Filling The Choir
With a sharp screenplay in place, the filmmaker went about finding the people
to bring their story to life. For many characters, they also needed to find people who could sing - and they had to be able to sing gospel music, which is no easy task. The filmmakers didn't have to wait long, though. Attracted to the film's powerful story and multi-layered characters, it was only a matter of time before a stellar cast was assembled to lend their voices to the film's "choir."
To play David, the film's central character, the filmmakers wanted someone who would draw an audience into the story, someone who could handle the range needed to play such a complex role and who could also sing convincingly enough to be a hit R&B performer. Handsome, multi-talented actor Boris Kodjoe was perfect. When he read the script, Kodjoe was immediately hooked. "I was intrigued by the character," Kodjoe says, "and I was intrigued by the notion I would have to sing, because I haven't done that before in a movie."
Though he was ready to tackle the role, Kodjoe does admit there were some challenges in signing on. "Growing up in Germany and coming here 8 years ago, I've never been a part of this culture," he says, referring to the AfricanĀ¬American church portrayed in the film. "Church at home is very different from church over here," he continues. "Gospel music is something you have to grow up with to fully understand, so I had to really immerse myself in the character and his environment. I went to the Gospel Awards and met a lot of the great gospel performers, like Donny McClurkin, Kirk Franklin, and Yolanda Adams. They all helped me get a deeper look into the character's life and what he goes through."
In addition to the role, one of the highlights of the process for Kodjoe was working with his director. "Rob is a composer," he says. "Everyone responded to his leadership, and I really admire what he's done.
"I hope this film has an impact that will touch upon the fact that religion is supposed to be a source of happiness, togetherness, and faith rather than a source of conflict," Kodjoe continues. "In the end, religion is supposed to be about everything that's common about us and everything we share mutually, like love, understanding, communication and peace."
Much of David's conflict in the film is brought about by Charles Frank, David's closest childhood friend and rival who is now looking to take over David's
father's church, and not necessarily for the right reasons. A great counterpoint to Kodjoe's David, Frank is played by actor Idris Elba.
"For a while you're not sure if you like Charles Frank," says Elba. "David travels and is a talented R&B singer and decides to go off into the big world, while my character, Charles, stays in the church. He sees David's father, Bishop Taylor, as his idol and wants to follow in his footsteps." But when Bishop Taylor chooses Charles as his successor, "Charles' ego gets bigger and he explodes into this megalomaniac and wants to change the traditional church into something it's not."
Explaining the progression of David and Charles' relationship, Elba says, "They have a love for each other. They're strong and tight in the beginning, but they've always had a rivalry and competition against each other, and as adults it's the same. It becomes more serious when it starts to involve the church and what they both know and love, and it questions how strong their faith is risen."
Like Kodjoe, Elba wasn't raised in the United States, and the world of the African-American church of the South was unknown to him. "England, where I was born and raised, has a different type of history in regards to black churches," he says. "The gospel scene here and the way it's celebrated was new to me - that's part of the reason I was so interested." He found himself transfixed by the power of gospel and enjoyed soaking up whatever he could lear
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