“The Undershepherd director and writer Russ Parr appeared on “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” to talk about the world television premiere of his controversial film. Take a listen to this fun and compelling interview right here or check out the transcript below, and tune in to TV One on Saturday, March 30th at 8 pm EST to see Russ Parr’s “The Undershepherd.”
In “The Undershepherd,” radio personality/filmmaker Russ Parr takes on the black church and pastors who use their power for personal gain rather than helping their congregations. Parr told an audience at the American Black Film Festival last year, where the film premiered, that he met with some resistance in the black church but forged ahead anyway as the story needed to be told. The film won Best Narrative Feature, Best Actress and Best Director at the festival.
In “The Undershepherd,” Isaiah Washington of “Grey’s Anatomy” fame plays a Lawrence “LC” Case, a pastor looking to advance in the church who comes into conflict with his best friend, his lead pastor and ultimately, himself. Lanman Rucker plays Roland, a young pastor who realizes his friend has gone too far astray to help, and Malinda Williams is LC’s long-suffering wife who has problems of her own. While the film is weakened by too many implausible dramatic scenarios near the end, Washington is scarily charismatic as LC, who fails to see how leading a church has led to his ultimate spiritual destruction. Many church goers may find parallels in their own church experience and this movie and that’s precisely why Parr was moved to write, direct and produce the film via his Uptoparr Productions.
TV One is premiering “The Undershepherd” for network television and it will air on Saturday, March 30 and Sunday, March 31, at 8 p.m. on Saturday and 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. Parr joined Tom, Sybil and J. Anthony Brown to discuss “The Undershepherd” and why he fought to tell this story.
TOM JOYNER: Russ Parr took time out of his own show to be on our show. Russ Parr, Good morning!
RUSS PARR: I was telling some people Tom is the reason why I make a little bit of money. Man, I know you’re really modest and everything, but I will cancel my show to be on your show. I don’t give a damn. (laughter). With J .Anthony Brown, are you kidding?
J. ANTHONY BROWN: What up, Russ?
Russ Parr: J. Anthony Brown always complaining “Man, when are you going to put me in the movies?”
J. Anthony Brown: Yeah, when are you?
Russ: I got this new movie called “The Pillow Biter.” (Laughter). You can do your own stunts. It’s a prison love story.
Tom Joyner: Aww man.
Russ: You’ll come in like ‘You didn’t braid my hair so good. On the pillow.’ Oh, man.
J. Anthony Brown: You a funny guy sometime, Russ.
Russ: I’m going to write that one down because that just came off the top.
SYBIL WILKES: Russ, what is “The Undershepherd?”
Russ: “The Undershepherd” is a movie about the church. It’s not your typical ‘OK, we’re going to love each other, we’re going to go off and build a church.’ This is a pretty powerful movie and we pretty much every festival that we’ve been in swept all the awards. It stars Isaiah Washington, Lanman Rucker and Lou Gossett, Jr. What we’re doing here is – a lot of people expect me to write comedies and you’ve seen some of my worst comedies and J. Anthony Brown starred in those –
Sybil: Bought you down every time.
Russ Parr: But what I tried to do, my journey in the church the whole nine has been a problem for me. I don’t want to indict all churches and that’s what I want to put across here. My point that I’m trying to make is that you need to worship God, not man. Isaiah Washington’s portrayal of the lead pastor is chilling. I remember the first day of shooting I was so caught up in his performance I forgot to direct everybody else. He really took my words to another level. I’ve been getting some pushback, Tom, I’ve been getting some pushback.
Tom Joyner: From the church?
Russ Parr: Man, I had a group of pastors come to my house and watch it in my basement. Man, they cussed me out.
Tom Joyner: Pastors cussed you out?
Russ Parr: Man, they cussed me out bad.
Tom Joyner: Pastors cussed you out?
Russ Parr: It was mother—that and no, they were saying this is a bad time for this with all the negative images out there and blah blah blah. But what I didn’t do, I didn’t do the Bishop Eddie Long stuff. That’s just so easy. I wanted to take a simple story and talk about how people get drunk with power and idolize people and put them up on a pedestal. They shouldn’t be idolizing these people because these people have their own sets of issues. Making life decisions based on what this man says? That is just a man who’s fallible.
Sybil: Did you have one of our bishops in this movie?
Russ Parr: Which bishop would that be?