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Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall, left, play the pastor of a disgraced Atlanta megachurch and his wife, respectively, in “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” Brown said he grew up a Christian, faith-filled person.

Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall, left, play the pastor of a disgraced Atlanta megachurch and his wife, respectively, in “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” Brown said he grew up a Christian, faith-filled person. (Focus Features)

For Sterling K. Brown, the chance to star as a scandal-plagued pastor in a larger-than-life comedy film felt heaven-sent.

“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” is Brown’s first project to be released since his Emmy-winning drama series “This Is Us” aired its finale in May. Audiences will see him play an entirely different character.

“There’s only so many times that you can be told how much you make people cry until you reach a point where you’re like, ‘You know, I’ve got to make people do something else, man,’ ” Brown said.

“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” stars Brown as Lee-Curtis Childs, a showy pastor with a massive home and expensive clothes whose Atlanta megachurch shuts down after he’s accused of misconduct. Now in theaters and streaming on Peacock, the film also stars Regina Hall as his wife, Trinitie, and follows the couple’s efforts to win back their congregation.

Brown modeled his character after an amalgam of pastors he witnessed in YouTube clips and from his own churchgoing experiences.

“There’s something about performing to 20,000 people,” Brown, 46, said. “Even actors onstage don’t do that as much. It’s closer to musicians or stand-up comedians and people who get a chance to see themselves on Jumbotrons. You imagine someone who starts off with the purest of intentions, wanting to do God’s work, but then sort of also gets ensnared to a degree.”

It’s the latest high-profile role for Brown, who won Emmys for his emotional turn as Randall Pearson on “This Is Us,” his portrayal of prosecutor Christopher Darden on “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” and his narration of the historical miniseries “Lincoln: Divided We Stand.”

The actor earned a master of fine arts degree from New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, and describes his three years at the Manhattan university as a formative experience.

“I loved the energy of New York City, getting to see theater there while learning the craft simultaneously, and got a lot of great instruction,” Brown said.

“I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t gone to NYU,” he said. “I know a lot of people take many different paths with regards to how they get to this career, but that path, for me, was awesome. Being in class, being one year behind Mahershala Ali, Josh Radnor a couple of years before me, and lots of people that you’ve never heard of who are just spectacular performers, there’s nothing like the osmosis of being around really talented people.”

Brown previously received acclaim for his comedy with a four-episode run on “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” which earned him one of his nine Emmy nominations.

Actor Sterling K. Brown and writer/director Adamma Ebo on the set of their film “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.”

Actor Sterling K. Brown and writer/director Adamma Ebo on the set of their film “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” (Focus Features)

Using a mockumentary-style format, “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.” allowed Brown to explore issues within the church through satire.

“Growing up Christian, being a very spiritual, faith-filled person, I think that an opportunity to show love for an institution while simultaneously critiquing it and examining questions about how can this institution be better was something that I found of personal interest,” Brown said.

Brown and Hall were also producers on “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul.,” as were Oscar-winning filmmaker Jordan Peele and Oscar-winning actor Daniel Kaluuya, whose films together include “Get Out” and “Nope.”

“I love Jordan. I love everything that he’s done so far,” Brown said. “Daniel, as an actor, I think is absolutely extraordinary, so to have more creative minds feeding into this thing [was great].”


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