Miles Finer is a podcaster, who also happens to be an outspoken atheist ("There is no proof of God anywhere in the universe"). And then one day he is friended by a mysterious "God" account on Facebook, an account suggesting that he should find people who need help. And Miles does that, every week.
When actor Brandon Micheal Hall auditioned for the role in 2018, he says he understood the concept behind "God Friended Me," but was initially thrown by the title.
"'God Fr …' Wait, go back. God? Oh, OK, what are we talkin' about here?'" Hall said. "You know, it's just that one word. Why do we feel a type of way about that one word? Let's talk about it."
Which is what happens Sunday nights on CBS after "60 Minutes." That's a time slot associated with the long-running hit series "Touched By an Angel." But "God Friended Me" is different, in that humans, rather than supernatural beings, decide how to help people in need.
Actor Joe Morton also immediately responded to the show's concept: "That you don't have to believe in God to believe in good," he said.
But he had just finished playing the sinister Papa Pope on the TV series "Scandal," and wanted his next role to be the absolute opposite. "It was on purpose," Morton said. "I was looking for someone who was doing something quite different."
Very different: Morton portrays Reverend Arthur Finer. Yes, the atheist's father is a man of the cloth.
"God Friended Me" begins its second season next Sunday, and last year was the most-watched scripted series on Sundays. The show doesn't focus on specific religions, but on what beliefs people share in common.
"Everyone should believe in something, and that's what this show is hitting at: Believe in something," said Hall.
Cast members say the scripts — part drama, part comedy — have caused them to examine their own beliefs.
Hall said, "I grew up in the church. My mom was a preacher, pastor, minister."
Today, Hall considers himself a spiritual-enough person that playing an atheist was at first a challenge. He said, "I don't know what a world like that feels like or looks like. You know, who do you pray to?"
Correspondent Michelle Miller asked, "What do you do?"
"You realize that, one, I'm playing a part, it's just a part. So, who am I to say that I can't be an atheist?"
Javicia Leslie plays Miles' sister, Ali. "I went to church on my own," she said. "My mom didn't take me to church, 'cause my mom wasn't really the churchgoer. She'd watch church on TV, but I made her drop me off at church. I got baptized on my own, and then I wanted to be a preacher."
Joe Morton was raised Catholic, but says that a lot of his TV character was based on the sermon delivered at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle by Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
"Those who do not love, do not know God. Why? For God is love! … That's what love is. Love is not selfish and self-centered. Love can be sacrificial, and in so doing, becomes redemptive."
Morton said, "So, I watched him during the wedding. And I thought: That's interesting, because he comes across as a Baptist as opposed to Episcopal. And I like that a lot."
Violett Beane plays Cara Bloom, a journalist who joins Miles in his attempts to mend troubled souls. "She's definitely more of a believer than I am personally," said Beane, who was raised a Quaker. "It's a really interesting religion; it's very open. And I think that trickles down to me as an actor being open and responsive."
And Suraj Sharma plays a buddy of Miles', Rakesh, a computer hacker. Sharma grew up in New Delhi, India, and was raised Hindu.
"I can't say I'm religious at all," he told Miller. "But I feel like there's more to the world than humans and our way of understanding stuff."
"Do you find that you've become a spiritual spokesperson?" Miller asked.
"I don't feel like I could be a spokesperson of spirituality. But I do believe I'm finding the kernel of this idea of spirituality in me."
We discovered that, inside Brandon Micheal Hall, spirituality has become more than just a kernel of an idea. At least one Sunday every month, he joins the group Hashtag Lunchbag Brooklyn, to make sandwiches for those less fortunate.
"I know what that feels like;to watch my mom try to survive," Hall said. "I know what that feels like to open the fridge and be like, we've got to section this out. That's my church."
And his church delivers. "And all they kept saying was: Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. I mean, that's church. That's what church should be."
Brandon Micheal Hall may have solved that mystery, but he and the cast of "God Friended Me" still grapple with the question fans of the show keep asking: "Do you know who is behind the God account?"
"No idea," Sharma said.
Does Violett Beane know for certain what the writers have in mind? "Absolutely not," she said.
Javicia Leslie was equivocal when asked if we will ever find out.
And when Hall was asked, he punted: "What's your next question?"
For more info:
- "God Friended Me" (CBS)
Story produced by Jay Kernis.