Why CBS’ ‘God Friended Me’ Is All About Connections
By Pauline Perenack
The show seemingly came out of nowhere. A quirky drama hidden on CBS’ Sunday night schedule boasting an IMDB plot summary of not much more than “an atheist’s life is turned upside down when God adds him as a friend on Facebook,” suddenly turned into one of CBS’ biggest hits of the 2018 season. In the pilot, viewers were introduced to Miles Finer (Brandon Michael Hall), an atheist son of a catholic preacher, who dreamed of being a famous podcaster, but found himself suddenly thrust into the weird and wonderful as an account on Facebook claiming to be God sent him a friend suggestion of Cara Bloom (Beane).
Joining Miles on his quest to figure out who’s behind the Facebook account, was his best friend Rakesh (Suraj Sharma), and eventually Cara, as well as Miles’ sister and father. The “God Squad” then spent the rest of the season trying to learn the secret behind the God Account, while helping the people put in their path, and learning more about themselves along the way.
At the end of the season, a young woman, Joy, approaches Miles to say an account calling themselves God on Facebook had suggested him as a friend to her, leaving viewers with an incredible cliffhanger.
It’s a unique concept, and definitely different than anything else currently on TV. I’m going to be honest: I mainly watched the pilot of God Friended Me last year because I interviewed series star Violett Beane, and we had a great conversation during which she convinced me to watch the show.
And you know what? I loved it.
So with the premiere of season two right around the corner on Sept. 29, I jumped at the chance to talk to series stars Beane, Sharma, and Javicia Leslie about the importance of social media to the show, what they thought it was that made the show so popular, their characters’ journey through season one, and what fans can expect in season two.
Clearly, a main theme within God Friended Me, is social media. In today’s society, social media has helped bring people of all beliefs and cultures together because they’re able to communicate like never before. They’re able to connect around common interests, and in rare instances, a wonderful, truly supportive collective is formed, and that seems to have happened with the fans of God Friended Me.
When talking about the fan interactions on social media since the show premiered, the actors all agreed that the positive messages the show conveys are translating through to those interactions about the show on social media. “It’s been really, really positive,” Beane said. “I’ve had a lot of people who have messaged me or reached out and said they watched this with their family, or it’s really helped, or that they like that there’s a positive, uplifting message to each story, and that each story, even when it seems like it won’t work out, it does, and I think that gives a lot of people hope who are watching our show.”
Leslie agrees. “I think the fans are very, very supportive of our show.” And while Sharma isn’t as active on social media as his co-stars, even he’s heard about the positive fan interactions. “When someone says they like it, and they’ll say what they liked, or who they liked, or where, in which episode they were emotionally moved and found themselves in the characters’ feet, it really feels real,” said Sharma. “It feels very personal. It’s never about me. It’s never about any of the actors. It’s really honestly about the story, and it comes through when they talk about it, so the fact that it means something to people is really quite special.”
So, what exactly is it that is drawing audiences to the show? Sharma succinctly summed up the interest in the show by pointing out that, “everybody is so hungry for connections. So they see themselves in this, and that’s what makes it special.” Beane expanded upon that a bit more by saying, “I also think that our show is very diverse – not just in the people you’re seeing on screen, but their backgrounds, and what they believe in. In our show, the point is not to argue about our beliefs and what’s right. The point is to show that people who have different beliefs and who come from different backgrounds can be friends and can hang out, and it doesn’t have to be this constant struggle.”
Ultimately, the connections created on this show are driven by complex, realistic characters. Viewers are drawn into not only the “Friend of the Week”, but to the makeup of the main characters. Over the course of season one, each character had their own unique transformative journey, often undergoing very relatable struggles.
Sharma put it best when talking about the complex journeys each character took over the course of the first season when he said that it’s “nothing short of miraculous in my opinion the way the writers have balanced it out, and figured it out for all of us, and left none behind.” And it’s true. Sharma’s own character, Rakesh, went from being a socially awkward genius with only Miles as his friend and living in his parents’ basement, to finding his purpose in life, which as Sharma pointed out, “pulled him basically out of his parents’ basement, started making him do things, realizing how good he is at certain things, and then eventually, even at the office, he goes from the guy in customer service to leading the R&D department.”
Leslie echoes Sharma as she talks about how her character Ali went through her own battle. “[Ali is] a part of a church that doesn’t necessarily approve of being a lesbian woman, so you watch her really kind of like battle being part of the church she’s been in her entire life, but being true to herself and knowing that what she chooses doesn’t represent her community.” Ali’s journey through season one didn’t have as big of a spotlight shown on it as the other characters, but over the course of the season, it became more and more apparent that, while Ali was there for everyone else, no one was really there for her.
Then there’s Beane’s character, Cara. Her journey was one viewers were introduced to in the pilot, as she was Miles’ first friend suggestion, and it continued right through to the final episode. “When we first meet Cara in the pilot, we see that she’s struggling with the fact that her mom, who left when she was young, she’s actually finally found her again in New York, but she doesn’t really know how to take the next step, or talk to her again, or to say hi,” Beane described. “And at the end of season one, Cara takes a job offer that moves her to Paris and as that happened, someone comes up to Miles, this character named Joy, who says that she actually got his name as a friend suggestion from someone calling themselves God on Facebook. So it’s a really fun cliffhanger and it sort of sets up season two.”
Speaking of season two, Beane goes on to mention that “there’s sort of a three episode arc that happens at the beginning of the season with Cara being in Paris, and Miles being in New York. When we pick up with Miles, he hasn’t been able to find Joy. She’s been MIA, basically. And he’s wondering what he’s supposed to do, so him and Rakesh track Joy down and the three of them start helping friend suggestions she’s receiving.”
Back in New York however, Rakesh and Miles have moved on from trying to get rid of the responsibility that comes with the God account, and as Sharma says, “season two is more about realizing the responsibility of what we have been given through the God account and coming to terms with that, and to a place where we appreciate it, we love it, we need it. And realizing that what we’re all really craving for is that connection and the ability to help someone else.”
Ali is also going to get in on the action of the God Squad, and finally get out from behind the bar. “She has a journey she’s going to go on that’s very surprising that you’ll not expect,” Leslie said. “She’s going to start one journey and then something major is going to happen in her life where she’s going to have to reevaluate everything that she believes in, so it’s interesting to see one character that’s an atheist who is going to have to watch this journey, and then another character who believes in God and is going to have to be in this journey. And you really see Ali get closer with her brother and her father because of this.” Leslie also mentioned that Ali will be interacting with the character of Joy a lot, leading one to believe that Ali joins the God Squad in Cara’s place, for at least the first few episodes.
Ultimately, this is a show with heart, and focuses on the connections that people crave, while giving audiences characters to care about. Season one was able to set the stage for an interesting season two, where the characters we now know can further step up, go through deeper development, and ultimately bring more humanity to an often cruel world.
Even if you didn’t watch season one of God Friended Me, take a chance on season two if you’re looking for something that will make you smile each week. You won’t regret it. And ultimately, in a roundabout way, you can thank Violett Beane for convincing you to take a chance on it.
God Friended Me premieres its second season on CBS, on Sunday, September 29 at 8pm ET/PT.
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