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Michael Ealy discusses faith-based film “Unconditional”

247608_4055933149295_2020765607_nActor Michael Ealy is no stranger to difficult story lines, as evidenced by his gripping performance as the disturbed and disturbing Beau Willie in “For Colored Girls,” which was directed by Tyler Perry and filmed partly in Atlanta.

He’s also no stranger to more lighthearted fare; he played the adorable Dominic in “Think Like A Man,” the smart, feel-good romantic comedy based on Atlanta-based entertainer Steve Harvey’s guidebook to love.

His latest role as Papa Joe in “Unconditional,” in theaters now, straddles darkness and light. See this link to find a theater where it is playing.

Written and directed by Brent McCorkle and produced in Nashville, the movie tells the story, inspired by true events, of Samantha (Lynn Collins) who loses her husband in a tragic and senseless act of violence. Her despair nearly drives her to ruin when a chance encounter reunites her with her beloved childhood friend Joe Bradford, now known as “Papa Joe” because of his role in the community working with underprivileged children. Enlightening and inspirational, the movie offers a powerful message of faith, friendship and hope.

“Papa Joe is an impactful character,” Ealy told us during a very quick interview recently, conducted in WXIA’s green room as he was about to go on air with Karyn Greer. (Thanks to Karen and Evelyn Mims by the way!) “His dream is to be more impactful. Papa Joe is a man of many layers. Part of the appeal in taking the role was it’s not a one-note character.”

The real Joe Bradford still lives in Nashville and still works with kids who need a helping hand.

“My dream is that ‘Unconditional’ inspires cities to unite in love to rescue one of our most precious commodities: thousands of at-risk and fatherless children torn by poverty and oppression,” Bradford, whose ministry, Elijah’s Heart, supports a citywide multi-racial choir and helps organize food and clothing drives, said in a statement.

The film’s producers, Jason Atkins and J. Wesley Legg, are promoting not only their film but ways audience members can get involved. The film’s Facebook and Twitter page encourage church and community groups to support the project.

“No matter how dark your circumstance, working for those forgotten by society brings hope and turns servants into heroes,” the two said in a statement.

Many of the scenes involve the kids Papa Joe befriends, and working with young actors was rewarding, Ealy said.

“The kids outshined me in every scene,” he said. “They were good little actors.”

Ealy said “Unconditional” is the first faith-based film he’s been involved with, but the movie’s uplifting theme is universal.

“Regardless of your faith, you’ll leave this movie feeling good,” he said.

- Jennifer Brett/The Buzz/jbrett@ajc.com

4 comments Add your comment

Jim

September 22nd, 2012
8:50 am

Can we get back to saying “religious” instead of “faith-based”?

Jennifer Brett

September 23rd, 2012
10:26 pm

I wouldn’t say the two are exactly synonymous – calling it “a religious film” I think would suggest an entirely religious content. (Occasionally my Sunday School class watches a video about church missions or various theological issues on Sunday mornings, for example; it would be safe to call those “religious” films.) My sense was this movie tells a story where faith certainly plays a key role but isn’t necessarily a “religious” film.

Jennifer

clt

September 24th, 2012
2:35 pm

What difference does it make what we call it? I haven’t been to church since 2003 and am more willing to support it if it’s not labled “religious”. The religious people I see now are some of the most cliquish mean people I’ve ever seen. Another movie I went to a premier of and will support 9/29/12 is Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhal in “Won’t Back Down”. Family friendly school related movie. I’m taking three people to see Michael Ealy in this on Saturday.

Fred ™

September 24th, 2012
4:13 pm

Good point Jennifer. Soul Surfer was faith-based, not religious as well.