Famed actor Harry Lennix has produced a spiritual masterpiece with his new film Revival! It opens in Chicago December 7 at the Marcus Theatres in Country Club Hills.
Revival is an imaginative retelling of the gospel according to John the Apostle with contemporary gospel music with elements of Broadway and screen epic combined.
Lennix says he was inspired to produce the piece after someone asked him at New Antioch Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles what were his plans for the drama ministry.
“Immediately I thought ‘why don’t we do that old thing that we always do?’ But there was nothing outside of singing some songs or somewhat rudimentary things. I’d seen some churches do passion plays but they were always pretty sparse, going on for about 40 minutes maybe,” he says.
He adds, “I thought something substantial where you could actually tell the story, the actual story, would be unique and tailor-made to show the Black expression of faith. I looked at gospel music and the spirituals and strung together a loose narrative with the help of my co-creator, Holly Carter.”
He continues, “I had been in a seminary as a high school student and wanted to be as authentic to the story as I could, so I broke out my Latin dictionary and read it [the gospel of John] in Latin and just pieced together the story.”
Revival! opens December 7 in theaters in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Miami, Houston, Detroit, Dallas and Los Angeles. In January, it will expand to screens in Memphis, Baltimore, New Orleans, Norfolk, St. Louis, San Francisco, Cleveland, Orlando, Boston, Tampa, Indianapolis and Milwaukee.
Revival! stars Chaka Khan, Michelle Williams of Destiny’s Child, Siedah Garrett, Mali Music, T’Keyah Crystal Keymah, Dawnn Lewis, Niki J. Crawford, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Paula Newsome, Victoria Tilford and Chester Gregory.
Lennix shared how he got Chaka Khan and Michelle Williams to do the film. “Holly Carter represented Michelle and she also had a relationship with Chaka Khan through Chaka’s sister. She made a call and the next thing we knew, we were sitting with Chaka Khan and Michelle Williams. I tell Holly all the time she can get into any room. She’s been in rooms to see people I can’t. She really is quite a resource as a creator, collaborator and a mover and a shaker.”
Mali Music portrays Jesus Christ with great sensitivity. “He’s great,” says Lennix. “He’s a heck of a talent. It just so happened that Carter represented him. She was his manager. He loved the script and he said, ‘I can write the music for you.’ He does an amazing job as both a composer and as an actor.”
Lennix portrays Pontius Pilate who presided at the trial of Jesus and gave order for his crucifixion. “The actor got caught in a snow storm and couldn’t make it. Since I had written the part and it was last minute, I decided to play it.”
Lennix describes how he wants moviegoers to feel after seeing Revival! “We want them to re-engage creatively and spiritually with the message of Christ’s ministry, that He brought a message of love and peace. He confronted the traditional status quo of hierarchies. He concerned Himself with compassion and healing. He dealt with the people who needed Him most. He wasn’t in any way an elitist, on the contrary. I think at this time people are feeling very tense and unsteady and unstable about things, politically and economically, geopolitically. This is the perfect message. This is the perfect time. I want people to take away from Revival! that they are empowered to be creative spiritually.”
Lennix grew up on the South Side of Chicago at 77th and Phillips. He graduated in 1986 from Northwestern University, where he received a degree in Communications with a concentration in theater. He plans to buy a building and convert it into a state-of-the-art theater on the South Side of Chicago.
Lennix’s breakout role was Robert Townsend’s “The Five Heartbeats” in 1991. He currently stars as Harold Cooper, Assistant Director or Counterterrorism for the FBI, on the NBC drama, “The Blacklist.”
“I literally can’t go anywhere without people saying, ‘Hey, Harold Cooper,” referring to his role on “The Blacklist.” “The second most recognition is from The Five Heartbeats.”
The busy actor has a couple of upcoming projects, including a film titled Troubled Waters, where he plays a comedian sort of like Richard Pryor who is having a second chance on a career, and H4, a fresh interpretation of Henry IV with an all-Black cast.
The veteran actor is excited about the opening of Revival! “I would love for your readers to support the movie,” he told the Defender. “It’s vital that they support it early. There’s nothing like it.”
The film was directed by Obba Babatunde and Danny Green. Lennix, Carter and David C. Waite are the film’s producers. Steve Harris and T’Keyah Crystal Keymah are executive producers.
For more information, visit the website:wwwrevivalthemovie.com