Stars of new faith-ori­ented se­ries ‘God Friended Me’ find it heav­enly.

Ac­tors Hall, Beane say the chance to work in faith-ori­ented se­ries has been en­light­en­ing

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - BELIEF - By Rick Bent­ley

LOS AN­GE­LES — The new CBS drama “God Friended Me” sug­gests that at least some­one with a so­cial-me­dia pres­ence call­ing them­selves “God” works in mys­te­ri­ous ways.

Out­spo­ken athe­ist Miles Finer (Bran­don Micheal Hall) re­ceives a friend re­quest on so­cial me­dia from “God.” He en­lists the help of Cara Bloom (Vi­o­lett Beane), an on­line jour­nal­ist suf­fer­ing from writer’s block, and his best friend, Rakesh Sehgal (Su­raj Sharma), a some­time hacker, to deal with the tasks set forth through the post­ings. Along with do­ing good deeds, the three try to fig­ure out who is be­hind the re­quest.

Be­ing part of “God Friended Me” means more to Hall and Beane than star­ring roles in a TV se­ries. This is a pro­gram that has pushed the two ac­tors to pon­der big­ger ques­tions about faith and, at times, a lack of faith.

Hall calls work­ing on “God Friended Me” as be­ing “en­light­en­ing.”

“This char­ac­ter is so far from who I am, I have to step into his shoes to have an un­der­stand­ing of what it means to be an athe­ist,” Hall says. “It is mind-blow­ing to me that CBS is al­low­ing us to show that nar­ra­tive. For me, it is great to step into some­one else’s shoes so that I can ques­tion my­self.”

He didn’t have to re­search the faith side as he was raised by a sin­gle mother who was a preacher in South Carolina. Hall likes that the se­ries will start con­ver­sa­tions about re­li­gion. Work­ing on the show has made him con­tinue to gain a closer re­la­tion­ship with how grounded he is spir­i­tu­ally.

Hall comes to the CBS drama af­ter star­ring in the short­lived ABC com­edy “The Mayor.” His other cred­its in­clude “Search Party,” “Mon­ster Party,” “Un­for­get­table,” “Broad City” and “The Char­ac­ters.” He com­pares the quick can­cel­la­tion of “The Mayor” to the theme of “God Friended Me,” which is find­ing and re­con­nect­ing your faith in hu­man­ity and what the world has to of­fer.

“When a great show like ‘The Mayor’ is swept un­der­neath the rug a lit­tle bit, it puts me in a place of, ‘Well, if that’s not what the peo­ple want, then what is it that I can do to make change and have an im­pact?’ The path has been very much find­ing my faith again and re-cre­at­ing that own­er­ship again,” Hall says.

Beane, a Texas na­tive who is best known for play­ing Jesse Quick on the tele­vi­sion se­ries “The Flash,” has never had an act­ing role that makes her think as much as work­ing on “God Friended Me.” That is what she sees as the real power of the new CBS drama.

“In my own life, in my own cir­cle of friends, I am dis­cussing the topic of re­li­gion and faith more than if I wasn’t on this show,” Beane says. “I think that is ac­tu­ally what is great about the show. Peo­ple are go­ing to be sit­ting at home with their fam­i­lies or friends watch­ing the show. They are go­ing to be open­ing up a di­a­logue that maybe they aren’t even aware they are open­ing up.

“It brings this ques­tion to the fore­front and will make peo­ple think about these things.”

Even if the viewer doesn’t want to pon­der the re­li­gious im­pli­ca­tions pre­sented, the power of the rip­ple ef­fect is made very clear. This is a sit­u­a­tion where one per­son’s ac­tions im­pact an­other, and what that per­son does touches some­one else.

Beane knows about the rip­ple ef­fect from per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence. She points to a day when she walked into her agent’s of­fice in Austin to give the staff cook­ies be­cause she had just landed a job. Her ar­rival came at the ex­act mo­ment she met the per­son who would be­come her man­ager. That took her to roles in the film “Truth or Dare,” plus the TV shows “The Left­overs,” “The Res­i­dent” and “Chicago P.D.”

Now Beane and Hall are star­ring in a se­ries that’s be­ing com­pared to pro­grams such as “Touched by an An­gel,” “High­way to Heaven,” “Seventh Heaven,” “Early Edi­tion” and “Joan of Ar­ca­dia.” They are both OK with “God Friended Me” be­ing men­tioned in the same breath as those faithori­ented se­ries.

Beane says, “I think peo­ple latch onto that idea be­cause they feel a cer­tain way about it. If that makes them watch the show, I think that is great be­cause the show is go­ing to open up con­ver­sa­tions. We are com­ing from a lot of dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, and if peo­ple want to com­pare it to other shows, that is fine.”

Hall adds he loves be­ing com­pared to pro­grams that not only made peo­ple think, but spent years do­ing that. He is not OK with the sug­ges­tion “God Friended Me” is about an­gels do­ing good work, be­cause all of the char­ac­ters are real peo­ple who are just be­ing guided by some­one on so­cial me­dia to help oth­ers.

CBS

Bran­don Michael Hall plays an out­spo­ken athe­ist who is friended by God on so­cial me­dia on “God Friended Me.”

CBS

Vi­o­lett Beane of Austin stars as on­line jour­nal­ist Cara op­po­site Bran­don Micheal Hall as Miles in the CBS dram­edy “God Friended Me.”

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