It took creative twin partners Adamma and Adanne Ebo forever to find just the right song for a particular car scene in their stunning debut film. Horn for Jesus. save your soul. For weeks, stars Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall, who play an embattled megachurch pastor and his devoted wife, kept asking the sisters about it. Would they let off steam to an OutKast song? Maybe something from Ludacris?
It was a tricky choice, the Ebo sisters explained in a recent joint interview with The Daily Beast. First, the song had to capture a specific era. As Adamma explained, “the sisters wanted this to feel like the time we were growing up and going to church.” (They were born in 1991.) The writer-director also wanted us to see these oh-so-righteous religious leaders hear something extremely mundane.
As you can imagine, the day Adamma and Adanne were finally able to announce their song choices was a big one. “We were such a hoopla,” said producer Adanne. “We thought it was going to be ‘Knuck If You Buck!'”
The answer? radio silence.
“You were like, what’s that?” Adanne remembered with a laugh.
“So they had to learn it,” Adamma added.
Crime Mob’s “Knuck If You Buck” is, as Adamma put it, a “very 2000s Atlanta song”. But aside from reflecting the film’s setting, the track also reflects how Pastor Lee-Curtis Childs (Brown) and his faithful wife Trinitie (Hall) are doing when we first meet them.
“They’re preparing for the fight of their lives,” Adamma said. “Because it’s a fight song. ‘Knuck If You Buck’ is a fight song — it’s about beating people up.” (So much for turning the other cheek.)
As we soon find out, Lee-Curtis and Trinitie once presided over a huge congregation before scandal emptied their pews. Lee-Curtis, whose sermons can descend into homophobia, has been accused of showering gifts and attention on certain young, male and vulnerable parishioners. When Horn for Jesus begins, he and his wife have agreed to work on a documentary (skeptical in Trinity Fall) to try to regain their reputation.
Hall and Brown are each absolutely unforgettable in their roles. As a first lady whose righteous anger at her husband can sometimes prevent her from investigating her own complicity in his misdeeds, Hall is both stunning and divisive. One moment we’re laughing at Trinity’s breezy one-liners, and the next we see her falling apart internally while a trembling smile lingers on her face. Brown, on the other hand, is unnerving in its intensity — from his piercing eyes to his fearfully unpredictable sermons to his larger than life appeal.
When asked how Brown and Hall like to work, the sisters immediately agreed — as Adamma put it, “They’re up for anything and everything.” For emphasis, her sister added, “Yes — they’ll do anything.” To do that involved a lot of improvisation for both actors, particularly Brown, whose off-the-cuff humor inspired his brilliant quip that the word ‘ego’ actually “stands for ‘god outing’.”
With Horn for Jesus Premiered in theaters and on Peacock on Friday, with a second feature film on the way and a TV deal already sealed, it seems certain we’ll be hearing the Ebo sisters’ names a lot in the future. But their creative partnership was never a foregone conclusion. It started when they were both in separate subjects school; While Adamma was studying film, Adanne was attending law school. As part of her film program, Adamma was required to make a short film each year, and during her sophomore year she recruited her twin sister to produce. From then on, a new facet of their relationship formed.
“She said, ‘I think you’d be good at it – will you do it?'” Adanne told me as she sat down next to her sister. “I didn’t know anything about it – I googled a lot – but I fell in love with her and decided I was all in from that point on.” In addition to creative production, Adanne now works with her twin as a writing partner on all projects.
Raised in Atlanta’s mega-church scene, the Ebos developed a degree of skepticism about their spiritual upbringing — even as they connected to other aspects of their faith. Adamma, who produced a short film version of honk in high school, said that she was “basically trying to figure myself out” with this project.
“If you hold up the mirror, you will see that there are both warts and beauty,” she said. “It’s not all one. And to me, that’s just real.”
One aspect of the Ebo church experience that makes it into the film? Worship facial expressions in which the performers put on make-up and expressively dance to gospel music. It’s a relatively new tradition, adopted in some black churches, and the Ebos said it became popular in their orbit in the 2000s. “I don’t think we knew that other people were unfamiliar with it,” Adanne said. “We just thought, ‘Oh, they do that in every church now.'”
“It definitely puts you in the uncanny valley,” Adamma said of the appreciative facial expression. “I think that was at least our experience. I remember feeling crazy because so many other people were enjoying it.” When Hall wears the pantomime makeup for a climactic final act monologue, the results are quite unreal indeed.
“[Praise miming] definitely takes you to the Uncanny Valley. I remember feeling crazy because so many other people were enjoying it.”
Even though Horn for Jesus Satirizing the southern megachurch scene the Ebo sisters grew up with, the film avoids being downbeat in favor of asking more thorny questions about vanity, truth and redemption. The mockumentary format, Adamma adds, allows us to see how the couple behave on and off camera. When they’re in the spotlight, the writer-director points out, Trinitie and Lee-Curtis are usually the most inauthentic. However, turn off the cameras and “we get a real glimpse of who these people really are.”
When asked what’s on the horizon after that Horn for JesusAdamma said her next film will be another dark comedy — maybe a little darker than honk, and a bit more genre (particularly thrillers and magical realism). “And very black too,” she added. “Don’t expect to see too many white people.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/obsessed/honk-for-jesus-save-your-soul-inside-adamma-and-adanne-ebos-mega-church-comedy?source=articles&via=rss In Adamma and Adanne Ebo’s mega church comedy