Brandon Michael Hall arrived as an actor with The Mayor, a show about a rapper who finds himself winning his small town's mayoral election, merely two years after graduating from Julliard. But when the script for God Friended Me arrived, this son of a pastor wrestled with his own fears about playing an atheist who starts receiving messages from God through social media that nudge the atheist to intervene in the lives of these other people.
Steven Lilien, the show's co-creator, explained to Hall that CBS wanted the show to initiate conversations about God in a new, unconventional way, taking a risk in storytelling. Hall recognized the risk, but his conversation with his minister mother ended with her telling him to be genuine, and to make the role his own. "My mom isn't an old school minister," Hall chuckled, sharing about his mother's openmindednesss and her love for helping people regardless of their background.
That foundation built Hall up, and now he's hoping to spark conversations between people of different viewpoints because of his focus on creating dialogue. "We need to respect each other's point of view," he shared. "We're not really talking to each other. We're so connected but we feel so far apart."
The show focuses on Hall's podcaster Miles, who spends his airtime dispelling the myths he sees in faith and religion. Other voices, like a rabbi friend who shares his opening scene, point to a different worldview. For Miles, the act is in playing an atheist who comes into this relationship with the social media user identifying themself as God, because his Biblical roots run deep.
Quoting Proverbs 22:6 or admitting to doing additional research on the Old Testament (there's an actual burning bush in the pilot), Hall is able to show how a Christian might see the way that the show could reach Christians and non-Christians, just like Jesus associated with Samaritans, Pharisees, and Romans, just to name a few. Hall wants to get people talking, and maybe even researching: "What does the Bible say? Why does this make sense? I don't know everything, but I can point to someone who does."
Throughout the hour-long conversation, Hall highlights his mother's teaching to be humble and bold, to be patient and work hard, through his stories about his childhood and the way he fields the dozens of questions from a group of media members and several technological issues. His vision for what God Friended Me could be is clear - even as he discusses the ways he'll return to South Carolina and pour back into young people there.
Hall believes we have a chance to raise up the next generation, to engage them in discussion, to answer their questions and raise a few of our own. He's already been the mayor, and now he has his eyes set on being the hands and feet of God.
God Friended Me debuts on September 30 on CBS.