As a former Morning News Anchor, I have racked up countless hours of interviews with celebrities, political figures and heads of state. No matter how thrilling the interview, there is always an undercurrent of the celebrity’s personal agenda – not so with Francine Locke. She is the real deal, and one of the top Christian actresses on the scene. Her genuineness belies her packed resume. With carefully seasoned confidence and humility that only time and experience can add, Francine Locke brings the interviewer (viewer and reader alike) immediately into the story.
Francine Locke likes a challenge – and she faces anything in life armed with power tools and the power of faith. “I love power tools. I have stripped down a house to two-by-four’s and rebuilt it on my own,” she says with fierce determination in her voice, “I like going to a hardware store better than I like going to a clothing store.” It is easy to see why she shines on camera: she is lit from within with the love of God and the power of faith. Like many actresses, Francine started her career in modeling, which parlayed into commercials, then film.
SCH recently sat down with Francine to chat about her incredible life, faith and career. Contributor Soncee Brown Partida reports.
SCH: You have said that it is only now that you recognize you have a talent that’s valuable, that you have something now to bring to the table that’s different. What more are you bringing to the table now, as an actress, than when you first started out?
FL: There’s so much! As we grow as people there is one level of what we can portray; as we grow within ourselves and in God, it’s a whole different level. When I first started working, this was a great job, it paid well, it gave me a lot of free time to be with my son. But as I’ve gone through some pretty big challenges over the past 15 years – or 25 years if you go from when my son was born [laughingly] – you grow as a person.
Then I realized that so many things that I tried to do right didn’t really work out and I give credit to who’s really in charge – God. It took a while, for me, for that to come to the forefront. When I first started out, it was just doing the right thing, making money and that was it. It wasn’t until, maybe 15 years ago, that I realized that this is actually a skill and a gift because I’m pretty good at what I do and I didn’t go to years and years of various training schools. It just is natural to let my emotions out (and maybe that’s because when I was younger, I didn’t let them out).
SCH: It is so refreshing to hear you say you’re good at what you do and that you have talent. Especially as Christian women, it seems we sometimes want to downplay our God-given talents and abilities. If He has given us these talents and He wants us to shine for Him, how do we encourage these daughters of the King to humbly say, “Yes, this is what the Lord has created me to do?”
FL: Well, I think that’s what it is! It’s being able to look at what you do, or what you do well or what you like to do. And it’s not about me, it isn’t. I’m not bragging on myself. I can do something well because I was gifted with a certain desire and a certain skill. We are told that it’s not good to be self-affirming: I’m the best, I’m this, I’m that. We’re going to be humble about it.
So how do you balance out being humble and being confident? Because I think we have to be confident in what we do. We can’t just sit back and wait for someone else to say, “Oh, you’ve done a good job…oh, you did this well…” It really comes from what God puts inside of us.
Francine recently played Avery Barkley’s Mom on ABC’s hit Nashville. When she stood up to her judgmental, compassionless, on-screen husband in a that episode, she had no idea that three little words would spark a blaze in the Twitter-sphere: #shutupcarl. “I had no idea that was even going on to be quite truthful! I sometimes go over Nashville’s Facebook page and I’m amazed because there are 30,000 people talking about this at one time,” Francine says, the surprise still ringing through her voice.
“My friend told me – a friend who’s all in to social media – that there was a #ShutUpCarl flying around twitter! ‘Can you believe Avery’s Mom said #ShutUpCarl!’ I had no idea until afterward and then I was just having so much fun reading that!”
SCH: The storyline you were given showed a strong juxtaposition between judgement and grace. As a believer, how do you personally find a balance between the two?
FL: Well, I can have an opinion, but it’s not my job to judge. Of course, the scene that we saw, you see the father and how judgmental he is. I have some personal, prior relationships that I could relate it to. But underneath it, there’s a reason that he’s like that. So with people in everyday life, you can judge them, or you can say: wait a minute, I have screwed up too and I get grace. This person is deserving of grace also. It’s easier to judge, but it’s better to be gracious and be grateful and give grace. That’s what I try and do.
SCH: Because that’s what Christ does.
FL: Yes, and when He puts that in your heart, it’s a whole lot easier. I think it is something that gets put there and we accept it, because we’ve been given the grace and then we have to nurture it and help it grow so that it’s easier to give it to other people who deserve it just as much as we do.
SCH: What did you personally take away from your experience on Nashville?
FL: I was surprised at how surprised I was. I was on set, before we had begun shooting, and I was bending over picking something up, and a voice behind me said, “Oh, Francine, we’re so glad you’re here. Welcome to the set.” And I stand up and I turn around and I say, “Oh, Teddy, what are you doing here? I didn’t expect to see you here!”
Well, it was Eric Close, who was directing his first episode, but I looked at him and I’m calling him Teddy the whole time. I felt like a little bit of a blithering fan here [laughing]. But I was so surprised, because he wasn’t in my scene, and he was wonderful to work with. I’ve watched Avery’s journey since the beginning because when you have auditions for a show you want to watch to see the story lines and then my husband and I just fell in love with Nashville.
In talking to these two men, who’ve both been kind of scummy on the show, you’re sitting there talking to them about their kids being homeschooled and about which youth group that they’re going to. There’s such a difference in them as their character rather than the person that they are. I was surprised at myself at that. I thought, wait a minute, there has to be some separation here. These guys are great guys.
Not all parts are easy to say “yes” to like Nashville. Francine admits that some parts require a great deal of soul-searching before she can reach a decision.
SCH: You recently wrapped a play, A Reckless Pause. and you said that there were many friends you could not invite because of the language. The subject matter was pretty heavy. No doubt, the decision to play a part like that doesn’t come lightly. How do you reach a decision like that?
FL: Part of it is thinking. Asking God to hit me over the head with a 2×4 to let me know what he thinks [laughing].
SCH: You must have a thick head [both laughing].
FL: I do, yes! When it comes to making a decision like that I think about it. Is it my own heart that I’m trying to follow because I’ll feel important? Or is there some other reason for doing it? I’ll ask my husband. I have complete confidence in his input. He’ll think about it and he’ll tell me what he thinks. Then I’ll ask other people who are Christians within a group in the film industry, ‘What do you guys think?’ So I get several different perspectives.
SCH: It sounds like you seek counsel.
FL: I do, but then the weight of the decision is still on my shoulders. I know that I’ve gone through the thought process. This way I open myself up to hearing what other people have to say – and I’m not going to agree with all of them, but I have to pick and choose. You know, if I was asked to play the part of the Woman at the Well, she’s a prostitute. Does that mean that I’m a prostitute? No! But you hope for your performance you’re going to bring something else to it.
SCH: It is clear that your faith is core to who you are, Francine. I’m sure that in that, His Word just speaks to you. Can you tell us specifically a time when The Lord was speaking to you through His Word? Maybe a verse that you’d like to share with our readers?
FL: What speaks to me is Philippians 4:8. That verse that says, “whatever is true, noble, right, whatever, admirable, let your mind think on these things.” That just came out to me a year, maybe two years ago. Prior to that, I’d been hit with Ecclesiastes. That is so powerful, because in this society today, we’re chasing. We’re all running after something. We’re all chasing after the wind. We’re looking for jobs, we’re distracted by Twitter and by Facebook, and by buying the best car and the best TV and so all of those things don’t end up having any value in your life at the end of life.
When you pollute your mind with things that are bad. When you see something, when you read something, when you watch something, it stays with you forever. When you say, “You have a real strong faith…” I haven’t always been this way. I know things that went on when I was a teenager, that’s why it strikes me. You only want to have it come in to you, that which you can hold on and cherish. Your future is impacted by whatever you take on.
SCH: Finish this sentence: If I had only known…
FL: If I had only known how important Jesus was to me when I was younger. That what we see here and do impacts us always.
Francine’s heart beats with the years of struggle of as a single Mom and sole provider for her then young son: the pain of gripping her child on their ice-cold kitchen floor, as he suffered from a bad reaction to asthma medication, is now a layer to her strength. Even then, it was the simpleness of hope mixed with fierce determination that carried her through.
SCH: You talk about your time as a single Mom, what encouragement do you have for single Moms (and Dads), especially as we are heading into the Holidays?
FL: It’s hard. People who are all involved in the festivities don’t see what you go through. So just to acknowledge that, yes, it is hard, it’s not just you. Then in order to make it a positive experience for you and your kids, you make it about the Holiday. It’s about Christmas, it’s about Jesus. Make a tradition…make the tradition, as little as it might be. Do something special, go out for a midnight walk on Christmas Eve, even if your child is 5-years-old.
For all you Nashville fans, you haven’t heard the last of Avery’s Mom – literally. Listen for her to be on the other end of the line in a phone call to Avery in an upcoming episode.
Francine is currently collaborating on a screenplay (expected to be finished in January) which is based her life story. A project, she is quick to point out, that is all about sharing the story of the healing power of God in families. She just finished work on a series called The Sacred Eternal and is expecting more episodes soon. In 2016, look for her in the feature film, When Heaven and Hell Collide.
No doubt that whatever project Francine Locke tackles, she will hit it head-on with joy, armed with the power of her faith – and possibly, if she’s had time to stop off at the hardware store, a new power tool in her arsenal!
Check out more of this amazing Christian actress’s work on Francine’s Official Facebook Page