Kelsey Grammer Talks 'Jesus Revolution' and Playing Pastor Chuck Smith
Moviefone speaks with Kelsey Grammer about 'Jesus Revolution.' "The aspects of the character I was excited to explore were things that reflect in my own life."
Opening in theaters on February 24th is the new movie ‘Jesus Revolution,’ which is based on a true story and was directed by Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle.
What is the plot of ‘Jesus Revolution?’
In the early 1970's, following the rise of the hippies, respected Southern California pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer) encounters hippie Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie) and they launch a successful movement together to evangelize hippies and others, which leads to "The Jesus Revolution,' a term coined by Time Magazine.
Meanwhile, Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney), a young man who has an alcoholic mother named Charlene (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), follows a girl named Cathe to become a hippie. But soon, both Greg and Cathe feel emotionally empty from the counter-culture movement and join Chuck and Lonnie's church, not only finding God in their lives, but also discovering the unconditional love that they have for each other.
In the 1970s, aimless teenager Greg Laurie searches for all the right things in all the wrong places until he meets Lonnie Frisbee, a charismatic hippie/street preacher.... Read the Plot
Who is in the cast of ‘Jesus Revolution?’
‘Jesus Revolution’ stars Emmy-winner Kelsey Grammer (‘Frasier,’ ‘X-Men: The Last Stand’) as Chuck Smith, Joel Courtney (‘The Kissing Booth’) as Greg Laurie, Jonathan Roumie (‘Saving Lincoln’) as Lonnie Frisbee, Anna Grace Barlow (‘Witch Hunt’) as Cathe, Kimberly Williams- Paisley (‘Father of the Bride’) as Charlene, Julia Campbell (‘Romy and Michele's High School Reunion’) as Kay, Nic Bishop (‘Body of Proof’) as Dick, and DeVon Franklin (‘The Pursuit of Happyness’) as Josiah.
Moviefone recently had the pleasure of speaking with Kelsey Grammer about his work on ‘Jesus Revolution,’ what he learned from researching Chuck Smith, portraying a real life person, and Smith’s relationship with Lonnie Frisbee.
You can read the full interview below or click on the video player above to watch our interviews with Grammer, Joel Courtney, Jonathan Roumie, Anna Grace Barlow, Kimberly Williams- Paisley, and DeVon Franklin.
Moviefone: To begin with, can you talk about your approach to playing Chuck Smith, and the aspects of the character you were excited to explore with this movie?
Kelsey Grammer: Okay, that's a good question. The aspects of the character I was excited to explore. Honestly, there would be things that reflect in my own life. It would be the fact that you feel a sense of emptiness, a sense that you're not doing something that's fulfilling or worthwhile, or connecting. Your sense of purpose is drifting a little bit. I think that's where Chuck was at this time, at the beginning of this film. Of course, then he just surrenders finally. He just says, "I've been given my answer."
He opens the doors to his church and people flood in. It's like a miracle. It's a prayer answered, and it's a magnificent thing to see what actually happened and the number of churches that were set up around the country, and the Harvest Christian Fellowship, that was set up by Greg Laurie afterward. It's a magnificent experience, and to be able to play it and to feel it, it just becomes my experience too, and it was a lovely thing.
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MF: Can you talk about the research you did for the role? Did you speak to Greg Laurie or anyone that knew Chuck, and how did those conversations help shape your performance?
KG: Most of the character came off of those pages pretty well. The script is good. It presents his dilemma and his answer in a really responsible way. What was nice was Greg Laurie was around and on the set, in a technical advisor role, but he also was invested in the message, because it's part of his life. It is his life. I got my best insights into who Chuck was, really, from the people I'd meet who knew him and they were all excited to volunteer that they knew him. People would come up and say, "It's so great you're playing Chuck. I knew Pastor Chuck. He baptized me."
I mean, they carried such excitement still with this man who really did surrender himself to the spirit of the Lord or whatever you want to call it. His energy was communicated in them and was still there. I could still see him in there. I saw him in those eyes, and they'd talk about how he had married them. Or someone would say, "Pastor Chuck did this for us." That excitement was really magnetic. I thought, "Oh, I'm proud to play him." I would find myself saying a little prayer to myself like, "I hope I'm doing you okay. I hope I'm doing you proud. I want to carry you well in this." I think we did.
MF: Finally, can you talk about Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee’s unique friendship? What was Chuck’s initial reaction to Lonnie, and how did Chuck deal with Lonnie when Lonnie’s ego got the better of him?
KG: The initial meeting, which I think, maybe it's been dramatized a little bit, but the initial meeting was when he heard the word. The word went off his head. He had asked for something, something to change his life, something that would make a difference in his life, in his church and in his pastorship and his preaching. This guy walks in and says that one thing, he says, "They're looking for God. They're a lost generation looking for God, and your doors are closed." And that's what did it.
He thought, “Okay, I’ll put my life on the line for this idea that Jesus is inclusive, that Jesus opens his heart to everyone, and the door's never closed.” That's the right thing and that made all the difference. The subsequent tension between them was because they had slightly different understandings of how to go about handling a pastorship, I guess, or handling a parish or their flock, and it grew in such astronomical numbers.
Of course, now, in my relationships with other Christians that I know, and some Christian clergy that I know, they have actually confessed to me that, yeah, healings take place. Ecstatic, magical, miracle healings do take place, and you just don't fan the flames to try to encourage them. I think that might be the thing that threw them off was that he fell in love with the idea that he had a power. If you think it's your power, then you've stepped away from God, and that can be an issue.
The other thing that (director) John Irwin told me, which was great, but I didn't quite get it, was in the scene where they have the big breakup. John came up to me and said, "You're the pastor of this church. It's your church, and if this guy starts to tell you how he's going to preach, that doesn't fly." I thought, "Oh, I mean, I didn't realize that there was that hierarchy and that understanding." He said it's decisive, because he's more aware of how the declension works in the church, how positioning works, but yeah, you don't cross the pastor. I didn't know that. So it helped me to play the scene when he told me that.
Other Movies Similar to ‘Jesus Revolution:’
- 'Easy Rider' (1969)
- 'Wildflowers' (2000)
- 'Woodlawn' (2015)
- 'Jesus Camp' (2006)
- ‘Doubt' (2008)
- 'The Shack' (2017)
- ‘The Two Popes' (2019)
- 'American Underdog' (2021)
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'Jesus Revolution' is directed by Jon Edwin and Brent Mccorkle, produced by Lionsgate, and Kingdom Story Company, and is scheduled for release on February 24th.