Created by Dustin Lance Black, the mini-series On orders from God recounts a terrible incident that took place among the Mormons in 1984. For those raised in the Mormon faith, this series is a way to explore this controversial religion.
It is no coincidence that Dustin Lance Black – Oscar-winning screenwriter for the film Harvey Milk – set his sights on the book of the same name by Jon Krakauer. Before making himself known with the screenplay by Harvey Milk, Dustin Lance Black had already cut his teeth on the excellent series big love which follows a polygamous Mormon family.
With By order of Godhe recounts a terrible news item that took place in 1984 in the Mormon community of Utah in 1984. There he addresses a severe criticism of the religious practices of the Mormons and features a fictional but central character, the inspector Jeb Pyre played by Andrew Garfield. Also Mormon and very religious, his faith is violently shaken as he advances on this investigation.
“For me it was the possibility of exploring the origin of my faith when I was young in the Mormon church. I had several questions left behind and I was able to try to find the answers here. It is rare that we can lift the veil of mystery that surrounds the Mormons“, says Dustin Lance Black.
The origin of the Mormon Church is heavily depicted in the series which is cut into three narrative threads: Jeb Pyre’s investigation and his Native American and atheist teammate (Gil Birmingham) on the murder of Brenda Lafferty (Daisy Edgar Jones) and her 15-month-old daughter, the Lafferty family life and the founding of the Mormon Church in the early 19th century.
“There were answers in this book [celui de Jon Krakauer, ndlr] to many questions that I was not allowed to ask when I was young and when I was part of this church. It allowed me to understand the fundamentalism of the Mormons who refer to scriptures taken literally and written more than 2000 years ago, it makes no sense. It’s even dangerous“, continues the screenwriter.
By order of God does not constitute a firebrand: “It was important for me to be as authentic as possible because I didn’t want to present this church with any cliché whatsoever. Most of my family is still in the Mormon Church and I wanted to respect their choice, to honor them as much as possible.“
This is why the character of Jeb Pyre becomes essential to the story. Because he is the one who begins to doubt when he discovers the extremist branches of his own religion. “The role of Pyre is crucial and I really needed an actor with wide open eyes and heart. Andrew Garfield has confirmed himself as the ideal candidate. Because he understands and he has studied the notion of faith. He had the courage to take this role which could be a risk in his career.
He fell in love with this series, he traveled to Utah and spent a lot of time talking with real Mormons to understand them better, to understand their vision of their faith. He didn’t just read the book and ask me questions but he really immersed himself in the world of Mormons“, continues an admiring Dustin Lance Black.
Today, the screenwriter takes a different look at this religion in which he grew up and on the notion of faith: “It is a notion, a meaning that has changed in nature several times during my life. At the beginning, very young, it was a blind faith in the church that raised me. But as soon as I started asking about that faith, I saw the light and that blind faith disappeared.
I also wanted to shoot this series to show the Mormon Church that it’s time to change, to evolve. This series is like a mirror in which I would like her to see herself in order to be able to truly change.“