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John Corbett talks ‘All Saints,’ ‘Northern Exposure’ and more

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John Corbett talks ‘All Saints,’ ‘Northern Exposure’ and more (Photo courtesy of Affirm Films)

The true story of how a group of refugees from war-torn Burma saved a small church in Tennessee is at the center of “All Saints” – a new movie starring John Corbett (“Northern Exposure,” “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” “Sex and The City”) and Carla Buono (“Mad Men,” “Stranger Things”).

John Corbett stars in “All Saints” as pastor Michael Spurlock in his first feature film lead. According to Corbett, he read the script - written by Steve Armour - as a favor to his CPA.

“I said ‘Oh no, not one of those,’” Corbett laughed. Thinking he would have find a way to let his friend down easy, Corbett instead called his CPA after reading only 10 pages of the script.

“I said ‘What’s this guy’s number?’ Four months later we were shooting it. The process of doing this movie was a six-week experience that might have been the best experience I’ve ever had in my 30 years in this business.”

Unique among true stories converted into a feature film is the fact that “All Saints” was shot in the town (Smyrna, Tennessee) where the story occurred a decade ago; the film incorporates many members of the real-life congregation at All Saints Church, which Corbett’s character initially intended to close. 

“I play a guy with a wife and kid who was a salesman who gave up everything to become an ordained minister,” Corbett said. “His first assignment is to shut down this church because they only had 12 parishioners left, thanks to the megachurch that opened up down the road.”

During Pastor Spurlock’s first week at the church, 30 refugees arrive from a camp in Thailand.

“They don’t speak English, they can’t use gas ovens – they basically don’t know how to do anything,” Corbett explained. “He lets them come into the church against everyone’s wishes, including his wife and the bishop. He figures out a way to make things happen using the community. Things don’t really go as planned, but something else beautiful happens.”

According to Corbett, the Karen refugees of All Saints embraced the opportunity to appear as themselves in the film.

“You can’t go to Central Casting and tell them you need 30 actors who look like Karen refugees,” he said. “It was obvious that the movie needed the actual refugees to play themselves. It’s interesting when you pair professional actors with people who’ve never acted before, because you get this realism that can’t be manufactured.”

During downtime on the set, Corbett met the real-life pastor Spurlock.

“Michael Spurlock is now the pastor at St. Thomas in New York,” Corbett said. “He came to the set with his wife and son and we all hung out together for a couple of days.”

One of Corbett’s “All Saints” co-stars is Barry Corbin, who played former astronaut Maurice Minnifield to Corbett’s radio personality Chris Stevens on TV’s Alaska-based “Northern Exposure” from 1990 to 1995. 

“In this movie, Barry plays kind of a curmudgeon with a heart of gold. I hadn’t seen him since our last episode of ‘Northern Exposure,’” Corbett said. “It was so great to reconnect with him. We’ve talked or texted nearly every day for a year now since we shot it.”

Corbett said he’s ready for a “Northern Exposure” reunion if producers and the rest of the cast are up for it.

“‘Northern Exposure’ put me on the map in 1990,” he said. “I would love to do a reunion with those people. The reason you can’t see the show now is because of the expense involved in music licensing. The series had great music and those songs are too expensive for the show to be available in syndication. It will probably never be seen on TV again and that’s a real shame.”

Corbett is very proud of “All Saints” and very happy to be associated with it.

“I just want people to see this movie. It’s real and it’s important,” he said. “I hope it’s a big hit. Little movies come and go and all we’re left with is superheroes and Transformers. There’s nothing wrong with superhero movies, but when a movie like this comes along and when people support it, it tells the movie companies that we want more.” 

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