Forget Hollywood; Maryland is rolling out the red carpet! The recent premiere of “Mercy Rd.” wasn’t just a nice, intimate event; it was a peek into the growth of the state’s film industry. Standing amongst the crowd were Julian Brittano, the actor bringing Pastor Alan to the screen, and Anthony Commodore, the mastermind behind “Mercy Rd” as CEO of Commodore Independent Filmworks. Their smiles reflected not just personal triumph but the dawning of a new era where Maryland would become a hub for storytelling, creativity, and opportunity.
When asked what sparked the idea for “Mercy Rd”, Commodore stated, “The initial spark for this project came from a place of deep pain. After losing my mom, I found myself in a dark and difficult space. As a content creator, I turned to my craft as a means to navigate through this turmoil. Consuming the entirety of ‘Greenleaf’ over five seasons sparked an idea within me. I reached out to Julian Brittano with my concept, eager to expand upon the show’s conclusion. After pitching my idea and receiving his interest, I wasted no time in crafting the script. Once Julian gave it his stamp of approval, I rallied my team together, excitedly announcing our new venture. With their unwavering support, we embarked on the journey to bring ‘Mercy Road’ to life. Despite the challenges that inevitably arose, including those hinted at in my social media posts, we persevered, driven by our collective passion for the project.”
Julian Brittano’s illustrious career spans a range of leading roles, from his debut in OWN’s acclaimed series “Greenleaf” to his recent appearance in Lionsgate’s “Matchstruck” alongside David Koechner. With notable credits in projects like “Heir of the Witch” and “Back To The Goode Life,” Brittano brings depth and charisma to his portrayal of Pastor Alan, anchoring the narrative of “Mercy Rd.”
Brittano talked about the reason for his work on “Mercy Rd”, explaining, “People have been eagerly awaiting the return of faith-based drama since ‘Greenleaf’ concluded four years ago. There’s a palpable sense of anticipation among viewers, both devout and those seeking a spiritual connection, to delve back into narratives that resonate with their roots. Many of us come from church backgrounds and upbringings that shape our perspectives and values. I believe this resurgence will serve as a conduit for individuals to reconnect with their beginnings and find inspiration to navigate various facets of their lives moving forward.”
At its core, “Mercy Rd” brings together a compelling tale centered around a pastor, his congregation, and the tumultuous events that unfold within and around their church community. The series looks into themes of faith, community, and redemption, offering a nuanced exploration of human experiences.
Accompanying Brittano at the premiere were fellow cast members and notable attendees, including “Mercy Rd” director K. DyRec Butler, actor/comedian Melvin Jackson Jr., filmmaker Monique Dismuke, actress Jordan Babbs, singer Durrell “Tank” Babbs, and Maryland delegate Karen Toles. Their presence underscored the collaborative spirit and local support vital to the success of Maryland-based productions.
K. DyRec on finding a location for filming: “I wouldn’t necessarily call it a struggle, but as someone with particular tastes, I was determined to find a location with character—a place that could almost serve as a character itself, aligning with the stars and actors involved in the project. I sought out something that resonated with culture, heart, and love. Once we discovered the perfect setting, everything else fell seamlessly into place.”
K. DyRec on the script: “I’m the kind of person who thrives on visualization. When I first read the script, I immediately started picturing it in my mind’s eye, almost like seeing the entire piece and project unfold before we even started shooting. I already had a clear vision of how I wanted it to feel, look, and the performances I wanted from the actors. I envisioned their movements, dialogue delivery, and overall performance. This vision was also intertwined with the setting we used, particularly the church background. Everything seamlessly blended together.”
Jordan Babbs on her role : “I truly had to tap into the character’s essence, which is something I could deeply connect with. There were certain differences between us that I needed to explore and understand. I delved into studying the script and immersing myself in her persona to truly grasp who she is as a person.”
Dismuke explained the importance of supporting local projects, saying, “It’s incredibly important to me to lend support to local projects. As someone who’s carved their path in this industry, I understand the significance of owning and championing our narratives. Collaborating to back Commodore’s project held personal importance for me, as he’s been a pivotal supporter of my own independent endeavors. In times like these, it’s crucial that we rally together, offering mutual support and showing up for one another.”
Jackson said “It’s crucial because creating a project is already challenging, and without support, its potential impact can be limited. We must continue to bolster independent artists and anyone within our networks, extending our support in any way possible. By spreading awareness and actively discussing these projects, we ensure that our own endeavors receive the same level of backing that we offer to others.” When it comes to supporting local filmmakers.
Delegate Karen Toles talked about her excitement being a part of local projects like “Mercy Rd”, stating, “I’m excited to be here in Maryland, where we’ve dedicated ourselves to bolstering the arts scene and backing local artists in any way we can. This production was filmed right here in Maryland, specifically in Baltimore, and we’re eager to continue fostering a vibrant entertainment and production environment within the state. I’m particularly excited about the recent developments: last year, the Maryland General Assembly passed entertainment tax credits aimed at attracting and supporting more filming and entertainment ventures in our state. It’s a significant step forward and one that promises to bring even more vitality to Maryland’s creative landscape.”
Commodore elaborated on the process of developing the story for the project, stating, “It wasn’t so much about finding a balance as it was about integrating real-life experiences into the fabric of the church setting. We took everyday issues, the trials and tribulations we all face, and transposed them into the church environment of ‘Mercy Road.’ The original premise revolved around a natural catastrophe that devastated White Plains, Maryland, forcing rival churches to unite under one roof out of necessity. This merging of congregations brought about its set of challenges alongside the myriad of other issues we witness in our communities. By placing these struggles within the context of the church, we aimed to explore the resilience of faith in overcoming adversity.”
When it comes to what Brittano hopes people get out of “Mercy Rd”, he stated, “Basically just communicate, communication is key. So whether you need better communication with how you communicate with your guy, how you communicate with, Others, your family, loved ones, spouses. Start a communication tool instead of holding things in.”
One of the standout features of “Mercy Rd” is its commitment to showcasing some of the Maryland talent both in front of and behind the camera. Nearly all the actors featured in the pilot episode hail from Maryland, showcasing some of the talent within the state. This dedication to local talent elevates the storytelling’s authenticity and fosters economic growth and job creation within the region.
In fact, the production of “Mercy Rd” generated approximately 50 temporary jobs and utilized Baltimore, Maryland, as a primary filming location. This aligns seamlessly with Governor Wes Moore’s initiatives to bolster the state’s entertainment industry, spearheaded by Meryam Bouadjemi, an Academy Award-shortlisted filmmaker.
As the pilot episode of “Mercy Rd” excited the audience in attendance with its compelling narrative, slight humor, and authentic performances, it also served as a testament to the limitless potential of Maryland’s film industry. With visionary creators like Julian Brittano and Anthony Commodore at the helm, supported by a talented ensemble cast and dedicated local initiatives, the future of Maryland’s entertainment scene looks brighter than ever.