Entertainment

Andrew Garfield finds current parallels with ‘Banner of Heaven’

Andrew Garfield has played a crimefighter before, but never a cop, not until his Emmy-nominated miniseries Under the Banner of Heaven. In it he plays Mormon Det. Jeb Pyre investigates a double homicide in the fictional town of East Rockwell, Utah. Based on the book by Jon Krakauer, the series explores the real-life 1984 murder of Brenda Lafferty (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and her young daughter at the hands of her in-laws, Ron and Dan Lafferty, leaders of a fundamentalist Mormon sect.

As Pyre and his partner delve deep into the crime, they uncover a Mormon splinter group motivated by anti-government grievances dating back to 19th-century persecution. In our day, similar resentments and euphemisms of history have prevailed among those who place political affiliation above democratic principles, just as the Laffertys placed the rule of God above the law.

“We were kidnapped by a very small minority. And the minority has figured out how to run the system with a white, puritanical arrogance, like British colonial arrogance that says, ‘We know the way, and you all go to hell if you don’t follow,'” says Garfield. Draw parallels between the religiously motivated attack on Brenda Lafferty and the recent Supreme Court ruling on abortion.

“This show is a clear reflection of the kind of fundamentalism that is creeping into public life. The scariest part is that there’s this kind of cheering for ignorance, a kind of flag-waving of how great it is that ignorance wins and a lack of compassion wins. How do you get people to take an obvious attitude that a woman’s body belongs to her and no one else’s? It is a fear-based ideology that keeps us from true connection to present reality, compassion, empathy, and remembering our connectedness to all living things. And that’s really where spirituality and God, whatever you define as God, live.”

In the course of his investigation, Pyre is questioned critically about his faith, much like series creator Dustin Lance Black, who was raised a Mormon but has since left the church. Garfield describes himself as a “pantheist, agnostic, occasionally atheist,” but has never faced a spiritual crisis like his character’s. The closest he came to losing his mother to pancreatic cancer was in 2019.

“I kind of lived under the illusion, in some unconscious way, that she would be here forever, even though intellectually I knew she wouldn’t, and that was when she died,” he recalls ruefully. “Of course there was resistance. I didn’t want that to become a reality. Who would?”

Garfield’s career took off just three years after graduating from the University of London’s Central School of Speech and Drama. He appeared in two episodes of the BBC’s Doctor Who in 2007 and made his big screen debut in Lions for Lambs that same year, starring Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. In 2017 he received his first Oscar nomination for “Hacksaw Ridge”, followed by another earlier this year for “Tick, Tick … Boom!”. in which he played Broadway composer Jonathan Larson.

A big TV fan since childhood, he lists The Wonder Years, Boy Meets World and Kenan & Kel as his favorite shows as a kid. “It would be inappropriate for me to be cast as Kenan, but I would dream of being on this show,” he enthuses, also naming “The West Wing.” “Every character on this show is so brilliant, but the villain Bradley Whitford is, he’s such an incredible character.”

Other incredible characters are the superheroes of the upcoming Avengers: Secret Wars. He’s not listed in the credits, but he wasn’t supposed to be in Spider-Man: No Way Home, and there he was anyway. So will he be in the new movie? “Not that I know of, but anything I say about anything from now on will be questioned,” he says, laughing.

One show he’d like to do is the miniseries Hot Air, in which he’ll play British entrepreneur Richard Branson in the 1990s during a legal battle between British Airways and Branson’s Virgin Atlantic. “I am fascinated by Branson. He seems like a really interesting person. I want to honor and do justice to him, especially at this time.”

Garfield’s Emmy nomination for “Under the Banner of Heaven” is his first. “My reaction to being nominated for my acting is always the same – I’m just glad to be alive!” he laughs. “I am very grateful and honored to have been named in this category. I feel like a representative of my company because you are only as strong as the people you work with.

“I’m glad to be able to do what I love, then the rest just feels like icing on the cake and an honor, a real honor.”

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/awards/story/2022-08-16/andrew-garfield-under-the-banner-of-heaven Andrew Garfield finds current parallels with ‘Banner of Heaven’

Sarah Ridley

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