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“The Grace Card” features rising local actor

michael joiner 2011By Alan Goforth | Metro Voice

Grace is not just a dry theological concept that occasionally is discussed in church on Sundays. It also should be part of the fabric of everyday life for Christians.

How does grace play itself out in an imperfect world? “The Grace Card”, a theatrical film opening nationally on Feb. 25, tackles that question head-on. The movie, which was shot in Memphis, explores the subject through the eyes of a bitter white policeman and his partner, an African-American who also is a part-time pastor.

“The Grace Card” stars local actor Michael Joiner, along with Michael Higgenbottom and Academy Award-winner Lou Gossett Jr. Joiner’s journey to becoming a nationally recognized actor and comedian is itself a story of God’s grace.

Joiner moved to the area in 1995 after meeting his future wife while performing a comedy show at her church. The Joiners relocated to Hollywood in 2002 so Michael could study acting and pursue his career. Things really began to take off when they moved their family back to the Kansas City area last year.

“The film was casting the lead actors in Memphis, and they were having a hard time finding the right actor for the lead role,” he said. “Another Christian director who was impressed with my acting reel told the producers they should take a look at me.

Director David Evans watched my reel online and decided right then and there that I was the actor he wanted for this role. I found out later that some bigger name actors were turned down, as David fought hard to cast me as the lead.”

At the same time, however, Joiner wanted to be sure the role would be right for him.

“I almost turned it down on the spot when he said it was a `Christian film’,” he said. “Up until then, I had never seen a Christian production or a script that I didn’t think was laughable.”

Evans got his attention by mentioning that the screenwriter was Howard Klausner. He previously wrote the script for “Space Cowboys”, which starred such A-list actors as Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones and James Garner.

“`The Grace Card’ not only was great writing, but I felt it was a very touching and moving script with real dialogue and gritty life situations,” Joiner said. “I liked that it seemed to push the envelope, especially compared to so many Christian films that seemed to water down their scripts when it came to certain real-life issues.”

“The Grace Card” will open in about 400 theaters nationwide, including AMC theaters in Kansas City, Independence, Leawood and Olathe. Joiner encourages Christians to support it on the all-important opening weekend.

“For any film that opens in theaters, opening weekend is the most important time,” he said. “Distributors will decide if they have a hit, and if so, they will order more copies for more theaters.”

A special preview screening for church and ministry leaders will be held in January (e-mail Joiner at cleancomedian@aol.com for ticket information). He also is available to show a preview and speak briefly about the film at local churches.

Joiner is part of a growing movement committed to make quality Christian films in the Kansas City area. For example, Crimson Creative Works in Overland Park is raising funds for “Crossing Rivers”, which it hopes to begin filming in the area next spring.

“God is doing a new and awesome thing in the Kansas City area in quality filmmaking,” Joiner said. “Christians are finally waking up and realizing what an incredible evangelistic tool film is. They are also thankfully realizing that if we want to positively affect people, it must be done in quality fashion on every level, the same as Hollywood.

“If we take care of that end, as I believe we did in `The Grace Card’, God will show up in the film powerfully.”