Whether or not you tuned into Meghan and Harry’s royal wedding, you probably heard all about Rev. Michael Curry, the man who basically stole the show with his exuberant sermon. His passionate delivery was more animated than any of the royals are probably used to, which immediately solidified his place in pop culture.
As it turns out, it wasn’t just royal watchers and sketch shows that were paying attention to the man of god. Joe Morton — who played fan favourite Papa Pope on Scandal — was also fascinated by Curry. So much so that he based his newest character on the incoming fall series God Friended Me (streaming now on CTV.ca), on the reverend after he saw his message and how everyone reacted to him.
“When I first got the character I had some ideas of what I wanted to do, but I’d only seen one script at that point so I wasn’t quite sure where we were going,” Morton told us while we were in L.A. for the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “And then I saw Michael Curry on TV and I thought, ‘Ah. I’ll read up on him.’ He was amazing. It was also very funny to watch England’s response to him. Watching the Queen think like, ‘Who is this guy?’”
In God Friended Me, Morton stars as a reverend and the father to Miles Finer (Brandon Michael Hall), an atheist with a podcast who begins to question his own beliefs when someone named “God” sends him a friend request on a social media platform designed to look like Facebook. When Miles finally accepts the request, strange, coincidental things and meetings begin to happen.
Despite the religious nods, the entire situation is also potentially explained in the pilot by a mathematical algorithm, which makes the show accessible to a wider audience. Meanwhile, Morton revealed the writers also selected an Episcopalian church as the show’s backdrop specifically because it’s more diverse.
“Michael Curry is an Episcopalian bishop, an American. It’s the idea that the church can be international, and that Curry was so positive and so enthusiastic. Our show is not about the church or religion, it’s about what you do as a result of participating in those things,” Morton explained. “In other words, many people go to church on Sundays, they sit and they pray and do whatever they do, and then they live their lives the rest of the week as if they hadn’t gone to church on Sunday. Imagine if church actually had some sort of impact on you so that you went out and you did something positive. Joined a pantry. Helped the poor. Whatever. This show is all about that, it’s about helping somebody else.”
If you tuned into Scandal then you know this guy already sounds like the polar opposite of Papa Pope, who wielded his power for the not-so-good. Plus you know, he was also a murderer and a terrorist and a slew of other horrible things. That opposite approach to spirituality was exactly the kind of role Morton was looking to sink his teeth into next. Well, that, and something that might be a little more family friendly.
“There are opportunities in this show to get people to talk,” he said. “Also it’s a family show. It will be one of the few shows that the entire family can sit down and watch together… Scandal was not that.”