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Harry Lennix Calls New Film, ‘Revival!’

“A Message of Love” By Clarence Waldron

Harry Lennix spent years praying and dreaming about his new film, Revival! that opens this weekend in Chicago on December 7 at Marcus Theatre in Country Club Hills.

Lennix financed, wrote and stars as Pontius Pilate in Revival! a film that “espouses a message of love and spiritual courage, something like an open love letter that can help comfort all of us as we process the chaos of daily life,” he says.

It is a gospel infused retelling of the Gospel according to John with elements of Broadway, the big screen and historic epic scenes.

The all-star cast includes 10-time Grammy winner Chaka Khan, Michelle Williams (Destiny’s Child), Mali Music, Siedah Garrett, T’Keyah Crystal Keymah, Dawnn Lewis, Niki J. Crawford, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Paula Newsome, Victoria Tilford and Chester Gregory.

Lennix, who stars on the hit NBC drama The Blacklist, recalls that the cast was an absolute delight to work with, particularly Chaka Khan as Herodias and Michelle Williams as Mary Magdalene.

“They were consummate professionals,” recalls Lennix. “I am thrilled that they both worked on the film. My co-creator, Holly Carter, deserves the credit for their involvement.”

It wasn’t their first time acting. “They certainly appear in many music videos and do a form of acting. However, in the case of both ladies, Revival! appears to be the first feature film they appear in as principal talent. Chaka’s first credit is for The Blues Brothers. She was in the scene at the church with James Brown.”

Mali Music portrays Jesus with compassion and sensitivity. “We thought about a lot of people who were the right age and who had the ability. We knew the guy would have to be able to sing. And I was actually hanging out with one of the young people in my church and he had some music in his car. I listened to it and it was great. I asked who was singing? He said Mali Music and that’s how I picked Jesus. It just so happened that my co-creator Holly Carter represented him, as his manager. She set up a meeting. He loved the script and said he could write the music. He does an amazing job as both a composer and as an actor.”

Lennix had no intention of portraying Pontius Pilate, who presided at the trial of Jesus and gave the order for his crucifixion. But once it became clear that the actor Angus Macfayden was unable to make it because of a snow storm, Lennix took over the role.

“Since I had written the part and it was last minute and since nobody would be able to learn it in time, I just decided to play the part,” he recalls.

Lennix shares what he hopes moviegoers will get from seeing Revival! “We want them to reengage creatively, 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 the most…People are feeling very tense and unsteady about things politically, economically, geopolitically. This is the perfect message. This is the perfect time.”

The Chicago bred actor grew up on 77th and Phillips in the South Shore neighborhood. He is a 1986 graduate of Northwestern University with a degree in communications and a concentration in theater. His breakout role was Robert Townsend’s “The Five Heartbeats” in 1993.

Revival! opens Dec. 7 in Chicago, New York, Atlanta, Miami, Philadelphia, Houston, Detroit, Dallas and Los Angeles. In January, it opens in more than 20 markets including Memphis, Baltimore, New Orleans, Norfolk, St. Louis, San Francisco, Cleveland, Orlando, Boston, Tampa, Indianapolis and Milwaukee.

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