Watch the trailer via the clip above.
In the film, which has been described as director Paul Schrader’s “cinematic masterpiece,” Ced plays Reverend Jeffers, the leader of the suburban megachurch Abundant Life, who tries to counsel Hawke’s Reverend Toller with his new feelings of alienation and purposelessness.
The comedian explained to Vulture what it was like working with co-star and director on the film, why he plays so many reverends, and the time Tracy Morgan bought White Castle burgers for the “The Last O.G.” crew.
Check out excerpts the interview below.
How did you get involved with First Reformed in the first place? It’s just a bit of an atypical choice given your previous film projects.
Yeah, this was one where I believe Paul [Schrader] was looking for somebody different to cast in this role. He had an idea … I guess he wanted to do something that would be a different kind of casting. He didn’t want to go to, like, normal actors. When my agency got involved and submitted me, we met and we had a conversation, and he was like, “Yeah, I like you.” That’s it. It was one of those good Hollywood stories. You sit down and you get discovered having tea somewhere or something. That’s what it felt like. After 30 years, I got discovered to do drama in a Starbucks one day. [Laughs.]
I’m curious. Were you a fan of Schrader’s work before you met him?
Well, of course. The movies Taxi Driver, American Gigolo … I mean, these are things that you know. You know what he does and how he writes in this really interesting space, and the movies usually have great impact. He’s legendary. You knew that the movie was gonna be somehow different than what you’d expect. So that was the experience. And of course, as a comedic actor coming over to the dramatic side, my biggest thing was making sure I was worthy.
Did he cultivate that worthiness on set? Was it a warm space for you to explore your character?
Definitely. He was very clear early on. We did maybe one or two reads of the script to get the feel of it once everyone was cast before shooting. It was in those spaces where he would let you know things that he would want you to do, or things he’d want you to pull back on here, or make sure you don’t overact this scene. Those were keywords for, “Bring it down.” [Laughs.] He did it in a nice way. “Bring it down. Don’t do that.”
He’s a straightforward kind of guy, which was great. I’ve been directed by a lot of great directors, and I like it when people make sure they’re clear about their vision, especially when they’re writer-directors. You have another point of view when someone has also written the words and now has to put up the visual of what it is they see. You give that a lot of respect and then you just come in. On set, Ethan [Hawke] was the same way, very accommodating as an actor, just trying to be a part of the whole energy with you as opposed to you having to be with him.
This is far from the first time you’ve played a reverend. You played one in Big Momma’s House, Kingdom Come, and for four years onThe Soul Man. Why do you think you’re well suited to playing these religious leaders, or why are you attracted to those roles in the first place?
You know, it’s interesting, that was one of the reasons why I was a little apprehensive about the role. When asked to do it, I was like, “Man, I just came off Soul Man. I don’t wanna do another reverend.” But this was a completely dramatic piece, it was one that was gonna be inside a Paul Schrader movie. This was not the “typical reverend.”
I think it’s the kind of personality I have. I come off trustworthy. Maybe it’s the bass of my voice. I have that Everyman quality that feels like, “I could trust this guy.” It’s often why white people want to cast me as a reverend. The comedic version is usually because some of the extra antics that you can pull out, and how, growing up in the church, I saw so many small nuances that become this unique thing about watching a preacher work. People go, “Oh, that’s so perfect. I never would have turned the Bible page like that.” These little small things of watching preachers for most of my young life. They all kind of do the same thing.
But this was a different opportunity for me to even be seen in a film that had so much heavy content, and to understand the other job of the pastor. For real, it’s to be like a psychologist, or like a doctor, to help people in a spiritual manner. [Paul] was showing it from a unique point of view.
How does a person maintain his spiritual guidance and goals and guidelines and, at the same time, be a really big corporate CEO? I think that was what I was trying to find in my character. I had to empathize with what Ethan’s character was going through and at the same time I run a really big organization and I have to stay on point with that.
I hope you don’t mind me asking, but do you still go to church?
I don’t go as much, mainly because it has come into this kind of mega, modern-world organizations that don’t quite feel like the simple thing. The last time I went to church, I remember sitting there and as soon as they yelled, “Benediction!” it literally was a line of people to take pictures with me while I was in the pews. I didn’t get a chance to go talk to the preacher yet. I didn’t even get to grab my kids who were sitting in another area. It made me think nobody was really paying attention to the sermon, they were just surprised that I was at church and wanted to take pictures. I don’t like that energy. Unfortunately, it deterred me from going, but I do need to.
I love the spirituality and the energy there, I love the songs, I love to get a message from a great speaker who can explain the Bible in ways that are applicable and practical to your life. So I have to find somewhere unique to go. But it’s usually a travel day for me because I tour on the weekends and I come back home on Sundays, and so I’ve kind of let it become more a “day of rest” for me. I get home and that’s my only decompressing day, so I chill.
“First Reformed” is in theaters. For showtimes, click here.
The Virtual United Negro College Fund Tour Heads to NY, DC & NJ on Fri & Sat-Nov. 20 & 21 (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)
*African American students interested in going to college can attend the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Fall 2020 virtual Empower Me Tour. Set for this Friday and Saturday (November 20 & 21, 2020), New York, District of Columbia, and New Jersey will be repped. (This year’s tour kicked off earlier this month in Wisconsin and Illinois). To register, go here.
The Empower Me Tour is an extension of the goals of the UNCF. Founded in 1944, the UNCF, a non-profit, has raised more than $5 billion and helped more than 500,000 students attend 37 private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).
The EUR caught up with Stacey Lee, the tour’s director for four years, who discussed the importance of the event.
“The UNCF is the nation’s largest provider of education support to minority students,” said Lee. “The Empowerment Tour has been executed for the past 12 years and last year along we offered over $12 million dollars in scholarships.”
Lee continued, “I think the great thing is that during these times, even with COVID-19, is that a number of corporations (Wells Fargo/P&/FedEx/Disney/Goldman Sachs) and donors have really been providing opportunity and financial access to our schools and students.”
The tour is packed with information and resources so that students and parents have the right tools to make informed decisions.
“It’s a free event that provides educational support, scholarships, interviews with colleges, empowerment, and information on how to get to and through college. We also provide this information for parents as well. We have a parent section that focuses on financial aid and the things you need to get your students to college.”
Lee continued, “Sometimes we have students that don’t realize that they can attend college. They can receive scholarships. Some of them don’t even know what an HBCU is. So, it’s inspirational for me to see these students receive this information and the excitement that’s around this tour.”
In addition to college information, panel sessions on issues affecting the community will also take place. Legendary rapper Bun B will be part of a special My Black Is Beautiful panel. The panel will have discussions with girls and boys and the MC will lead the male portion.
“It’s about empowerment,” Bun B told the EUR. “It’s vital for us to lift each other up and amplify each other’s voices. We just talk about now what that role is in this COVID world. And with everything that we are seeing with young Black men on television, we want to keep them motivated and centered. We want to make sure that they are not discouraged in this moment.”
Ever since Kamala Harris threw her hat into the presidential race and elected vice president of the United States, a spotlight has shined on the fact that she’s an HBCU grad (Howard University) and member of the African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. These facts are not lost on the UNCF.
“Kamala has really boosted people’s awareness about HBCUs and (African American sororities) and the type of people that come out of HBCUs. HBCUS have also provided so many people from science, mathematics, and engineering programs (STEM).”
Bun B added, “We have more than enough examples to show you how beneficial an education from an HBCU can be. So, there is no reason to not be a part of an HBCU because the world is just as available to you as it is for anyone else attending any other type of university.”
New Music Buzz: Jazzy Rita Shelby’s ‘Goodbye 2020’
*SB Music presents “Goodbye 2020” a new single for the times we are in.
“Goodbye 2020” is performed by Jazzy Rita Shelby and written by Miss Shelby (ASCAP) and Eddie Lawrence Miller (BMI).
It’s the perfect anthem to end a year that has impacted the globe.
EURweb’s Jazzy Rita is also a prolific lyricist who has teamed up with Eddie Miller for “Goodbye 2020” because it was timely and convenient for the birth of a song such as this.
Eddie Miller is a coveted keyboardist & vocalist who performs regularly with Brian Culbertson and he’s the Rhodes Festival musical director. Jazzy Rita rose to notoriety as host & performer at The Starlight Jazz Serenade, an annual benefit concert in North Hollywood with an A list of stars. As a teen Miss Shelby was inspired to write songs by the legendary David Porter.
This year has been a year like no other. “Goodbye 2020” is an ode to the world for the year that we have seen and the hope that lies ahead. Radio Programmers click here for adds.
“Goodbye 2020” is released on the SB Music label and was recorded at Wishing Wells Studio in Canoga Park, CA. Willie Daniels and Mildred Black perform background vocals along with Jazzy Rita. The video is produced & directed by Jazzy Rita (LaRita Shelby), filmed & edited by Reggie Simon of Simon Vision Media, with wardrobe styling by Jazzy Rita and Poet Roni Girl’s Army Couture. “Goodbye 2020” is available on most digital platforms. Click here to listen on Spotify.
Celebrate Halloween with ‘Spell’ Starring Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine and John Beasley / WATCH
*Today/TONIGHT is Halloween and what could be a more perfect way to celebrate than with the release of SPELL? Enjoy the clips below to get you in the spooky spirit!
Omari Hardwick (“Power,” Sorry to Bother You), Loretta Devine (“Black-ish,” Crash) and John Beasley (The Sum of All Fears, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks) star in the terrifying thriller SPELL, coming to Premium Video-On-Demand and Digital today October 30 from Paramount Home Entertainment.
While flying to his father’s funeral in rural Appalachia, an intense storm causes Marquis (Omari Hardwick) to lose control of the plane carrying him and his family. He awakens wounded, alone and trapped in Ms. Eloise’s (Loretta Devine) attic, who claims she can nurse him back to health with the Boogity, a Hoodoo figure she has made from his blood and skin. Unable to call for help, Marquis desperately tries to outwit and break free from her dark magic and save his family from a sinister ritual before the rise of the blood moon.
DIRECTED BY | Mark Tonderai
SCREENPLAY BY | Kurt Wimmer
STARRING | Omari Hardwick, Loretta Devine, John Beasley
AVAILABLE ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS | Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play, DirecTV, VUDU, Xfinity, FandangoNOW and more.
Rating | R – violence, disturbing/bloody images, and language
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