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

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