Exclusive Interview with Dallas Jenkins, director of The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

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The Resurrection of Gavin Stone, starring Brett Dalton (Gavin Stone) and Anjelah Johnson (Kelly Richardson) will be released this Friday, January 20. The movie tells the story of a washed-up child star, Gavin Stone, who is sentenced to perform community service at a local church. Whilst trying to avoid mopping floors and cleaning toilets, Gavin stumbles upon the auditions for the church’s annual Passion Play. In order to land the role of Jesus, he pretends to be a Christian, but ends up getting much more than he bargained for. Struggling to work out who he really is, Gavin finds a community ready to welcome him as one of their own.

With the release only a few days away, we caught up with director Dallas Jenkins to find out more about this story of ‘faith and forgiveness’.

BrettDaltonOrg: What message do you hope will stay with audiences after they’ve seen this film?
Dallas Jenkins: That church, for all its flaws, is actually a place where a special kind of community is found that can change your life. That a good church welcomes without judgment, loves without condition, and forgives without limit. I hope churchgoers and outsiders are reminded of that.

Your son was involved with some of the casting – can you tell us a bit more about that process? 
Well, he was only involved with casting one certain actor we all know and love! He’s a big Marvel nerd and loves Agents of SHIELD, and I still have the text where he told me I should cast Brett Dalton as Gavin. Even after he explained who Brett was, I was skeptical. There was nothing about Grant Ward that said “this is Gavin” to me, as Gavin is charismatic, obnoxious, funny, etc.. But I relented and had our casting director send Brett the script, and he loved it. Once he auditioned it was pretty clear our search was over.

What was your favorite scene to shoot while making the movie?
For humor, I loved shooting the scene where Gavin is asked to pray on the spot and has no idea what he’s doing. Brett and the guys on the scene all did some good improvs and made the scene fantastic. For heart, my favorite scene is when Anjelah Johnson as Kelly tells Gavin why their church shows unconditional grace. They were both so good in the scene, and it’s both funny and heartfelt, I absolutely loved it.

What inspired you to tell this particular story?
I love the fish out of water element. I think if you want to make audiences identify with a character, make them an outsider. And I thought it would be really interesting to tell the story of what church is like through the eyes of an outsider. And the notion of him pretending to be a Christian so he can fit in I knew was ripe for great humor.

What is it about Gavin’s character that you hope audiences will relate to?
We’ve all felt out of place at some point. We’ve also all had that
moment when we realize the world doesn’t revolve around us. What happens then?

With the great chemistry between the actors, what onscreen dynamic is your favorite, or which are you most looking forward to audiences seeing?
I hope audiences see that while Gavin and Kelly don’t quite fit at the beginning, they both go on journeys that criss cross with each other. They both have a lot to learn, and I think when you start to see Kelly warm up to Gavin and warm up in general, and Gavin start to mature, it’s really cool, and not in the typical slapsticky rom-com way.

What three words would you use to describe this movie?
Heartfelt, authentic, and really funny. Wait, that’s more than three words.

Do you have any funny “behind the scenes” stories you can share with us?
In the moment in the trailer when Gavin greets the woman at church by kissing both her cheeks, she had no idea Brett was going to do that, and her reaction is real.

What challenges did you face making The Resurrection of Gavin Stone in comparison to other films you’ve worked on?
This was the first movie I made with Hollywood companies footing the bill, involved from the beginning, so making a movie with producers looking over my shoulder and very eager to make sure I didn’t screw up was a new one for me!

What was it like working with lead actor, Brett Dalton, whose character is in almost every scene of the film?
Brett’s fantastic. He gave me such a gift with his performance. And what I like about him is that he doesn’t just do what his idea is, and he doesn’t just do what I say, he’s thoughtful and passionate and makes sure that we’re on the same page with each scene.

Did anyone in this hilarious cast ad-lib any of their lines and did any of those ad-libs make it into the film?
Absolutely! There’s a scene where Gavin is in church for the first time trying to fit in, trying to look like a regular churchgoer, and I had him walk through the church lobby randomly greeting people. At one point he looks at someone, holds up his bible, and says, “hey, we have the same book!”

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone comes out on Friday. You can find a list of theaters screening the movie here. We’ll keep you updated with information about VOD platforms and international release as it becomes available.

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