Fri Jan 27, 2023

How Crises of Faith can affect one’s identity and the role of Society / Interview with Tijuana Ricks about her series All Souls

The series from 2019 tells the story of Morgan Thomas (Michael Potts), who is visibly dissatisfied with his situation and loses his faith in God. Thomas is the pastor of the All Souls Episcopal Church. He is well-known as a man and a pastor and is appreciated in the small community. Thomas takes care of his fellow human beings, always finds the right words and inspires the parishioners. But he has reached a point where he is questioning his faith in God. As a result, he begins to doubt, which leads to conflicts with his colleagues and fellow human beings. While watching the series, which consists of six episodes of six to seven minutes, you are encouraged to think about social aspects, one’s self and faith in God. These topics are thematized and critically examined.

Michael Potts plays the lead character, Morgan Thomas. The American actor is best known for his roles as Brother Mouzone in The Wire and Mafala Hatimbi in The Book of Mormon on Broadway. Tijuana Ricks is the director of the web series All Souls. She has appeared in many productions such as Luke Cage, Iron Fist and Jessica Jones. In 2015 she produced her first own “short comedy” Human Resources: Sick Days Aren’t a Game and worked for The Vampire Leland as co-creator and producer. Both projects were selected at renowned film festivals such as the SoHo International Film Festival (Human Resources and Vampire Leland), the St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase (Human Resources), the HollyShorts Film Festival (Human Resources), the St. Louis International Film Festival (Human Resources and Vampire Leland), the Atlanta Film Festival (Human Resources) and the New York Television Festival (Vampire Leland). She was also nominated with All Souls at Web series Festivals. At the 2020 DC Web Fest, the series won the Gold Award in the Digital Series category. In the interview Tijuana Ricks tells us, how the creators came up with this unique topic and what the current situation is like in America.

Kyle Parsons and Tijuana Ricks shooting All Souls © Nick Sherman

Die Seriale: All Souls tells the story of a priest who loses his faith in God and yet continues. That offers a great inner conflict. So how did you get the idea to make a series about it?
Tijuana Ricks: Our writer Gwydion Suilebhan read about a group called The Clergy Project, which gathers people who work in the religious background, questioning their faith and providing support through that struggle.

Die Seriale: How did you get to the location of All Souls and why did you choose an Episcopal Church as the setting to tell the story? How long did the shooting of All Souls take?
Tijuana Ricks: Our producer Chiara Motley approached a local church near her apartment. It was the church that allowed us to film! The shooting of All Souls took about 10 days.

Die Seriale: What is the function of the music in the series?
Tijuana Ricks: Music was meant to represent the inner life and conflict of Morgan. Also, Morgan loves jazz. Jazz is a piece of original American music.

Die Seriale: Michael Potts plays Pastor Morgan Thomas. Why did you choose him?
Tijuana Ricks: He is an incredible actor with gravitas and warmth.

Michael Potts © Series All Souls

Die Seriale: You said that you especially like focus and lighting and long single shots so that the actors have enough time to play. Did you want to do that in All Souls also?
Tijuana Ricks: Yes. I wanted to do that in All Souls as well.

Die Seriale: What role does diversity play in the series?
Tijuana Ricks: All Souls was shot entirely in Brooklyn, NY, with a cast and crew as diverse as the borough. I’m incredibly proud to say my cast, crew, and post-production team is 75% people of colour and 80% women.

Still All Souls © All Souls

Die Seriale: Is the loss of faith a current topic right now in America? Did you want to draw attention to this theme with the series? What was your intention?
Tijuana Ricks: We live in a country that’s become incredibly, dangerously polarized by questions of faith. (A country, I should add, that’s always been unkind toward those who hold no religious beliefs at all.) So these are difficult times in America. We don’t know how to resolve the differences between us. For example, the fastest-growing religious segment in America is the “nones”—people who don’t belong to any faith at all—and yet attendance at new, mostly-evangelical megachurches also continues to rise. Meanwhile, according to Pew, 45% of Americans practice a different religion, in which they were brought up. We think in absolutes, but the facts show that we live in grey areas.

Die Seriale: By questioning his faith, the main character also questions his identity in a way. Was that also a theme you wanted to tell?
Tijuana Ricks: Yes. His faith has been his identity for so long, that now by questioning his faith, he has to question everything.

Die Seriale: Is the series completed, or will it be continued?
Tijuana Ricks: The series is completed in this iteration.

Die Seriale: Thank you very much for the interview!

All Souls (2019)
Country: USA
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 6 x 6-7 min
Director: Tijuana Ricks
Writer: Gwydion Suilebhan
Producers: Gwydion Suilebhan, Tijuana Ricks, Chiara Motley, Christine Meyers
Cast: Michael Potts, Chiara Motley, Christopher LaPanta, Luis Moreno, Brooke Gardner