Hand of God: Five Things to Know About the New Taboo TV Show

by | September 3, 2015 | Comments

Hand of God — a one hour drama about a judge, Pernell Harris (Ron Perlman), with shaky ethics who claims God is guiding him in his quest for vigilante justice — is Amazon Studios’ newest streaming show to hit the waves. Before season one completed production, Rotten Tomatoes was invited to a set visit to check out the studio digs, watch some shots, hear a table read, and chat with the stars.

Ron Perlman (Sons of Anarchy, Hellboy), Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives, China Beach), Julian Morris (Once Upon a Time, Pretty Little Liars), and Alona Tal (Cult, Veronica Mars) talked passionately about their new show and how Amazon has recently been breaking new ground. But we also got to talk about other cool things too, like taboo TV topics, heated spiritual conversations on set, going to dark places, televangelists, and home shopping networks!



While most shows veer away from topics like religion, Hand of God takes a more confrontational approach. Delany said of the hot-button topic, “We tend to be making fun of it or go fundamentalist. We tend to go to extremes in our country.” But that’s not the case with HoG.

The show thrills Perlman “in its portrayal of the stuff that we tell ourselves and build up for ourselves; to make us feel like we’re happy, and we’re whole, and we’re functioning, and we’re good citizens. But there’s this darkness that is always lurking underneath; every single piece of light has got a shadow behind it, and every shadow has light.”

Perlman told us the show examines everything we do in society that “kind of anesthetizes us into thinking that we have an order and conscionable life, and then there’s all the other s—. That’s the stuff we suppress with things like career, family, religion, God, etc. So there are these lines that keep getting blurred and then crossed out in this show… It’s so daring, and it’s not afraid to look at everything including God and religion in the most exposing of lights.”

When asked about discussions of spirituality that abound on the set, Morris said it can get heated. “But it’s a smart show,” he said “You need to have that debate.” Alona Tal agreed. “Dialogue is always a good thing,” she said. “Your mother always said ‘don’t bottle it up;’ all of it is important.” She feels that discussing things and trying to see the other perspectives are essential for any communication. “Not necessarily [regarding] religion on its own,” she continued. “It’s intolerance, impatience, judging — in all walks of life.”



These actors have got to go to some dark, dark places in Hand of God. How do they get there? Delany, who plays Judge Harris’ wife Crystal, finds it cathartic playing such somber roles. “That’s pretty easy for me — the darker, the better,” she laughed. “I don’t have a problem going to dark places at all. I find it enjoyable because we don’t get to do it in our life.”

Perlman and Tal agreed that it’s important to keep it light on the set while playing with heavy material. “I find that I have to be super light to keep my sanity,” said Tal. “It’s not healthy for me to be in that state all the time.” Perlman feels supported by the excellent, vivid writing, which allows him to “get there” more easily, not just once, but for up to 35 takes. To do that, though, he must accept certain conditions of human nature. “I’ve made peace with myself a long time ago as an actor that the human genome is capable of everything and anything,” he said, “and that the reasons we don’t go down certain paths is not because they don’t exist inside of us, but because we’ve been socialized… [in a] kind of Pavlovian way… But that doesn’t mean we’re not capable of horrendous and horrific things if put in the right circumstances.”



Playing a preacher comes easier to Morris from his time as a youth watching television preachers… and home shopping channels. He was drawn to the preachers’ charisma and confidence, and the comparison to the shopping networks is evident. “Listen, you’re selling something,” he said. “The shopping channels have a lot to thank televangelism because if you go back to early TV, you had blocks of time when there was just dead air. At first that was filled around the country with televangelists. And then after that, the shopping networks saw, ‘Ok, well, they’re selling, you know, Heaven — let’s sell recorders! Or binders, or jewelry, or coats!’”

The televangelists that have intrigued Morris from the get-go include Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and T.D. Jakes. “These people are the most magnificent performers,” he said, “outside of what they’re preaching. And none of it is really motivational or really fantastic, but their powers of performance are incredible. Could you imagine T.D. Jakes playing any role in Shakespeare? You give him Richard III — he would be phenomenal. And they’re electrifying in spite of what they’re saying.” He feels that marrying the televangelical sales technique with salvation as a product may bring a great deal of power. “So when you have that much power, you can do a lot of good. You can also do a lot of bad. And that, to me, is why Paul is such a fascinating character because he does have the chops to be one of these great televangelists. He has that charisma. But he’s also kind of bent.”



Perlman is a consummate pro, always coming to set having completely done his homework, which includes making decisions about the scene’s arcs and the writer’s intentions. “It’s kind of like you’re a musician and you’re just deciding what’s legato, what’s staccato, what’s fortissimo, so there’s a lot of that.”

And he doesn’t believe in staying in character when the cameras aren’t on. “I really, truly believe that the only time you should be playing the role is between ‘action’ and ‘cut,’” he told us. Once properly prepared, Perlman can focus fully on the reality of the scene at hand and the presence of the character. If someone is too preoccupied , that actor can get ahead of — or behind — himself, which doesn’t serve the material. “I know a lot of guys who get wrapped up in things and stay in character,” he said. “I just think that’s complete bulls—… When you’re doing it, you’re doing it; and when you’re not, you should not be doing it.”



Hand of God is a spiritual journey of divine intervention. Perlman’s character is convinced that God is leading him to avenge injustice. Whether or not it’s true in the reality of the show is yet to be seen, but we were able to hear from the cast about what they would accomplish with a little bit of divine assistance.

Perlman would choose to tackle hatred. “Hate is basically just an offshoot of fear,” he said. “Everywhere you turn, there are these hate-based actions taking place all over the globe. Tribal. ‘We’re going to destroy you so we can feel safe.’” He believes people need to “understand that they’re part of a community, know that nobody is better or worse than anybody else in their core, and live and let live. I just don’t get that. I don’t get why if you believe something, somebody else has the right to destroy you for it.”

Delany immediately thought of natural earthly disasters. “Things like earthquakes in Nepal,” she offered. “More of the environmental thing, because [resolving] that would take care of people for years and centuries to come.”

Tal, born and raised in Israel, would make everything peaceful on that side of the world. It’s one thing to wish for peace anywhere, but since she has first-hand life experience in such a tumultuous environment, she wishes she could just say, “I command thee, peace! Boom!” or offer guidance on how to create that peace.

This cast of characters would make for an awesome team of superheroes!

Hand of God premieres Friday, Sept. 4 on Amazon.

Tag Cloud

mockumentary GLAAD animated Crackle scary movies Holidays Chernobyl Biopics Pride Month Musical war Family Comic Book 72 Emmy Awards BET teaser DirecTV Britbox PaleyFest revenge TV nbcuniversal YA theme song Amazon Prime Video biography sequel best HBO movie adventure Stephen King indiana jones E! Lifetime finale Sundance Now ratings Disney+ Disney Plus medical drama Rock cooking technology CBS All Access Year in Review Tumblr quibi 2016 talk show casting TNT vampires TCA Awards NYCC Amazon Prime Columbia Pictures Summer what to watch FOX 20th Century Fox Mary Poppins Returns 2020 satire The Walking Dead Drama dogs singing competition YouTube Premium video south america OneApp Trailer TV renewals concert Reality Competition Spike Horror TCM cancelled TV series comedies Fall TV Marvel Television Netflix Christmas movies Photos canceled TV shows versus Rom-Com Video Games TLC parents Trophy Talk Thanksgiving Lucasfilm independent green book CNN rotten Food Network spy thriller Toys USA Network Nominations justice league Star Trek TCA Winter 2020 Heroines mutant GIFs Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Superheroes Polls and Games serial killer ESPN boxoffice SundanceTV Captain marvel child's play BET Awards AMC Acorn TV HBO Max crime thriller anime Ellie Kemper fast and furious cancelled television die hard witnail Western based on movie nature Nickelodeon Apple Extras See It Skip It Creative Arts Emmys Calendar indie stoner screen actors guild Disney streaming service The Purge Watching Series Sci-Fi 2019 Christmas zombies Bravo Turner Classic Movies Animation A&E MTV renewed TV shows Reality The Witch cancelled blaxploitation Super Bowl news 21st Century Fox Music mission: impossible Logo documentary Adult Swim worst Grammys A24 Amazon YouTube Red reviews video on demand National Geographic werewolf Song of Ice and Fire 24 frames DC Universe Comedy Central Classic Film E3 Amazon Studios richard e. Grant dragons Fantasy spider-man TV Land Black History Month reboot sports comic Ghostbusters screenings Women's History Month Vudu Hallmark Christmas movies Baby Yoda asian-american hispanic Spectrum Originals crime drama GoT adaptation Election series Turner streaming Elton John golden globes ABC SDCC Certified Fresh Action Arrowverse miniseries canceled Trivia harry potter Awards Tour PBS sag awards historical drama hollywood Kids & Family Tubi classics festivals Pirates award winner TIFF Sony Pictures Pet Sematary composers Cartoon Network binge BAFTA Hear Us Out Television Academy Travel Channel 45 anthology CMT Box Office El Rey natural history Awards romance Walt Disney Pictures 71st Emmy Awards 2015 Universal Hallmark Spring TV FX sequels Holiday SXSW Crunchyroll movies DC streaming service diversity Musicals strong female leads elevated horror tv talk dc BBC Discovery Channel Infographic TruTV IFC Films facebook stand-up comedy CBS Black Mirror DGA Syfy joker Mary poppins First Look Star Wars LGBT New York Comic Con Schedule Television Critics Association dramedy 2017 franchise Sneak Peek crime Comedy Mary Tyler Moore cops laika latino stop motion cults Marathons Endgame disaster Binge Guide Funimation Academy Awards psycho Dark Horse Comics Country Film Festival VICE criterion Hulu Fox News TCA 2017 BBC America VH1 Oscars Paramount Network dceu Opinion Paramount space Countdown christmas movies period drama spinoff Epix Comics on TV Apple TV+ Mudbound X-Men Netflix Anna Paquin APB Podcast Rocky WarnerMedia President romantic comedy Martial Arts Cosplay ITV Brie Larson all-time RT History true crime cats San Diego Comic-Con foreign game of thrones WGN dark FX on Hulu Lionsgate Premiere Dates Starz American Society of Cinematographers zero dark thirty rotten movies we love twilight FXX USA Emmy Nominations Winners docudrama breaking bad Quiz Film Mindy Kaling Pop TV HBO Go History Freeform Valentine's Day Warner Bros. Set visit aliens blockbuster TBS Shudder RT21 2018 The Arrangement Nat Geo Winter TV Shondaland YouTube thriller Ovation VOD kids Showtime book jamie lee curtis comiccon 007 CW Seed Pop cancelled TV shows Tomatazos Peacock chucky a nightmare on elm street Chilling Adventures of Sabrina superhero 4/20 toy story Superheroe political drama travel psychological thriller supernatural documentaries cinemax Pixar BBC One Interview politics ghosts Mystery science fiction social media free movies comics Disney cars spanish language DC Comics Sundance TV police drama Best and Worst Masterpiece unscripted cartoon films Apple TV Plus Red Carpet batman emmy awards Teen Sundance spain NBC Marvel Studios The CW game show discovery doctor who Disney Channel television directors MSNBC universal monsters Tarantino Emmys Marvel MCU Esquire PlayStation Character Guide Lifetime Christmas movies IFC transformers halloween Writers Guild of America obituary hist critics TCA Rocketman robots Avengers slashers OWN zombie sitcom ABC Family LGBTQ Disney Plus crossover First Reviews children's TV Cannes name the review