One of the key evolutions from the original feature script was the inclusion of Shakura and Keon Sumptor - played by Nicole Beharie and Conphidance - the up-and-coming, younger co-pastors of Heaven’s House, where many of the Childs’ congregation now go to worship.
Hall had floated Beharie’s name for the role and everyone agreed that she’d make a great Shakura Sumptor. Conphidance had recently appeared in episodes of Atlanta and Little America and the creative team found him incredibly funny. “He's also Nigerian so we knew that he’d definitely have grown up going to church,” says Adanne. “When Nicole and Conphidance started talking, the chemistry was there and so knew that these were our Sumptors.”
Adamma says that the creation of these characters in the film sprung from a desire to show pastors who wanted to do things differently within an organized religion. “And I very much wanted them to be co-pastors,” she says.
The idea for the duo to be a married couple was sparked when Adanne visited a new church in Los Angeles with a friend from out of town. “It was a very modern church, and the pastors were a young, Black husband and wife preaching together and leading praise and worship together,” she recalls. “I thought, ‘Wow, that is something that you never see in the South,’ because some people have a certain ideology and think that women shouldn't be pastors and that they shouldn't be in the pulpit. I thought this was different and refreshing so that amalgamation of circumstances is how we ended up cracking the Sumptors.”
Brown felt that this new aspect of the story was one of the most ingenious inventions that Adamma added to the final script. “It took the focus off of the Childs’ family in terms of ‘Are they good or bad?’ It highlighted the institution of the megachurch, and how this institution in and of itself can engender pettiness and competition. It points out that it’s not purely about saving souls, but rather who gets to do the soul-saving.”