In just a few days, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. heads to theaters and Peacock. The Adamma Ebo-directed feature follows Trinitie Childs and Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs, the heads of a prominent megachurch embroiled in a scandal that forced them to temporarily close their doors. Now, they must work to rebuild both their reputation and their congregation.
Ahead of the film’s release, we had the chance to chat with Nicole Beharie, who plays Shakura Sumpter in the film. Beharie has starred in a number of films, as well as guest starred in various TV series. Most recently she appeared in the shows Scenes from a Marriage and Little Fires Everywhere. She also starred in FOX’s Sleepy Hollow. Her most recent film role prior to Honk for Jesus. is in the 2020 film Miss Juneteeth.
Read on to find out what Beharie had to say about working on Honk for Jesus.
Note: This interview was edited for clarity.
Nerds & Beyond: To kick things off, what drew you to this film and your role as Shakura Sumpter?
Nicole Beharie: I’ve never seen anything like this. You drive around America, there are churches on every other corner – if not every corner – and I don’t think anyone’s ever dared to cover some of these topics, or even like poke at it a little bit So I just thought it was really interesting, but also done with a lot of skill with the most brilliant people, you know, with Sterling [K. Brown] and with Regina [Hall]. It doesn’t really get any better.
Nerds & Beyond: Like the Childses, the Sumpters are also pastors of a growing church, but I think they’re also the voices of a younger, fresher, generation. And they pose a really terrific challenge for the Childses, I think. Can you speak a little bit on why you think the Sumpters are such an important foil to the Childses?
Nicole Beharie: Yeah, they’re the future. They’re sort of like analog versus digital, you know. It’s like we have different ideas, we wanna incorporate the community more. They want to be more transparent but that doesn’t come without the same level of ambition, you know. [laughs] And I think that’s what’s really interesting, is the more you see them you’re like, “Wait. I think she’s pretty cunning, too, actually.” I think that’s the thing. Also in my process of preparing, I got to see sort of examples by going to virtual churches, like kind of tuning in and seeing Sunday service online. And I saw that this is actually kind of the way things are, like it’s the way that the church world is heading in a way, a lot of co-pastoring with couples. More inclusion as well.
Nerds & Beyond: Sort of building on that, I did get a kick out of watching the Sumpters have these assertive yet passive aggressive interactions with the Childses. I thought that was just so funny. So, along with sitting in on services, how did you go about striking the right tone as far as [those scenes] go?
Nicole Beharie: I just think that was fun to do. We all know what that is, you know. If you get to be in a comedy and actually do it with genius actors, with genius comedic actors like Regina and Sterling… yeah. I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s a whole lot of research in that. And like, we all know how to be nasty nice [laughs] and actually show it. I think that’s the cool thing about this, is in other situations you have to hide it, but we get to show our slip a little bit.
Nerds & Beyond: What is something that you hope viewers take away from this film in general?
Nicole Beharie: I hope they have a good time, really. Maybe some questioning but have a good time, and also see the humanity in people who – these are human beings who are leaders, you know, in the leadership positions at church. They’re human beings. They’re human beings and they have a lot of things going on, and there’s a lot of responsibility. So this is a little peek into that from a comedic standpoint. But that’s what I hope. But also that people have a good time. It’s a good ride.
Nerds & Beyond: What are you most proud of with this film?
Nicole Beharie: I think I’m most proud of it being a departure for me, like getting to actually play, getting to go toe-to-toe in a comedy with some really fun people. And then we got to sing, which was kind of funny. It’s strange singing [laughs] but like getting to do other things. This is kind of… it’s the dream as an actor to able to shake it up a little bit.
Thank you to Nicole for taking the time to chat with us! Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. releases in theaters and Peacock on September 2. Stay tuned for our review, and find our interview with writer/director Adamma Ebo and producer Adanne Ebo here. Check out the trailer below: