working. The film’s today are blood and guts, and they’re not substantive in a meaningful way that you can go out and live your life by. As so, these films are real stories about real people, and people can see themselves in these stories. That’s why I think people are resonating with them because they’re about the truth and they’re a guide for how you can do it.
Have you ever experienced moments when you’ve been so angry with God that you lost or questioned your faith?
Beverly: I had a tragedy in my life, one of the worse things a parent can go through, but I didn’t get angry with God. I didn’t understand it, and I was angry with the person that was responsible. I didn’t say, ’Oh, God, why me?’ I just said, ‘Oh, God help me get through this’. I found that the only way I was able to get through it was to forgive. And once I forgave that person, then I was able to begin the healing and close that hole that was in my heart.
I was raised in the church and there’s a lot of values that I still find that guide my life, and a lot I don’t know the answers to. Sometimes I do wonder why, but I don’t get angry because we have free choice. I sometimes get angry at the choices I make, but I don’t get angry with God because he wasn’t the one that sent me down the wrong path. I did that.
Michael Montgomery plays Gossett, Jr.’s son Charlie, a child-like “protector and best friend” of the young boy at the center of the story. He landed the role after responding to an online casting call.
After Michael retired from the NFL, he transitioned into real estate, working as a realtor in Houston until the day he connected with an old teammate in Hollywood who advised him to reach out to the casting folks behind Will Smith’s 2015 sports drama “Concussion,” as the studio was seeking football players to feature in the project.
The tagline of “The Reason” is: “Where is God when bad things happen?” Can you recall a moment in your life when you pondered about the same.
Michael: Tennessee is special place for me because it is the place where my mother Rosie Walker was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2001, and Tennessee is the place where I knew my NFL career was over. Due to multiple knee injuries and surgeries, I knew I couldn’t play football anymore. I was outside the Tennessee Titans locker room asking God, ‘What am I going to do now? I don’t have anything else’. Football was all I’d known. I went back to school, got refocused, finished my degree and just luckily came upon acting and fell in love with the art and the training. God put me in this positing to be an influence to kids, with inspiration to never give up.
Former inmate-turned book author William Sirls penned the screenplay with Aviv Rubenstein and Richard Clark, Jr. The film was produced by Richard Clark, Jr., Paige Collins, Alan Powell, Derrick J. Simcox, and Jennifer Willingham, and directed by Randall Stevens. A release date for “The Reason” has not been announced.