Andrew Garfield Talks Mormonism’s ‘Beauty’ and ‘Terrible Problems’ Ahead of ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’ Premiere

Andrew Garfield is known for his blockbuster roles, from starring in superhero movies like The Amazing Spider-Man, to scoring an Oscar nomination for his work in Tick, Tick…Boom! Now, the actor is taking his talents to the small-screen for the upcoming FX series Under the Banner of Heaven

What is Andrew Garfield’s role in ‘Under the Banner of Heaven’?

Under the Banner of Heaven tells the true story of a Mormon police officer, played by Garfield, as he investigates the murder of a young mother and her baby in the Salt Lake City, Utah area. The investigation uncovers secrets about the origin of the Mormon church and the consequences that arise from blind faith. 

“I loved the book when it first came out 10 years ago, I was obsessed with the book actually,” Garfield told The Hollywood Reporter. “I found it to be so illuminating about a subject that I’m so fascinated in, about how do men get to the place of doing terrible, evil things and justify it using God as a shield.”

“It’s the type of character I’ve never played before, very internal,” the actor continued. “A Mormon police officer is very far away from [Tick,Tick…Boom!‘s] Jonathan Larson. There’s a lack of expression there I was interested in playing with and making everything as internal as possible — seeing if I could communicate clearly just having it going on inside without having it being revealed on the outside. I liked the challenge and I loved the material.”

Andrew Garfield researched Mormonism

Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker in 'The Eyes of Tammy Faye' holding a book in front of a microphone
Andrew Garfield as Jim Bakker | Searchlight Pictures

Garfield did a lot of research before taking on this role. In addition to consulting the show’s creator Dustin Lance Black, who grew up Mormon, the actor traveled to Salt Lake City to meet former and current members of the church, and Mormon police officers. 

“It puts flesh on the bone and fills me with the responsibility of making sure that I’m going as deep as I possibly can; to know that there’s somebody out there maybe watching this at home going, ‘That was my experience and I feel seen,’” Garfield explained. “That feels important.”

Garfield’s research of the religion helped him connect with his character and the show’s story. In the process, he learned a lot about Mormonism and even found things to “love in it.”

“Mormonism has some real beauty in it I discovered and I found a lot to love in it: A community, a gentleness, a softness, and family values,” the actor explained. “But obviously there are terrible problems with it from my point of view, which I don’t feel the need to really get into.”

“I love exploring how people live, how people organize themselves around living, how we make meaning,” he continued. “And for me it’s storytelling and art and nature with the occasional little spiritual text in there if I feel inclined. I’m just fascinated with how we make meaning.”

RELATED: Andrew Garfield Was Disappointed He Couldn’t Save His ‘Amazing Spider-Man’ Franchise: ‘I Never Felt Enough’