Even though he's become famous in the last few years for playing Jesus on the hit Gospels-based TV show The Chosen, Catholic actor Jonathan Roumie has been around showbiz for a while, working onscreen and in voiceover.
In Jesus Revolution, his first feature-film role since The Chosen, Roumie still sports his familiar long hair and beard, and he's still talking about God, but he's playing a very different character.
What's Jesus Revolution About?
Kelsey Grammer stars in this latest fact-inspired entry from the Erwin Brothers (I Can Only Imagine, I Still Believe, American Underdog) as Chuck Smith, an Evangelical pastor in Orange County, California, in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Smith is introduced to Lonnie Frisbee (Roumie), a charismatic hippie preacher.
Frisbee transforms Smith's ministry, which opens its doors to the disaffected young people who became the core of the Jesus Movement (the participants were often called Jesus People or Jesus Freaks).
Joel Courtney co-stars as young Greg Laurie, who's drawn into Smith and Frisbee's orbit and has a religious awakening.
Laurie became a pastor and wrote the 2018 book Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today, on which the film is based.
Jesus Revolution hits theaters nationwide on Friday, Feb. 24.
Talking to Jonathan Roumie About Playing Lonnie Frisbee
I recently caught up with Roumie for an interview for my Pax Culturati blog at the multifaith site Patheos.com.
In the post, I get into aspects of Frisbee's life, including his death in 1993 from AIDS at the age of 43, that aren't included in the timeframe of the film.
The whole video is embedded in the Pax Culturati post, and also below -- including a little Easter egg at the end for fans of The Chosen -- but here are some excerpts.
On why Roumie did the film:
Read the script. And I did, and I didn't have to do anything else.
They didn't have to pitch me on anything. The era was fascinating. The script was phenomenal. Lonnie's story was amazing and heartbreaking and beautiful, and a testament to God's grace.
And so, it really wasn't even a choice. It was just like, "Yeah, let's figure out how to make it work."
On what struck him about this Pentecostal preacher:
I mean, Christ appeared to Lonnie in a vision that told him, before he ever met Chuck Smith, that he was going to bring thousands of hippies to Himself, to Christ.
And he looked out in this vision at the Pacific Ocean, and instead of being filled with water, it was filled with people, with hippies just yearning for God.
And that's exactly what he did. He also professed to Greg Laurie that he saw that God was going to use Greg to administer to thousands of people as well. ...
So he was prophetic, he was apostolic, he was charismatic, and he worked with the spirit intimately, and he was in love with Jesus Christ.
Frisbee Is Now Buried at a Catholic Cathedral
Frisbee's memorial service was held in 1993 at Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral in Garden Grove, California, in Orange County, south of Los Angeles.
The Diocese of Orange purchased the property in 2011. Converted for Catholic worship, the glass-walled church building is now Christ Cathedral.
A video of the whole service is in the Pax Culturati post.
On Roumie's experience visiting Frisbee's grave:
So before I started work, I went over to Christ Cathedral, and I sat by his grave, and I prayed a Rosary with him.
I sat down and I prayed with him. The space just to his right is empty, so I got to sit down or lie.
At one point, I even lied down because I just thought it would be kind of interesting to try to connect in some way. That's probably more information than you need, or may even want to publish. But that said, it's the truth.
And so I finished praying with him and I said, "Lonnie, I want to honor you with this film, and I really want to bring justice and the testament to the gifts of God's grace and powers that you displayed while you were on this earth.
"And so, if this is a good idea that I do this film, have somebody give me a sign. Give me a sign, and have God give me a sign."
And the minute the words left my mouth, behind me, there was a door open to the cathedral, and this giant chord rang out for about five seconds and then stopped.
So I heard that, and I was like, "OK, thanks for that."
By the way, as I point out in the video, that organ is the same one that was in the Crystal Cathedral.
How God Uses Imperfect People
Frisbee was also caught up in the cultural upheavals of the 1960s, and his faith journey had as many lows as highs.
Many of the groups he helped found later moved on from him, but Jesus Revolution returns him to his seminal place in the Jesus Movement that launched in Southern California.
As The Chosen also demonstrates, God often makes use of imperfect people.
Roumie, on bringing Frisbee back:
It started with Greg Laurie and his book, Jesus Revolution. He wanted to write back in Lonnie Frisbee, who had been written out. And Lonnie had a profound impact on Greg's life. Lonnie baptized Greg.
I mean, people are uncomfortable with imperfection in the church. And fortunately, God is not uncomfortable, and He uses us despite our imperfections, and thank God for that.
Jesus Revolution is rated PG-13 (Some Thematic Elements|Strong Drug Content). It doesn't, though, feature profanity, sex or violence.
It's fine for teens and up, provided they're given some cultural context about the era and its ramifications. Catholic parents may also want to discuss theological differences between Evangelical Protestants and Catholics.
Here's the trailer:
And the full interview:
Image: Jonathan Roumie as Lonnie Frisbee in 'Jesus Revolution.' Photo Credit: Dan Anderson
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Content Manager at Family Theater Productions.
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