Nicole Beharie talks ‘Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul.,’ plus ‘Breaking’ and more on ‘Acting Up’

Beharie, fresh off two exciting projects playing in theaters and on streaming platforms, opens up to TheGrio's Cortney Wills.

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On the latest episode of TheGrio’s “Acting Up” podcast, Nicole Beharie speaks about her new projects, “Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul.” and “Breaking,” opening up about the thrill of working in two vastly different styles and underscoring the power of storytelling.

In “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.,” which premieres on Sept. 2 on Peacock and in theaters, Beharie got to dive into various topics that are universal yet not necessarily broken down daily, let alone ever on the big screen. The film — from Focus Features, Peacock and Jordan Peele‘s Monkeypaw Productions — stars Regina Hall and Sterling K. Brown in a mockumentary about two mega-church leaders trying to save their reputation after scandal hits their congregation.

After it made a splash at Sundance earlier this year, theGrio’s Cortney Wills immediately picked the film as one of her top favorites from the festival.

Nicole Beharie attends the Los Angeles premiere of Focus Features’ “Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul.” last month at the Regal LA Live in Los Angeles. (Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images)

“I love engaging with topics that we discuss that we see daily are a part of our daily lives, but we don’t really dig into it or it’s taboo,” Beharie explained, discussing why “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” is so resonant. “For hundreds of years of Black American culture, Black culture throughout the diaspora, with churches and religion … we don’t really take a lot of time to think about who’s leading and how we’re being led and or even, you know, have a little fun with it.”

The mockumentary device used in “Honk for Jesus” also allows for specific catharses and revelations in the story, Beharie explained. “It’s such a curated thing,” she said of the docuseries style the film replicates. “I love them sort of turning that on its head and revealing more than than the person who signed up for it had intended to reveal. And Sterling and Regina do the most incredible work. And they’re so playful but also revelatory.”

Continued Beharie, “They show so much of the unspoken and so much of the subtext in a way that I hope people understand the mastery that goes into that and still making it funny. You have to be such a beast to make it funny, and then also show your whole heart and soul and agony at the same time.”

“Breaking,” which opened in U.S. theaters on Aug. 26, is a very different project for Beharie. Her co-stars include John Boyega, Connie Britton and the late Michael K. Williams. This film, previously titled “892,” follows the true story of military vet Brian Brown-Easley — portrayed by Boyega — who in 2017 walked into a bank claiming to have a bomb. “Enriching” is how the actress describes the high stakes thriller.

“We’re all in this one room, in this bank, for how many days shooting this project like theater, you know, we were basically doing it like theater,” Beharie explained. “You have to stay alive and keep the stakes alive for the other people, even when you’re not on camera, you know. And so for me, that was really enriching. Because I haven’t done theater in a while, and especially not during the pandemic, it was really good to be a part of the community like that again.”

Beharie continues to break down these projects, working in different genres and more on the “Acting Up” episode, which will be available for streaming on Sept. 3.

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