From the creators of the groundbreaking faith-based film, God’s Not Dead, Pureflix releases their much anticipated follow up feature, Do You Believe? With an impressive cast of players, including Academy Award winner, Mira Sorvino, Sean Astin, and Lee Majors, SCH sat down to chat with a few of the other co-stars in this ensemble cast.
Ted McGinley, Alexa PenaVega, and Cybill Shepherd were a delight as they discussed this project, which pivots around the eternal question presented to mankind…Do you believe in the cross of Christ?
Ted McGinley seamlessly brings the character of Pastor Matthew, a humble shepherd ministering to a modest congregation in an urban setting to life. At home, he is simply a man struggling to comfort his wife as they face the crushing disappointment of infertility.
SCH: How did you prepare for this role?
TM: I grew up going to all kinds of different churches because I wanted to be a preacher. I was very drawn to this story. The power of giving a message that can literally change someone’s life…including your own, this was a perfect melding of everything because I was playing the character I always wanted to play. This was magic.
SCH: In the film your character is helping your wife deal with the wounds of infertility.
TM: Yes. And according to so many pastors I know, whom I’ve spoken with, they tell me that oftentimes, so much of the care they give goes “out” (to others.) Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the people in their own homes.
SCH: Yes. So true. (then) Is the meaning of the cross different for you now, after filming the movie?
TM: You can’t go through an experience like this without being changed. You just can’t. I realized watching the film that one small act can change many acts. My character is trying to get people to know that true belief requires action. For me personally, I’m concerned with being the kind of human being I need to be and that’s living my life the way Jesus lived his. The best I can. None of us achieve it, but that’s my goal.
SCH: Is this film, though it may and hopefully will cross over to non-believers, targeted to people of faith? An attempt bring them out of their complacency – those who are sitting in the pews, those who are attending church – to help them really understand what the cross of Christ means?
TM: That’s exactly it. That’s what we want to do.
SCH: Every person has faith. It comes down to who or what you place your faith in?
TM: Yes. And for the Christian faith, it all comes down to the cross of Christ.
SCH: You are doing the Lord’s work by bringing this message to audiences. I see this film as a tool to wake up the church. I think it’s an important film for that reason.
Ted McGinley, a man who seems quite grateful for the opportunity, smiled humbly and was called away into the hustle and bustle mission field of Hollywood filmmaking.
Colossians 3:17 came to mind. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
Cybill Shepherd plays Teri in the film, a woman overcome by grief. Unable to move on after the tragic loss of her daughter due to a drunk driving accident…she is depressed and a shell of a woman.
SCH: What attracted you to this project?
CS: The script was really moving. It didn’t really matter that it was a faith-based project. I just had to do it. In fact, at first, I thought my manager said “face-based” and I was like, what’s “face based? Huh??” It was a part I had never played. It gave me the chance, as an actor, to play that arc. I didn’t feel as if the script was proselytizing at all. I feel like the message it sends is very solid. It’s about people helping each other to help each other. Do unto others. My character resists that. She’s stuck up in grief.
SCH: Your character is dealing with loss. Does she have a hard time accepting the possibility of miracles?
CS: Yes. She doesn’t believe in God and it kind of reminds me of my mother. When my grandmother died she said, “I don’t believe in God. If there was a God, He wouldn’t have taken my mother that way.”
SCH: You’re a mother and a grandmother. Do you instill spirituality into the lives of your children and grandchildren?
CS: My children were both Bat and Bar Mitzvah’d because their dad is Jewish. Anytime you are studying some type of religion you are opening up that part of your soul and then as you get older, you make up your own mind. My grandson’s name is Elijah. I love Old Testament names.
SCH: When the cameras weren’t rolling, did people pray on set?
CS: Yes. Because some of what we were doing was dangerous. We were dealing with freezing rain on a bridge in the middle of a car wreck.
SCH: Back to grief. In the film, your husband, played brilliantly by Lee Majors says, “We’ve turned our grief into our most prized possession.” That is something many can relate to. Grief is universal. I wouldn’t be surprised if you begin to receive letters thanking you for this performance. Do you have a last word for someone out there who might be stuck somewhere in the grieving process at this very moment? Maybe something you learned on this film?
CS: You need to regain hope. Various people in various religions figure out a way to regain hope. I have this image of me at Leonardo DaVinci’s, The Last Supper. I see myself on one side of Jesus and I see someone I can’t forgive on the other side of Jesus. I look at Jesus as my road, a door opening to be able to forgive. You don’t have to forget. You never have to forget but you can forgive.
As Cybill Shepherd departed, I was reminded of John 10:7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
Alexa PenaVega plays Lacey, a suicidal young woman in desperate need of a loving touch. Alone and rejected, she is about to give up the struggle when the message of the cross interrupts her plans.
SCH: Was it a challenge to make the transition from child actor to adult actor?
APV: Totally! I grew up in a Christian home. I have always had that as my foundation. However, as you grow up and you get into your twenties figuring out who you are and your footing isn’t quite there yet. I feel like you can totally see the struggle that I went through with the films I was choosing versus where I’m at now and the projects I take now. I was totally searching.
What would help me grow up? What would make people look at me differently? It’s a little frustrating because I thought I had more of a foundation than that. It’s been a total learning experience. I’m a Christian and I want people to see that in the work that I do. I want my faith to be reflected in my job. That doesn’t mean I always have to play perfectly good characters. This character, Lacey, is dealing with suicidal thoughts. She’s dealing with feeling alone.
That’s a real struggle that people deal with whether you are someone with a lot of faith or not. So, back to my growing years…where my foundation was rocky. Where I didn’t stand firm in who I was or what I believed. Gosh, I was even afraid to say the word, “God,” let alone, “Jesus!” Jesus was not even an option to talk about.
APV: I’ve grown stronger. I have an incredible husband who I met at Bible Study…for us…our faith is our foundation. It’s way more reflective in the work we do now. Like, I wouldn’t do Machete now. That’s not a film I would take now. I’m just not in that place anymore.
SCH: I applaud your authenticity! It’s amazing.
APV: Thank you. Thank you so much!
SCH: And it just shows God’s grace over your life, that you are able to share your story so transparently and humbly. How amazing.
APV: Totally! Thank you so much. That’s something that I used to fear but now I don’t. I really don’t anymore and that’s why I’m really excited about this movie. It’s something that I’m very proud of and I think it can be really impactful. It deals with so many issues. It isn’t your typical faith-based film where the story is kind of “cookie cutter” and “surfacey.”
We’re going a lot deeper. The characters are way more raw. We’re dealing with real issues that real people go through. We’re shining a light. We’re saying,” God doesn’t say that you have to show up in your suit and tie for Him to accept you. God wants you to come as you are.”
SCH: Psalm 37:4 tells us, Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Oftentimes, I think people misunderstand this to mean that if we love the Lord, we will get what we desire. I understand it to mean that when we love the Lord with all our heart, He is the one who plants the desires that are there. He plants them and He grows them.
APV: Yes! Exactly. God has given us all an incredible box of gifts and a lot of times, we don’t utilize them. Because we think, Oh, now that I’m a Christian, I have to give up everything that I want and just go preach…and that’s not it at all. God puts things in our hearts for a reason. We can use those tools to have a great affect or we can bury them.
As Alexa PenaVega and I parted ways… I was reminded of Exodus 35:31 and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills.
In the film, Do You Believe? a simple question posed by a man on the street affects a pastor deeply and profoundly. When confronted with the cross of Christ, he is rocked to the core. Following the call to dig deeper, the ripple effects set in motion by his response travel far beyond his own heart, reaching into the lives that Providentially surround him.
Audiences are anticipating the March 20th release of Do you Believe? It is the question from which no man can escape.
Don’t miss SCH’s personal interview with actor Brian Bosworth On “Do You Believe?” From Creators of “God’s Not Dead”