(Photograph: A+E Network/Quantrell Colbert)
"Pastor Brown" proves that anybody can be called to serve God in a movie that takes one woman from the strip club to the pulpit.
Lifetime network is celebrating Black History Month with an all-star cast of characters, which bring a tale of redemption to life using the principles taught in the Bible like in the prodigal son parable. In the film "Pastor Brown," Jesse Brown is a preacher's daughter who left her son, father and sister while pursuing a fast life in New York City that led her to become an exotic dancer.
When Jesse's father falls ill, she is forced to return home to Atlanta to face scrutiny and her father's dying wish to take over the family church. Jesse's family struggles and faith are put to the forefront in the movie that boasts a star studded cast featuring Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Rockmond Dunbar, Nicole Ari Parker, Ernie Hudson, Tisha Campbell-Martin, Keith David, Tasha Smith, Monica Brown and Creflo Dollar.
Mount Olive Baptist church plays a major role in the movie and although Richardson-Whitfield – Jesse in the film – was raised as a Baptist Christian, she told The Christian Post that everyone can relate to "Pastor Brown."
"This woman goes on an incredible life journey … it's a great film to inspire people," Richardson-Whitfield said. "No matter what you've done in your life or how low the lows get, you can always recover and bounce back … I think that's a wonderful message to be sending."
Dunbar served as the director, producer and co-star of the film. As a seasoned actor, Dunbar has starred in well-known productions like "Soul Food," "The Game" and "Sons of Anarchy," but he told The Christian Post that one scene in "Pastor Brown" particularly impacted him.
The scene that Dunbar calls his favorite is where Pastor Brown, portrayed by Keith David, is on his deathbed. He shares a unique bonding moment with Hudson, who plays Deacon Harold Todd, and shows a moment of godly love.
"There's a moment that (they) share where you can tell that Keith David knows, 'Hey if something happens to me take care of my daughter.' (It's) how honest both of them were in recounting their friendship. You rarely see two strong black men across the board say I love you in a scene," Dunbar told CP.
"And there's nothing else put on it but that Godly love. That scene to me was so deep and so heavy. Literally Ernie Hudson came to me and said, 'Brother, this is the first time I've had [this kind of] opportunity,'" the director added. "And Keith and I were talking about it, how two men could actually have a scene this intimate together and it be this powerful. It was just powerful, it floored me."
While the power of God's love is showcased throughout the film, Dunbar admitted that the movie almost never came to light. For three years, the actor, producer and director has been trying to bring the movie to audiences after having an internal issue with an executive producer.
However, after relying on his Christian faith and praying for the individual, Dunbar will finally be able to watch the film premiere on Lifetime this Saturday at 8 p.m. If the film does well, his prayers might even be answered in the form of an extended "Pastor Brown" television series.
"If after three years the film is still viable, we did a really good job because it still stands the test of time. Most of the time you have a film that it takes so long to get out then it just goes straight to DVD," Dunbar told CP. "If the numbers [are] great, they'll turn it into a television series ... Watch it the first time because we need those numbers in order to turn it into a television series … the ideas that we have for it would be so much more viable."
Richardson-Whitfield and her family attend church regularly and spoke about the movie reflecting on the grace of God.
"My family we all go to church and God has grace for us and that is to forgive us of our sins … That's a lot of the base of what this film is about," Richardson-Whitfield told CP before speaking about the film's appeal to non-Christians. "The journey that (Jesse) goes on and the problems with her sister and her father and her son – there's a story there for anyone."
"Pastor Brown," written by Rhonda Baraka, will make its world premiere on Lifetime Saturday, Feb. 16 at 8 p.m. ET. Dunbar will be taking questions from fans before the film's premiere on Twitter if they are submitted by Feb. 14 to @PastorBrown2013.
The actor, producer and director will answer fans' questions the day before "Pastor Brown" premieres, on Feb 15.