When a career-ending injury closed the door on Ben Davies’ Olympic dreams, it became clear God had another plan for his life. Born with his fashion-model mother’s good looks and his father’s athletic strength, Ben was blessed with the X factor to crossover into an exciting career in Hollywood. Although he got his start in acting when he was quite small, by the age of 19 he began earning roles in major Christian films.
In 2011, Ben Davies’ acting career took off when he landed one of the four lead roles in the The Kendricks’ Brothers runaway hit movie Courageous. From there, Ben went on to star in sixteen movies in just four years, including New Hope, Uncommon, War Room, and Let the Lion Roar.
This month, Ben plays a major role in the new film I’m Not Ashamed, the true story of Rachel Joy Scott, a 17-year-old junior who was the first student assassinated in the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High School. Known for boldly sharing her faith, Rachel illustrated her feelings and struggles in private journals, which in conjunction with the book The Journals of Rachel Scott authored by Rachel’s mother Beth Nimmo, established the premise of this film. On that tragic day, Rachel was targeted by two classmates, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, when she refused to renounce her faith in Jesus.
In this powerful and touching new film, Ben gives one of the best performances of his career. In the role of Nathan, one of Rachel’s closest friends, Davies’ portrays an edgy outsider, skillfully crafting a character with a tough exterior and a tender heart. Davies delivers one of the most poignant scenes of the entire film when he honors Rachel at her funeral, remembering her faith and friendship, while struggling to come to grips with her violent death.
Sonoma Christian Home sat down with Ben to get his unique insight into this important faith-based film. SCH Editor At Large Melanie Pickett reports.
SCH: You were quite young when the Columbine tragedy occurred. What was your awareness of that day and did you learn anything new about it since starting this project?
Ben Davies: I remember where I was when I learned about the shooting that had happened in 1999. I remember we were in between houses and we were moving into a new house, so we were in a condo. We had this TV that was literally like 12 inches and I remember seeing all the stories on TV. When you’re that young, you don’t really understand all that’s going on and because it was a media whirlwind, there was a lot of misinformation. There was a lot going on and we were trying to get a clear picture of what happened that day.
It was so shocking and so unprecedented at that time. I knew of the story obviously, but then when I began to do research into my character and the life of Rachel, things became way more personal. For one, I would say half of my dialogue and every voice-over in the movie and even a lot of the scenes, are taken word-for-word from her journal: the handwritten entries by this little girl who never knew that anyone besides herself would read them, except for the journal that she shared with my character. I was able to read theirs back and forth. It took a story from the cinema to the real world for me, which is a really, really unique experience as an actor.
SCH: What attracted you to become a part of this project?
BD: As an actor, it’s a weird profession to be in because oftentimes, you’re hoping and pleading that you will get a role. If something’s your demographic, you go in and say “Okay, I’ve got to go in there and do my best and beat out these 1,000 other guys who are trying to get this role.” When you have something that you audition for that you’re actually very, very passionate about, it draws out the best in you because it’s not just a role you’re hoping to get. It’s something you really want to get.
The story was unlike anything that I’d read before and it was inspiring for me to read it on the page, so immediately I was hoping that I would be able to come through and play this role. It was such a miracle in a sense that I was even able to meet Rachel Joy Scott’s mom Beth Nimmo, about two years before they even started the process.
I was in Nashville with Benny Proffitt, one of the producers from First Priority Ministries, and I started talking with Beth and we hung out and had a really good rapport. It was that summer I was preparing for a role called Uncommon with Erik Estrada. My brother in that movie was killed in a school shooting. I was able to communicate with Beth over email of how her son acted after the shooting and losing his sister. We kind of had a relationship already so when I got the call that I was going to be playing the role, I was absolutely thrilled.
SCH: In the movie, we witness Rachel being ridiculed and bullied for her faith in Christ, even by her closest friends. Did you ever experience or witness anything similar?
BD: Growing up the high school setting in and of itself is such a difficult place for anyone to navigate. Growing up, that’s when you’re finding yourself and there are so many insecurities that pop up. People are also very immature in the way they treat people, so it’s a tough environment for anyone to deal with. It was a difficult time for me growing up.
You can tell from Rachel’s journals the way she struggled, with the way she described having one foot in the world and one foot with God and how does she navigate that four-year high school span. That’s what they really focused on in I’m Not Ashamed by showing all the struggles she went through. They showed that she wasn’t Mother Teresa or a saint. She was just a girl who wanted to live her life to serve other people. She felt she had a calling that God gave her as a young girl, to touch the hearts of millions of people.
That’s the way she wanted to live her life. Through trials and tribulations, her faith was strengthened. It’s great to see all those things that happen in your life that are tragic that God can use to glorify those who are called according to His purpose. The high school setting was very important because we all can relate to it. We’ve all been through those times that are difficult socially and you can see that on the screen through the movie I’m Not Ashamed.
SCH: Your character Nate, eulogized Rachel in the movie. How difficult was that scene?
BD: That was a very, very personal moment for me because as you do the research into the character, I read Nate’s journals that he shared with Rachel and I watched the CNN funeral that was held for Rachel after the shooting. It was viewed by more people in the United States than Princess Diana’s funeral, so it was something I really wanted to do justice by.
When I got see him, most of what I said was actually what he said. I added a few things because I wanted to make it more personal. That was a scene that I really wanted to get across because I think it was a beautiful representation of the Godly relationship, the times that they shared together and the way they unconditionally loved each other and helped each other through each other’s dark times, was unique.
For me, I felt more pressure than I have in any other role to do that justice because it wasn’t just a contrived relationship. This was real-life. Then meeting the guy Nate who was friends with Rachel, who actually shared those journals, who I played, he said that he’s lost dozens of people. Just this year he’s lost seven friends. He has led a very tragic life. He said the only person he ever cried about was Rachel and even 17 years later.
When I did that scene I was so stressed. The day before I was like “How am I going to do that? I want to make sure I do this right.” I was praying, “Lord, what should I do?” I finally got this peace knowing that I was there for a reason. I was going to do this scene and the Lord was going to carry me through it.
That night I called Masey McLain who plays Rachel Scott and I was like “Hey, can you do me a favor? Can you leave me a voicemail as Rachel. If you were going to leave Nathan one voicemail that he could listen to after she passed, what would it be.” She called me back and left me this voicemail. I didn’t listen to it until the night before we shot the scene and it was the most emotional, personal message I think I’ve ever received. At that point, I don’t think you really have to act. You just put yourself into that situation and then we started shooting.
SCH: How did the whole process of working on this film strengthen your faith?
BD: Being a part of I’m Not Ashamed really challenged my faith because the things Rachel did, you know, she wasn’t the President, she wasn’t curing cancer. She was just a girl who first wanted to love Jesus and love people the way Jesus loved us. It was the calling on her life.
There were so many things that she did that seemed so small that we brush off like “I’m not going to stand up for that person” or “I’m not going to sit at that table.” There were those little things that we miss out on, on a daily basis. I need to be able to do that. I should be doing that. It was really challenging for my own faith to really see this story because you can see how difficult that can be sometimes.
Rachel went through those hard times and had persecution. But you can also see the eternal reward that can come from that and you get to see that in every relationship that was formed. You will have people who will maybe make fun of you or even target you. At Columbine, she was the only person that Eric and Dylan wrote down on their hit list of people they wanted to kill that day, who was actually killed. She was the only one that they actually did that to. You know if you’re putting yourself out there in the spotlight that you know Jesus is going to carry you through no matter what.
SCH: How do you hope the audience will be inspired by I’m Not Ashamed and what do you hope they will take away from it?
BD: First and foremost, I hope everyone who goes to see the movie is entertained and enthralled by the movie. It’s not a documentary. It’s not a memoir. It’s not a book. You want to be taken on an emotional journey and I think this movie does that. You laugh, you cry, you’re on the edge of your seat sometimes.
Through that entertaining two hours, you can also have a life-changing experience. I really hope the people who see this are entertained and moved to tears, but also I hope it can lead to change in their own lives and potentially renewed relationship with Jesus Christ.
SCH: When you were married in 2014, Sonoma Christian Home was blessed to be able to cover your amazing wedding. What is the best part of married life so far?
BD: Married life is absolutely wonderful and I really appreciate the beautiful coverage of our wedding in Sonoma Christian Home. It’s been terrific. I’m so blessed and fortunate, especially in an industry like this with so many ups and downs and twists and turns to have someone who is that rock, someone who’s always there for you, and always encourages you and helps you through all those times. Molly is absolutely wonderful. I’m missing her this week. She’s actually on vacation right now for a friend’s wedding and I’m here doing promotion stuff, so we will get to see each other in a couple days. It’s absolutely wonderful.
I’m Not Ashamed is available on digital download and will be out on DVD and Blu-Ray on January 24th.
To find out more about the movie, visit their website I’m Not Ashamed
Click here to connect with Ben Davies.