Despite Hand of God‘s Old Testament-esque title… and the presence of a pastor as one of its main characters… and the fact that its protagonist thinks a higher power is communicating with him via signs and wonders… the new Amazon drama is no holy roller, cast member Garret Dillahunt says.
“It’s oddly not a show about religion as much as it is about man’s interpretation of it, or twisting it to his own ends,” says the Raising Hope alum, who plays KD, a former white supremacist whose introduction to Christianity hasn’t completely bled him of his violent tendencies.
Dillahunt’s character soon finds himself recruited by Pernell Harris, a powerful and morally lax judge who seems to be losing his mind in the wake of his adult son’s unsuccessful suicide attempt.
Pernell (played by Sons of Anarchy‘s Ron Perlman) hears voices, has visions and becomes convinced that the aberrations are messages from God. But Harris’ hallucinations lead him to discover that there’s more to his son’s situation than originally thought, teeing up the question that series creator Ben Watkins says can be applied to all zealots: “Are they insane, or are they inspired?”
Read on for what you need to know about the drama, which premieres (in its entirety) on the streaming video service this Friday.
IN GOOD COMPANY | Watkins says that books about abolitionist John Brown and rebellion leader Nat Turner — as well as Beneath the Underdog, an autobiography by jazz musician Charles Mingus — fed his fascination with zealots of all stripes. “It’s not just religious-based, because I think [jazz musician] John Coltrane was a zealot. I think, in certain cases, [physicist] Albert Einstein and [chemist/peace activist] Linus Pauling could be considered zealots. They’re operating on another level, and it’s tough for people around them.” Pernell’s grief, Watkins adds, becomes the cause that fuels his zealotry.
A DARK DRAW | It’s not long into the pilot before we learn that the rape of Pernell’s daughter-in-law Jocelyn (played by Alona Tal, Veronica Mars) preceded his son PJ’s incident. In one harrowing scene, Pernell forces Jocelyn to try to identify her attacker that was the moment that hooked director Marc Forster (World War Z) on the project. “I said, ‘I have to do this,'” he tells TVLine. “I also was interested in this because there are very few writers who can balance absurd, comedic moments with heavy drama and go back and forth tonally…. I thought it was a great challenge.”
FOOTMAN IN GOD’S ARMY? | Dillahunt’s KD is a strong, simple man, but “He’s not an idiot,” the actor says. “He’s not Lennie in Of Mice and Men.” As KD becomes involved in Harris’ journey — as well as the seemingly fly-by-night church the judge eagerly joins — his trusting nature (and brute strength) are taken advantage of several times over. Dillahunt says to watch for a time when the ex-con truly doubts the judge for the first time. “You know, there’s a lot of KD I wish I was like,” he adds, laughing, “There’s a lot I’m glad I’m not.”
MAN OF THE CLOTH | Julian Morris (Pretty Little Liars, New Girl) plays Rev. Paul, the leader of the aforementioned house of worship. Paul wears a collar and a too-eager grin; couple that with his sexy assistant Alicia (Elizabeth McLaughlin, Betrayal) and his hunger for fame, and it seems like the man of God might be a little more interested in earthly delights than heavenly rewards. “He has a very unique backstory,” Watkins previews. “In Episode 5, you get a real good glimpse into Paul and his demons.”
BUILDING A MYSTERY | Make sure you watch to the very end of the premiere: That’s when a tiny twist will challenge what you think about Pernell’s ravings. The twist — kicked off by a character who refers to a shadowy “they” — also sets up a mystery that centers on finding out to whom “they” refers. Even the cast didn’t know until the very last table read of the season. (“I thought it was somebody else,” says Dana Delany (Desperate Housewives), who plays Pernell’s wife, Crystal. “It was surprising.”) Adds Watkins: “We like to say here, ‘If you’re tuning in for easy answers, you’re going to be disappointed.'”