Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 01/26/22

The King of Streams. Kevin James has scored major hits on broadcast television (The King of Queens) and in theatrical films (Paul Blart: Mall Cop). Now, he’s aligned himself with the company most responsible for upending both of those traditional entertainment industry business models. Fresh off his recent NASCAR-themed sitcom The Crew for Netflix,  he’s starring in a Home Team, a football-themed dramedy film dropping on the streamer this Friday (1/28).

In the movie he plays Sean Payton, the now-former New Orleans Saints head coach who two years after helping lead the team to victory in Super Bowl XLIV in 2010 was suspended for  the entire 2012 season over Bountygate, a scandal in which members of the team were allegedly paid bonuses for injuring players on opposing teams. The movie tells the story of how the divorced Payton ended up using the time to reconnect with his 12-year-old son by coaching his struggling ragtag Pop Warner football team.

JWK: So, this is sort of a, perhaps, little known story about Sean Payton. What was it about this story that made you decide to take it on?

Kevin James: After he won the Super Bowl, he got suspended and he had a year off from the NFL. He ended up going back home to Texas and reconnecting with his 12-year-old son and…coaching (his) football team to the championships. He says it was the greatest season of coaching football in his life. So, it was an amazing story. I loved it right away. As soon as I heard it, I signed on.

JWK: What was it like playing a real person? I believe it’s the first time you’ve ever done that.

KJ: Although I’m gonna argue that Paul Blart is a real guy – in my mind. No, it was a little nerve-racking in that you’re doing the guy and he’s still alive. He’s right there! He’s on set with you so when you’re kind of making an impression of him he’s there to watch you. But he was very gracious and everything in helping me try to nail down his accent – which is moves all over the place;(It’s) a tough one – and just giving me some mannerisms and stuff (about) how I should hold myself. He was fantastic. It really helped.

JWK: While it’s comedy, there are definitely dramatic elements in the film. What do you hope people take from it? Is there a message?

KJ: Yeah. The message in his movie is that when something in life happens that really kind of closes a door on you, you need to really search and take a moment because there is an opportunity. Opportunities are always given to turn things around in (some) way. They may not be so obvious all the time but this one, like I said, turned out to be the greatest season of coaching in his life. That’s pretty cool for a Super Bowl-winning coach. So, it’s about, you know, taking those down moments and turning them around. How they judge a champion is by how he reacts when he gets knocked down.

JWK: You’re very open about your Catholic faith. Does it play any part in what projects you take on and what roles you choose to play?

KJ: Yeah. Obviously, I don’t want to do anything that’s displeasing to God – for me or my family. It’s something that you carry everywhere with you (as) you conduct your life. It’s not just in choosing movies. It’s just in how you conduct yourself and doing the best you can, that’s all. It’s something you don’t want to separate from – for me, anyway.

JWK: You’re obviously very well know for your nine seasons on The King of Queens which was a huge hit for CBS. You’re also known, of course, for Paul  Blart and other roles in theaters. Now, you seem to have a pretty good relationship going with Netflix. How is putting out product for a streamer different than those prior experiences?

KJ: I’m much happier now. I do love Netflix because, first of all, they reach so many more people. They can reach the entire world, basically. So, it’s fantastic. You can gain new fans. People can see you that never knew about you before. But it’s also in the relationship with them. They’re great to work with. They’re great partners on everything we’ve done. They’re always very collaborative – more so than the networks.

JWK: I understand you may be doing another series with Netflix. Is that true?

KJ: We’re working on one now, as a matter of fact. Nothing’s concrete yet about what we’re doing but we’re moving forward with that. Like I said, it’s great to be in business with them. They’re just great partners.

JWK: What kind of role would you like to play?

KJ: I always say it’s dictated by the story. That’s the thing I’m doing now. It’s not like I’m looking for parts to play so I can go “Hey, let me do something so different that I’ve never done it before!” But I am looking for different stories to tell so it doesn’t feel like exactly the same story that you’ve seen me do before. It’s always a tricky thing because people have seen you in some things and they like those certain things. Some in the audience want to see you do that again and some in the audience want to see you do something different. So, you gotta find your way and navigate your way through your career. Right now, I’m looking for some good stories. It can still be comedy, it can still be this or that but are done in a slightly different way that tells a different story.

JWK: Home Team is a mix of comedy and drama. Do you have any desire to do an out-and-out dramatic film?

KJ: Yeah, in fact, one on working on right now… It’s kind of under wraps but there’s very little comedy in it. So, we’ll see.

JWK: Anything else you’d like to mention as we wrap up?

KJ: Home Team on the 28th! It’s such a great movie and I think it’s really a movie we need at this time. It’s a great movie for everybody. I know it’s cliché to to say that…but this really is a fun movie whether you like football or not. There’s a family story. There’s a father-son story. There’s a group of friends story. It really does have something for everybody.

JWK: By the way, who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl?

KJ: I’m going for the Bengals now only because my Jets are out of it and the Bengals haven’t really won one so give them a chance.

IMHO: As a fan of Kevin’s, I’ll just weigh in and say, in terms of a broad genre, I think he’d be great in a light Rockford Files-esque private eye series. 

Note: My review of Home Team will run this Friday which, as previously mentioned, is also when the film drops on Netflix.

Sony collars Wahlberg as Father Stu.

Sony Pictures has acquired the worldwide rights to Father Stu starring Mark Wahlberg as Father Stuart Long, the real-life boxer-turned-priest whose journey from self-destruction to redemption has served as an inspiration to countless people along the way. Co-starring Mel Gibson, the film is the directorial debut of Rosalind Ross who also wrote the screenplay. Others in the cast include Jacki Weaver (Yellowstone) and Teresa Ruiz (Narco: Mexico).

Wahlberg, who is also one of the movie’s producers, says “Father’s Stu’s journey from troublemaker to clergyman was inspiring to many, including me…Rosey has done an incredible job capturing the essence of who he was and how he affected the people he met. I hope that with this film, we keep his spirit alive and continue his good works.”

Wahlberg can next be seen starring in Sony Pictures’ Uncharted, based on the PlayStation video game. He has produced over a dozen feature films, including The Fighter, Patriots Day and Lone Survivor. Father Stu will be released in theaters on Good Friday, April 15, 2022.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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