Because of the nature of my job, I get to see a lot of shows and films.
And in all honesty, there are too many “so-so-plain-average” shows out there; very few had me hooked as “Messiah” did. So instead of watching the show while ironing my clothes for the next day, or meal prepping for the week, I was glued to the couch until I finished the 10 episodes in just two days. That’s why I got so excited when I got invited to an intimate reception Netflix organized with the cast and crew.
The “Messiah” is a Netflix show that follows a CIA officer (Michelle Monaghan) investigating a man who is alarmingly attracting too much international attention and too many followers through some “miracles” and it’s her mission to uncover whether he is really a divine entity or just a really good con artist with a dangerous political agenda… And that’s what’s so engaging about the show. You can’t tell which one of the two options he is…
First I chatted with Jane Adams who plays Miriam Keneally, a very dedicated journalist who wants to get to the truth of the matter and follows the Messiah and his story everywhere he goes; from the border with Israel, to a town in the middle of Texas, to Washington DC, and I asked her if Miriam, the experienced reporter she plays, thinks if he is the Messiah or not. “Honestly she doesn’t know. As a good journalist she wants to be impartial in her storytelling and not let her believe systems to dictate one thing or the other. She is genuinely intrigued and can’t figure it out yet.” That makes two of us.
Then I got to sit down with Mehdi Dehbi, the actor who plays the Messiah himself. He has an enigmatic smile and a deep calm gaze, and just like his character, he seems to be able to read through you. I tell him, he probably played one of the most difficult roles one can play, a Messiah in an era of contradictions; people are as skeptical as ever but in need to believe in someone or something, at the same time.
How do you prepare for a role like this?
“You have to do a lot of work on yourself first, meditate, be an observer of your mind and understand the forces of Light, Darkness and balance”.
He tells me he grew up in Belgium and went to a Catholic school where he played Jesus in one of the plays as a kid. A sign from destiny, if you ask me.
We talk about spirituality and religion. Are the same thing?
“No, religion is a door that can get you to connect to a higher power. But it’s just that, a door. The connection itself, that’s spirituality”.
And all the doors lead you to the same destination, because if you think about it, the overall message of any religion, it’s the same. That’s another interesting thing about this Messiah. He is followed by Muslims out of Syria in a journey to Israel, and by hardcore Christians from Texas and all over the USA. He doesn’t label himself as Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist, or any other religion. He calls himself “God’s messenger”. Period. I would have talked to him for hours about philosophy, spirituality, aliens and life, because he is a truly wise young man, but he is the star of the night and I want to be mindful with his time, so I thank him and talk to Melinda Page Hamilton who plays Anna Iguero, the wife’s preacher whose gut feelings tell her that despite the blind faith her husband and daughter have for him, this guy is not who he says he is… And I asked her “Why do you think a guy who came out of nowhere is causing all this confusion” And she responds with one of the best quotes I’ve heard: “Because beneath every ardent believer there is a river of doubt, and beneath every doubter there is a deep desire to believe”. And that’s true. Humans are tricky creatures. We have the need to believe in something. Some believe in a higher power, some worship fame and money, others the Kardashians…and some others their phones.
I chat next with Wil Traval, an outgoing and warm Aussie with a bright smile, who plays literally his opposite; a cold, an unbreakable FBI agent from the midwest. “I don’t think I saw you smile even once in the show. But I saw you cry…” I say. “Will Matthews has a tough job that doesn’t give much room to show emotions. But yes, something the Messiah says somehow gets to him and breaks the wall that he had carefully built around him”. And maybe here lays the answer and that’s what a Messiah is really all about. Someone who can make you look inwards and break any pattern that doesn’t serve you anymore as opposed to someone who can turn water into wine.
“How was working with Michelle?” I inquired, “You were in pretty much all the scenes with her”.
“Michelle is a great actress with a big heart. I’ll never forget when we were shooting the scene when Al-Masih is walking on water. There were hundreds of extras, it was 7am in Washington, it was really cold and there was a shivering 8 year old close to where Michelle was. She took her coat off and give it to the little girl without thinking it twice. That’s the type of woman she is”.
I agree with him, I had the chance to corroborate that she is both talented and a great human being when I talked to her earlier in the day at the junket.
After a lovely evening I go back home hoping this is just the first of many seasons.
Make sure you watch the full interview in the video below!