What to Watch

What to Watch With Messiah Star Michelle Monaghan

She partnered with a potentially dangerous holy man in Hulu's The Path, and now she's hunting one across the globe in Netflix's new international thriller.

by | January 1, 2020 | Comments

What would happen if Jesus Christ appeared on Earth today? Would he unite the masses, or cause mass chaos the world over? That’s the main gist of Messiah, the new series from executive producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.

Michelle Monaghan plays CIA officer Eva Geller, a skeptic who lands in the middle of the unfolding controversy. She makes it her mission to uncover the real identity behind this religious figure, played by Mehdi Dehbi whom the public calls “al-Masih,” a term that means “Messiah” in Arabic. Is he the son of God or a potential terrorist looking to dismantle the geopolitical system put in place to maintain global order?

Monaghan met up with Rotten Tomatoes at an intimate reception Netflix through for the series, where she discussed the show’s international appeal, the potential controversy it may spark, and listed off a few of the programs she likes to watch on television and streaming.


WHAT IS APPOINTMENT TV FOR YOU?

True Detective (HBO)
(Photo by HBO)

Appointment television? That doesn’t even exist, does it? Appointment television as in, it’s Sunday night and I’m going to watch this tonight? I think the last time, honestly, that I did appointment television was True Detective. Yes, I was on it! There aren’t very many places that does programming like that, aside from HBO.


WHAT IS ON YOUR DVR?

I don’t have a DVR.


WHAT IS IN YOUR STREAMING QUEUE?

The Crown Season 3 (Netflix)
(Photo by Netflix)

The Crown, right now. I’m on episode 4 [of season 3], and I love it. Olivia Colman! I mean: The Favourite, Fleabag. She was amazing in Fleabag. So, that’s what I’m into right now: The Crown. Oh, and I’m watching Succession, which I’m obsessed with. Every single actor on that show delivers. I am glued to every single performance. I think they are all so brilliant; they have incredible chemistry, all of them. I love that show. I think there’s also something very juicy about it. You hate to love watching these people. It’s very Shakespearean.


WHAT IS COMING SOON THAT YOU CAN’T WAIT FOR?

Messiah SEASON 1 PHOTO CREDIT John Golden Britt/Netflix PICTURED Mehdi Dehbi, Michelle Monaghan
(Photo by Ursula Coyote/Netflix)

Messiah!


WESTWOOD, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 07: Michelle Monaghan attends the Premiere of Netflix's "El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie" at Regency Village Theatre on October 07, 2019 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/Getty Images)

Aaron Pruner for Rotten Tomatoes: This isn’t the first time you’ve starred in a series about a religious figure’s following, and the fears and suspicions that can arise from such a movement. Once The Path was over, were you looking to continue in this realm?

Michelle Monaghan: Honestly, I was just coming off The Path and I had no intention of going back to work. And then James McTeigue, who’s the director, whom I’ve known personally for several years, he contacted me and said, “I’m going to send you this script. We’re doing this thing at Netflix.” And I was like, “Listen, I don’t think this will work.” And then I saw the title and I was like, “I’m definitely not [interested].” I had just come off The Path, this isn’t my thing. I’m an actor into a lot of different genres, you know? And then they sent me the 10 episodes, and I spent an afternoon reading it, and I was hooked. The equivalent to binging — binge-reading — I did it. At the end of the day, I was like, “Man, I gotta do this!”


Messiah SEASON 1 PHOTO CREDIT Ursula Coyote/Netflix PICTURED Michelle Monaghan
(Photo by Hiba Judeh/Netflix )

It also feels like you’re flipping the proverbial coin on the “Is it a religious movement or cult” theme, here.

Monaghan: The Path had a very insular perspective. You had one sort of leader, and it took place on a compound. When I did read this and saw the juxtaposition of those ideas, I was like, “Oh, wow, this is really interesting to explore.” And the characters are so very different, as well.


Messiah SEASON 1 PHOTO CREDIT Hiba Judeh/Netflix PICTURED Mehdi Dehbi
(Photo by Hiba Judeh/Netflix)

Other recent streaming shows have presented their stories on a global scale — for example, Amazon’s Hanna filmed all over Europe and Netflix’s Sense8, which James McTeigue worked on, shot all over the globe — was that part of the appeal of working on Messiah, for you?

Monaghan: Yeah. I think really, for me, what stood out was obviously the global scope of the show. I had never really been a part of anything like that: an international cast. It was such a great, unique opportunity to be a part of something that I think is really important that is not just, specifically, a western point of view. It is about multiple perspectives, it’s very multi-cultural and raises all those ideas and belief systems. So that was one of the main drivers for me to be in it.

Messiah SEASON 1 PHOTO CREDIT Hiba Judeh/Netflix
(Photo by Hiba Judeh/Netflix)

So then, I’m assuming you got to travel to some interesting locations for the production. 

Yes. We shot Jordan for Israel. We shot in Iman and all around that area. For me, that was also part of the decision; I didn’t want to be in the middle of the desert out here in L.A. shooting green screen for the Middle East. I really didn’t want to do that. Understanding the level of commitment and dedication to the story. As an actor, when you’re embarking on any role, you can be anywhere that is practical to what you’re doing. So, to be able to be in that atmosphere, that environment, and interacting with that culture … you know, any culture is only going to serve us, and it did. It left an indelible mark on me.


Messiah SEASON 1 PHOTO CREDIT Hiba Judeh/Netflix PICTURED Mehdi Dehbi, Sayyid El Alami
(Photo by Hiba Judeh/Netflix)

There’s something about being exposed to other cultures, other ways of life, and accepting it without judgment, which is rare to see on TV and in movies. It’s something Anthony Bourdain seemed to do so well.

You just nailed it. He bridged the gap. He provoked conversation. But, he was still himself. He respected the people and their cultures, wherever he went. He never judged them, and I think that’s what’s so important. And, look, I’m not comparing Messiah to anything Anthony Bourdain did. But it’s the way in which he presented different perspectives, it’s precisely that. Look, we don’t choose where we’re born, and unless you have the opportunity to be able to go and experience other cultures, you’re going to have a limited perspective. Isolation breeds misunderstanding. Isolation could be within yourself. It could be within a society, a culture, a country, a religion.


Messiah SEASON 1 PHOTO CREDIT Hiba Judeh/Netflix PICTURED Mehdi Dehbi
(Photo by Hiba Judeh/Netflix)

I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg when talking about “the bubble” most of us tend to live in. It’s that same sort of insular perspective that could make someone perceive the concept of a brown-skinned Messiah as problematic. How do you respond to that?

It’s something that excites me. The show doesn’t subscribe to any particular religion. I think what people will find when you tune into the show, is that al-Massih doesn’t reveal himself as the Messiah. It’s the projection of everyone else and what they presume him to be. What I really find interesting about this story is that all the characters are searching for something. Eva’s searching for the truth; some people are searching for actual, physical freedom, you know? What he does, as I see it, is he acts as a mirror to your psyche. Everybody’s looking outwardly at him to be the savior of sorts, when in reality he’s throwing everything back at you.


Messiah SEASON 1 PHOTO CREDIT John Golden Britt/Netflix PICTURED Melinda Page Hamilton, Stefania LaVie Owen, John Ortiz
(Photo by John Golden Britt/Netflix)

Two of the main focal points of the show are the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a refugee crisis that unfolds at that contentious border. The show also spends a lot of time at the Texas-Mexico border. Is Messiah trying to bridge the gap between these events?

What I can say is the show was written in 2016. We didn’t, certainly, have a crystal ball. But obviously, history is repeating itself. So, I think that people will see that. This is an issue that Americans are very familiar with. I think that Americans, in general, are less familiar with the refugee crisis in the Middle East and in Europe. We don’t refer to them as refugees in this country.


Messiah SEASON 1 PHOTO CREDIT Hiba Judeh/Netflix
(Photo by Hiba Judeh/Netflix)

There are many layers to the story Messiah is telling. If you had to pick one central message, what do you hope the audience will take away from the series?

I hope people watch an episode and identify with a character and then want to dissect that character. I hope it actually provokes a conversation.

Messiah is now streaming on Netflix. 


Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

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