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.


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.


I don’t have a DVR.


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.


Messiah SEASON 1 PHOTO CREDIT John Golden Britt/Netflix PICTURED Mehdi Dehbi, Michelle Monaghan

(Photo by Ursula Coyote/Netflix)


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

WarnerMedia obituary Comic-Con@Home 2021 news italian Action Toys Marathons documentary Oscars Best and Worst Funimation book adaptation Sundance Now First Reviews cancelled TV shows Awards Tour Marvel Television adaptation 21st Century Fox dark Esquire 94th Oscars award winner GIFs Pop TV ABC Family MCU 73rd Emmy Awards IFC Films deadpool canceled Freeform zombie black comedy broadcast Mary Tyler Moore king arthur Pirates sitcom History Set visit Tokyo Olympics fast and furious Pop Women's History Month CNN rotten movies we love singing competition Amazon Best Actress sag awards dragons Certified Fresh supernatural See It Skip It The CW Animation Quiz DGA SDCC Grammys Winter TV comic books Extras razzies Cartoon Network biopic godzilla MSNBC cartoon name the review The Academy independent Apple TV+ twilight comedies ViacomCBS Turner National Geographic HFPA Heroines MTV Countdown Neflix rotten fresh dreamworks TNT SXSW Food Network Sundance IFC romance leaderboard Premiere Dates Columbia Pictures Netflix Biopics A24 laika science fiction Shondaland Country series quibi El Rey comic book movie Warner Bros. Best Director suspense 90s Marvel Studios Superheroe The Walking Dead hollywood finale Dark Horse Comics USA Network christmas movies VOD legend crossover TBS Christmas critics RT History Vudu satire Spectrum Originals Pacific Islander spy thriller First Look Lucasfilm Tomatazos stoner Mystery crime Awards TCA 2017 marvel comics halloween tv Reality Opinion batman 2016 ID Turner Classic Movies E! Rocketman harry potter gangster 72 Emmy Awards Black Mirror Legendary Crackle comics Ovation TLC indiana jones criterion venice Cannes Lifetime Christmas movies Trivia spanish language NBA boxing james bond 20th Century Fox Oscar CBS Captain marvel young adult DirecTV 2015 Sony Pictures action-comedy spanish LGBT toronto Comedy Central NBC aliens Star Trek Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Peacock new star wars movies high school indie political drama Brie Larson Paramount Writers Guild of America werewolf casting 2017 Film Festival Mudbound video on demand HBO Max stop motion all-time cancelled TV series foreign TV Apple talk show Disney Channel facebook RT21 directors 1990s 4/20 SundanceTV historical drama docudrama Martial Arts cinemax cooking Best Picture Walt Disney Pictures Winners 007 book posters police drama rt labs critics edition classics BBC game of thrones TruTV TV Land TIFF PaleyFest festival South by Southwest Film Festival Super Bowl theme song Spike Disney golden globe awards war Binge Guide Netflix Christmas movies archives Horror Creative Arts Emmys IMDb TV mockumentary period drama Disney streaming service debate TV One BBC One zombies YouTube Red movies transformers monster movies Hulu international Syfy CW Seed jamie lee curtis Universal sports Endgame summer TV live event TV movies scary movies justice league target trophy video The Witch Amazon Prime Video VICE Epix Rom-Com superman canceled TV shows Broadway YA Red Carpet HBO Summer remakes unscripted hispanic Television Academy Fall TV Character Guide Mary Poppins Returns streaming movies rom-coms Chernobyl Interview TCA Winter 2020 politics anthology 45 Showtime worst Calendar Emmys animated 2019 YouTube PlayStation Emmy Nominations Anna Paquin ABC Holidays GLAAD slasher Tags: Comedy doctor who Mary poppins franchise Focus Features BBC America new zealand prank Photos reboot crime drama Sneak Peek Discovery Channel scary Mindy Kaling children's TV HBO Go SXSW 2022 docuseries 99% best toy story Ghostbusters black slashers blaxploitation social media 2021 vampires teaser stand-up comedy Acorn TV CBS All Access crime thriller golden globes Pet Sematary Logo Election Fantasy Musicals Polls and Games Paramount Plus Box Office reviews Hallmark Christmas movies hispanic heritage month genre revenge Baby Yoda spinoff game show festivals Trailer 93rd Oscars mutant art house Paramount Network Shudder Cosplay psychological thriller Musical Prime Video Infographic natural history X-Men rt archives dexter comiccon Tubi Academy Awards based on movie technology APB TCA Awards lord of the rings romantic comedy nature screenings BET die hard OneApp interviews royal family aapi psycho superhero trailers BAFTA Universal Pictures YouTube Premium Bravo Trophy Talk 2020 2018 Star Wars spider-verse tv talk Western Apple TV Plus Watching Series cancelled television Fox News french nbcuniversal discovery San Diego Comic-Con Image Comics Pride Month Hollywood Foreign Press Association ITV FOX dramedy boxoffice Exclusive Video Drama AMC Elton John Television Critics Association Comic Book emmy awards Tarantino cults disaster movie Family 24 frames kaiju summer preview Valentine's Day versus A&E zero dark thirty Song of Ice and Fire dogs cats women FXX Comics on TV VH1 live action Comedy Holiday Nat Geo kong Kids & Family FX on Hulu green book Amazon Prime telelvision Hallmark Fargo President football true crime universal monsters BET Awards richard e. Grant The Purge films spain blockbusters TCA Fox Searchlight Disney+ Disney Plus marvel cinematic universe south america Spring TV witnail 71st Emmy Awards streaming TV renewals Rocky ESPN saw Tumblr Marvel Podcast scorecard Arrowverse LGBTQ Instagram Live comic book movies travel documentaries adenture joker breaking bad spider-man Lionsgate nfl robots ABC Signature binge kids cancelled CMT Travel Channel Thanksgiving The Arrangement chucky ratings Year in Review Sci-Fi Film anime Music parents screen actors guild OWN what to watch rt labs latino scene in color Pixar E3 MGM serial killer NYCC cars Adult Swim Nickelodeon 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards space Schedule wonder woman hidden camera Video Games obi wan japanese king kong Classic Film sequel Rock dceu USA sopranos Masterpiece Paramount Pictures Reality Competition heist movie AMC Plus feel good sequels DC streaming service popular blockbuster 79th Golden Globes Awards Amazon Studios summer TV preview mission: impossible Ellie Kemper New York Comic Con television DC Universe diversity concert Alien halloween new york streamig strong female leads Disney Plus Teen Hear Us Out renewed TV shows Wes Anderson Nominations pirates of the caribbean DC Comics comic dc Starz medical drama The Walt Disney Company know your critic adventure Stephen King Black History Month mob Best Actor thriller composers jurassic park Avengers critic resources FX child's play TCM biography Crunchyroll ghosts asian-american Lifetime australia PBS Superheroes GoT elevated horror mcc American Society of Cinematographers basketball vs. worst movies olympics WGN miniseries japan cops Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Britbox a nightmare on elm street free movies Sundance TV hist