The Masked Saint, a groundbreaking new film from Ridgerock Entertainment Group's recently formed "Ridgerock Faith", blends elements of faith, sports and adventure in examining the age-old question: What do we do when man's laws collide with God's laws?
The movie, which is based on the book of the same name by Chris Whaley, follows the story Chris Samuels, a professional wrestler who gives up the sport following a debilitating injury. After becoming a pastor of a struggling church in a small, run-down town, Samuels begins to become aware of injustices going on in the community.
Instead of sitting idly by, Pastor Samuels picks up his mask, this time using his skills to become a secret vigilante to protect the people of the town. However, he quickly finds himself evading police while struggling with the idea of being both an aggressive advocate for justice while also being a man of God.
Mykel Jenkins, a devout Christian actor who has starred in television shows such as Charmed, Ugly Betty, Saving Grace, CSI: Miami, and CSI: New York, plays Detective Harper, who is attempting to solve the mystery of the Masked Saint while struggling with personal loss and a desire for justice.
"Detective Harper's story is a struggle between the law and the Word and what can happen when a man is full of both of those things and trying to figure out how to stay true to himself when those two rules of law don't back each other," Jenkins told the Gospel Herald in an exclusive interview. "In the end, the ultimate rule really is the Word; the way that God speaks to you really can separate your actions from your beliefs. It works when your beliefs are you actions. Life will challenge you, like it did Detective Harper. He knew the law was broken, and he is trying his best to solve the crime, but he understands they were broken to protect society from harm, that they were helping create a loving society. He struggles with the question, "How much do I want to put that away?"
The Masked Saint hits theaters January 8 and, in addition to Jenkins, stars Brett Granstaff as the Masked Saint, Lara Jean Chorostecki, Patrick McKenna Doddy Piper in his last film role, and the legendary Oscar and Emmy nominee Diahann Carrol.
Below is the exclusive interview with Mykel Jenkins.
GH: What drew you The Masked Saint and the character of Detective Harper?
MJ: I was drawn to The Masked Saint because if you looked at me, you wouldn't know how prevalent God is in my life; I'm just an everyday guy. But when you take off the mask, you see there is a lot more that grounds me. My foundation is built on God, built on that rock.
When I first read this story, I was struck by how it focuses on the shaking that can happen to you when life takes its course and how people will often go back to the source that created them in order to move forward.
That's how life really is, you're full of the spirit and you get caught up in enough circumstances, and you start to doubt because you're human. But, then, at the last minute, things fall into place that you couldn't have seen or wouldn't have expected, and you find yourself on solid ground, right back where you knew you belonged. That's what The Masked Saint is really about.
GH: What is motivating Detective Harper to solve this mystery especially if the Masked Saint is helping out those in perilous situations?
MJ: Detective Harper lost a brother, and in losing his brother, his spirit, his faith, was tested. So, when spiritual law fails you and you don't understand why something happens, you start looking for something to ground yourself in. He grounded himself in the law, and said, "This is something I can believe in, this defines what's right and what's wrong." Had this law been in effect, he thought, his brother would be there.
That drives him to defend that law and uncover who was breaking the law, because the law doesn't allow a vigilante. But, in the process, he can't help but judge what is being done and who it's being done to, and having real human feeling about that. He'd driven by the purpose and law he served, but apprehensive because of what was being done in the process was affecting him in a positive way. He thought, "Had the masked saint shown up when my brother was killed and apprehended the killer, would I have had a problem with that?" That's the thing. That's what really drew me to the character. We live and we learn and we become stronger and stronger in faith because it's always tested. Miracles are performed every day, as as we get older, we really find our relationship with God and we understand.
GH: The film shows audiences that everyone has an important role in the church and we are called to love and support each other. Why is this message so critical for today's generation?
MJ: Because we're not in church, we're on the internet. The world is wide open, but one place you can't find young people is in church anymore. The church was the internet back in the day -- that's where you got your information about life. Giving back to the church and it being a resource instead of a building of judgement is important to me.
Detective Harper finds his way back to the church when he's going to investigate a break in. While he's there, a message is dropped. He's broken into by the Holy Spirit, and that's what's beautiful about church. I hope that we get that point across -- church is a place for support, a place of encouragement and counseling. Hopefully we can inspire the reinstallation of that with The Masked Saint.
GH: Despite his tough exterior, we see Det. Harper have a moment where he explains why he no longer attends church and the loss of a loved one. So many can identify with that moment in the film. What is your thought for those who have experienced the loss of a loved one but can't seem to resolve it spiritually?
MJ: This is what I would say to help people resolve the kind of loss that sometimes can tear you away from the church: I remember my mother telling me that God is like a gardner. Every morning He wakes up and He picks some roses and brings them inside His house. Sometimes He wants older roses, sometimes He wants young blossoms. Why can't it be a beautiful thing that He picked you out and put you in the house?
I think about that, I think about it being a kind of a privilege. We're all here, and we never know what our purpose is. We just live, and try to live as good as we can, but there's something greater than this, there's has to be. Going home to the Lord is a beautiful thing. You're selfish, so you want them here, I get it. I lost my father and my father figure - I get it. You want to touch them, but they've already touched you. They're there whenever you want them to be. You may not see them physically, but they'll never leave you.
GH: How do you balance your life as a Christian and taking roles in the entertainment industry?
MJ: The beauty of having God in your life - you know right away when a script has been touched. People spend way too much time trying to convince themselves of what they don't know, but they already know. I see someone smoking weed, I don't care what state legalizes it, it doesn't give me a good feeling inside. I'm not judging anyone, I'm just saying for me, when I see that, I don't try to convince myself it's good. When I see someone making something good, I want to be a part of it. It's not that deep. I read the script, and when it's written right and honest and has something good in it that I want to be part of, then I do. I don't want to have to explain to my son...if I read it and I have to explain it to my son, I don't take the job.
That's not to say I won't play bad guys; l will play bad guys, because I know a lot of good guys who do bad things. They just got caught up in the wrong situation, they just didn't have the word. It makes them good people who did bad things. It's a way to get God across and an understanding of forgiveness. In films, if there's no light or redemption, than I'm not into it.
GH: What kind of message do you hope people can take away with The Masked Saint?
MJ: It doesn't matter who you are, ordinary or unordinary -- you have it in you to be a positive element of change. Look for the opportunity - it's going to appear in everyone's life. The church should be a culmination of people like that and that are interested in that. People should be able to find themselves at church without feeling like they are being punished or judged -- the Bible says, "He has no sin throw the first stone." We're all sinners but we can be a positive change, and that change needs to start with the people of God, with the church. I hope The Masked Saint gets that across.