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

Television Academy comiccon Infographic Comedy award winner Turner Classic Movies 2017 composers french Amazon Prime Video Classic Film kids The Witch period drama National Geographic Pop TV Rocky anime king arthur Shudder Fantasy Marvel Studios mutant Valentine's Day Disney+ Disney Plus Ghostbusters Best and Worst teaser wonder woman Avengers adenture GIFs Schedule Television Critics Association Cartoon Network godzilla dc crime drama Set visit mockumentary Trivia space kong VH1 franchise king kong nature critics Premiere Dates indiana jones talk show Universal The Walt Disney Company green book VOD 2021 Action TruTV romantic comedy Musical SDCC harry potter stand-up comedy spain dogs crime thriller a nightmare on elm street deadpool Star Wars Reality Apple TV Plus Emmy Nominations San Diego Comic-Con latino ITV MTV Chernobyl ABC Signature Baby Yoda Year in Review Fall TV MSNBC Crackle blaxploitation 4/20 hollywood cancelled TV series medical drama Reality Competition Exclusive Video technology directors basketball political drama LGBTQ Box Office Britbox heist movie The Purge Podcast ghosts adaptation Peacock Countdown Acorn TV Lifetime Christmas movies YA new zealand Food Network jurassic park DC streaming service universal monsters Polls and Games high school international rt archives blockbusters Dark Horse Comics The CW Sci-Fi Toys VICE HBO Go adventure live action SXSW E! james bond Creative Arts Emmys APB Apple Rocketman Watching Series Film Festival Starz MCU christmas movies Binge Guide CNN doctor who Heroines transformers festivals based on movie Oscars Mary Poppins Returns politics strong female leads prank reboot Amazon Certified Fresh revenge Ellie Kemper rotten hispanic 2016 007 20th Century Fox Western comic books golden globes foreign Sneak Peek 72 Emmy Awards Showtime comedies worst History Pirates suspense 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards aapi OneApp SundanceTV Cannes Vudu worst movies WarnerMedia ABC Disney Channel WGN Sundance TV PlayStation trailers name the review streaming movies blockbuster best Comics on TV 2020 YouTube Star Trek dark Adult Swim Music Nickelodeon TIFF free movies HBO scorecard social media cinemax PBS RT21 Lucasfilm streaming Extras Cosplay Musicals NYCC Marvel Television Arrowverse Superheroes Chilling Adventures of Sabrina TCA Awards breaking bad crime theme song movie Hear Us Out American Society of Cinematographers Drama BET Awards facebook President Spring TV spider-man Trophy Talk golden globe awards saw Election The Academy witnail Photos football cancelled TV shows GLAAD video on demand movies Biopics telelvision boxoffice unscripted game of thrones war rotten movies we love Lifetime black disaster TV Land documentaries NBA children's TV historical drama Epix marvel cinematic universe Quiz HBO Max robots olympics television Holiday USA jamie lee curtis Pet Sematary ratings scene in color DirecTV fresh Endgame TCA Winter 2020 news 90s Alien comic supernatural Warner Bros. 45 monster movies Superheroe Kids & Family scary movies popular Paramount Disney Nominations emmy awards Writers Guild of America CBS All Access Thanksgiving 71st Emmy Awards Apple TV+ chucky Black Mirror Marvel women Christmas Horror FOX Awards aliens remakes TLC criterion venice Legendary 2015 documentary Turner spinoff Trailer RT History BBC One reviews NBC Black History Month zero dark thirty docudrama stop motion Hallmark Christmas movies Mary Tyler Moore Rom-Com sequel Paramount Network hist TV Character Guide ID Nat Geo game show IFC Films elevated horror twilight Animation zombie TV movies singing competition Opinion discovery BAFTA screenings justice league TCA 2017 DC Universe Broadway 2018 A&E obituary Freeform book know your critic south america indie BBC America cooking BET Pixar Crunchyroll Tumblr tv talk Netflix Christmas movies video animated superman LGBT Discovery Channel cults dceu sag awards Comic Book DGA concert pirates of the caribbean Winners TCM travel miniseries sitcom Emmys Hallmark Women's History Month A24 Song of Ice and Fire archives book adaptation hidden camera Walt Disney Pictures Country TCA nbcuniversal Tokyo Olympics TV One zombies nfl PaleyFest Brie Larson renewed TV shows canceled TV shows Grammys 99% Calendar versus Red Carpet Rock japan halloween mission: impossible richard e. Grant The Arrangement new york Logo parents Spike E3 Bravo cartoon Image Comics toy story Summer Academy Awards Columbia Pictures crossover TNT AMC stoner cancelled Marathons Mudbound Masterpiece casting target CMT Captain marvel Pacific Islander FX First Look Ovation Winter TV Mindy Kaling 93rd Oscars ABC Family spanish 24 frames IFC all-time Interview what to watch BBC finale science fiction Disney Plus Amazon Studios psycho comics Sundance Now fast and furious Mystery kaiju cancelled television razzies GoT serial killer Fox News First Reviews Stephen King Comic-Con@Home 2021 asian-american cats australia Fox Searchlight CBS slashers screen actors guild Wes Anderson 2019 japanese Holidays Martial Arts YouTube Premium Paramount Plus police drama dramedy Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt natural history boxing Teen See It Skip It Shondaland lord of the rings Awards Tour Film satire spy thriller Mary poppins halloween tv FXX batman The Walking Dead superhero thriller binge films New York Comic Con toronto CW Seed cars YouTube Red legend werewolf ESPN Pride Month Tarantino Elton John Lionsgate independent FX on Hulu spanish language festival psychological thriller die hard TV renewals USA Network DC Comics Sundance laika X-Men Netflix OWN classics Syfy biography El Rey sports Hulu true crime Video Games ViacomCBS Tubi rom-coms dragons Travel Channel Disney streaming service series Sony Pictures italian new star wars movies canceled anthology Esquire quibi diversity 21st Century Fox Tomatazos Anna Paquin romance vampires sequels Spectrum Originals cops Family Funimation Super Bowl child's play Amazon Prime Comedy Central joker Pop docuseries TBS 1990s