EXCLUSIVE | 'Messiah' star Michelle Monaghan says Al-Masih 'holds a mirror to our own belief system'
In an exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide, Monaghan speaks on what drew her to this project and all the experiences that came with it
Spoilers for 'Messiah'
Netflix's 'Messiah' was an intense and controversial show, that although after one season was dropped by the network, did gain a huge fan following. From testing patience, faith, religion and possible "heavenly" magic, viewers were able to see how logic and facts battled against spirituality. The show spoke of the possible coming of the 'Messiah,' with Mehdi Dehbi playing the role with great conviction as he is arrested and considered dangerous because of all his actions such as walking on water and seemingly having control over the weather. Fighting against the 'threat' is Eva Geller played by the talented Michelle Monaghan, a US intelligence officer, who goes undercover to prove and prosecute the 'Messiah.' In an exclusive interview with MEA WorldWide (MEAWW), Monaghan speaks on what drew her to this project and all the experiences that came with it.
"I loved the global scope of 'Messiah,' said Monaghan, as she delved into what drew her to her role as Eva Geller. "I thought it was an extraordinarily timely, geopolitical thriller representing multiple perspectives which I loved." If you've watched the series, Geller seems to a woman dedicated to her job, living a life with family difficulties but doesn't let anything deter her from her goals. It was a drastic contrast to the man that she was trying to take into custody; he had gained thousands of followers and had influenced many minds, while she seemed to be in the shadows until it was time for her to investigate him. Two leads characters with such stark differences made for an interesting dynamic. "I really appreciated Eva’s complexity and her slow reveal. Someone confident, so dogmatic and uncompromising yet lonely and leading a very insular life," said Monaghan.
Like with any production involving themes of social and religious aspects, there comes a need for sensitivity in delivering the content. When asked if it was hard to play the part of a woman taking down a 'divine' figure, Monaghan explained how Geller was just doing her job. "I think the position she takes is indicative of her job and her unrelenting pursuit of the truth is authentic," said Monaghan. She also spoke to the type of character Geller is, and for her, the 'Messiah' was able to serve as a great getaway from her life. "What I found interesting to play was that her quest to find out the truth of Al-Masih was a convenient distraction for her not to confront her truth, her personal fears," added the actress.
Geller's narrative includes her handling IVF treatments and a relationship with her father. Monaghan said that she appreciated finding the "humanity in her [Geller], her struggles and the complicated life she had been dealt." The actresses further revealed an important point as to why many fans also resonated with Geller: "I found her relatable and identified with all the facets of her life, even the not so shiny ones."
The audience of the controversial show was divided in numbers, while some called the series creatively apt, others wondered if it delved too much into negative folklore stories and old scriptures, especially when it came to the main character that was referred to as 'Al-Massih.' The actress had a well-formed reaction to the public outrage to the character saying, "He’s a provocative figure and people’s reactions to him are more reflective of who they are rather than who he is. He holds a mirror to our own belief system." He is after all a fictional character conjured up by imagination that has been influenced by many themes. With the hyper following of the show, we're sure shooting it was as exciting as well, considering the cast was able to visit different countries.
Monoghan spoke of her experience while on the project saying, "Creatively, it was a very rare and welcome experience. To be able to interact with local culture whether it be in rural America or in the Middle East informs my work invaluably. Personally, I love to travel, to share and explore new places. The opportunity to and meet and befriend locals is one of my favorite pastimes. And I got to do lots of that." Geller was utterly and impeccably convincing in the series, considering Monaghan is a skillful actress. Of course, though that came with preparation, as the actress revealed she studied both Arabic and the Hebrew language "intensely". "It was very challenging and as luck would have it I had to study them at the same time. I definitely don’t recommend doing that," joked Monaghan.
The actress also spoke of her experiences with such a diverse cast including Dehbi and Tomer Sisley, calling the international cast one of the appeals of the show. "As the show is shot in Arabic, Hebrew, and English, it truly represents so many people on a global scale. I’m thrilled that it allows audiences to put themselves in someone else’s shoes halfway across the world. And now I have friends in every corner," she continued. Besides being part of 'Messiah,' Monaghan delved a bit into another character she plays in the remake of the 1996 film 'The Craft' explaining how she was drawn to that role. "Zoe Lister Jones wrote a very timely, smart re-imagination of the film. One that tackles social norms in a contemporary way. A completely female-driven project and a really terrific experience" said Monaghan.
Season 1 of 'Messiah' is available to stream on Netflix.