Kirk Franklin is a man of many talents — a choir director, singer, dancer, songwriter, author, father, husband and most importantly, a man of God. But now, he is expanding his talents to the Lifetime Movie Network with Kirk Franklin’s A Gospel Christmas, the first film that the “Melodies From Heaven” vocalist has executive produced.
The film, which aired Dec. 4, stars Demetria McKinney and Chaz Lamar Shepherd, and also includes a guest appearance from the 16-time Grammy winner, who arranged and produced the music for the movie, as well. A Gospel Christmas follows the life of a young assistant pastor as she becomes the lead pastor at another church. Through her transition, she finds herself, her voice and love.
How was it executive producing your first film?
It was a great opportunity because the people of Lifetime were just engaging — the entire production team — and then the creator Michael Chen, who was inspired by my music. And so, when they presented me with the script and just wanted me to engage on the music level, I said, “Nah. I wanna be all in. I wanna be all in because this is such a dope moment.” And then, it’s just something to just continue to walk in new spaces and to try to build relationships with new friendships that you may wanna try to build on in the future for new content and future opportunities. And then it gave me a chance to reimagine some old classics from my 1995 gospel album, the Christmas album, and so, this just allowed it to just kind of have a chance for me to kind of tune ‘em up a little bit and give ‘em a nice little Lawry’s seasoning on it. So, it was fun.
What do you think sets A Gospel Christmas apart from other Christmas films?
The gospel. Just the energy of gospel music. You can feel the resurgence of its influence on popular culture. Because of that, it’s just the perfect timing, it’s God’s timing, it’s dope timing to be able to showcase the viability of a genre of music that has always influenced all Americans. Its engagement in Americana now is just having the platforms and opportunities for mainstream society to be reminded of that. They may be reminded when an Elvis Presley does a gospel album, or when Kanye West does a gospel album, but it’s really just speaking to the influence.
How important was it for you to be fully hands-on with the musical aspect of the film?
First of all, I am a control freak. Anything that I do, I always gotta have my hands in. Also, there’s such a big opportunity to be able to reengage people with the music and to make sure that it was very cohesive with the narrative and storyline… It wasn’t just something I wanted to just slap my name on. It’s something I wanted to be able to make sure that there could be an opportunity once again because, as you know, this business is all about relationships. If people feel that you’re just going to mail it in or that you’re going to dial it in, then that doesn’t show the sincerity behind the engagement for future endeavors. I want to do as much as I can to make sure this genre of gospel music has every opportunity it can to show its viability and relevance within the framework of popular culture.
Do you see yourself venturing more into movies, acting or doing more producing?
Yeah. We’re finishing up a new scripted drama for BET right now as we talk. I’m in Atlanta finishing it up — that I’m an executive producer on with some other great guys and EPs. I’m also the music supervisor of the show as well and I also play a character in it. I love marrying music with storylines, that’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing. I’ve always written the treatments for my music videos and all the tours I’ve ever done. I was producing, and choreographing and curating those tours as well. I think that God gave me a little double since he didn’t give me a voice and I can’t sing.
How did your collaboration for “Fall In Love At Christmas” with Mariah Carey and Khalid come together?
Mariah and I have been talking for years about trying to do something, we just didn’t know what, when and where. And sometimes, you just have to find that right moment so that it doesn’t feel contrived. This was an opportunity and I was very excited. She invited me over to the house, and her and her music director already had a sketch of something they were working on and I jumped on the piano and was like, “What do you think about [if] we go here?” It just turned into this beautiful co-writing… I took what we worked on back to Dallas and I got my choir and band together and added a little heavenly Lawry’s. I FaceTimed her and she was screaming and loved it.
When can fans expect a new album from you?
I was hoping that the Lil Baby single and the Mariah Christmas record could hold everybody for a minute, but I see that ain’t working. I was going to try to pull an Adele — give you a record every 15 years. But you know, I’m excited about wanting to do something. I’m just kinda… it’s something in the works.
You just touched on the collaboration with Lil Baby. Do you have plans to collaborate with more hip hop artists in the future?
We’ll see. I’m very careful to make sure that I’m able to serve whoever reaches out to me and that whoever reaches out to me, that there’s a cohesive narrative still in the bigger picture of who I am and what I’m trying to be. I just try to make sure that the music — whoever I do it with — that it does not miss the mark of the overall attempt of my life. I’m trying to make sure that I’m making God look the dopest as possible. That’s why I’m on earth. That’s why I’m breathing.
What is next for Kirk Franklin?
I’m praying about starting a clothing line for little short men.
Do you have a name for the line yet?
Yeah. It’s called LJ — for Little Jeans. Was that not the best white man joke? That was a good caucasian joke.
How do you feel about the constant comparisons to Plies?
I need you to go to my Instagram page right now. That is so crazy that you asked me that. Go to my recent post and read my caption (laughs).
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