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Leading actors discuss role of spirituality in movies and television

A long-awaited spiritual awakening in Hollywood may be on the horizon. Several leading actors shared their insights last week at the Variety Spirituality in Entertainment Breakfast, presented by Faith & Media Initiative.

Rainn Wilson discussed his latest projects, including writing his “New York Times” bestseller “Soul Boom: Why We Need a Spiritual Revolution” and SoulPancake, the digital media company he cofounded in hopes of creating content that sparks conversations about spirituality.

“My journey tiptoeing into the world of spirituality in media really came from some mental health crises that I had undergone as a youth and some issues that I’d had where I found great solace and peace and meaning through spirituality,” he said. “I felt like culturally we weren’t exploring them, and SoulPancake was really the first of its kind. It was a positive, uplifting media company for young people that explored the human condition

“There is a deeper truth and wisdom and applicability to spiritual ideas than just the ‘How does this benefit me personally?’ People are starting to understand that as systems continue to fall apart even more and unravel, people are more and more open to other paths.”

Roma Downey is known for starring in several faith-based projects including “Touched by an Angel,” “The Bible,” “Son of God” and “A.D.: The Bible Continues.” Up next, she is starring and executive producing the Prime Video series “The Baxters,” based on the novels by Karen Kingsbury.

“The stories unfold in such elaborate ways,” she said. “It plays out a little bit like a soap opera, but we think it serves it better to call it a ‘hope opera.’ Not since ‘Touched By an Angel’ and ‘Seventh Heaven’ have we seen a drama like this come back to TV.”

Downey’s co-star and on-screen husband Ted McGinley added, “A lot of the faith-based shows round off the edges too much. This one will smack you right in the face. And you will tune in again because it’s so shocking sometimes. It is so not like what you have seen up to this point. And this young cast is so good.”

DeVon Franklin, producer of “Miracles from Heaven” and “Flamin’ Hot,” offered his perspective on portrayals of faith in film. “I’ve worked on everything from ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ all the way to ‘Flamin’ Hot,’” he said. “When you look at the power of faith, people only look at it sometimes through a religious lens. To me, the biggest faith-based movie of all time is ‘Star Wars.’ The force is faith.”

Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank discussed her latest role as Sharon Stevens in the upcoming drama film “Ordinary Angels,” which is based on a true story. In the film, Swank stars as a Louisville woman experiencing personal hardships who steps up to help the family of a widowed father.

“I love Sharon,” she said. “She’s just a true tour de force human being who’s imperfect,” “She’s flawed, she struggles with loss, she struggles with keeping her faith during that loss.”

.Swank said of her job as an actress, “I feel personally as a storyteller that that’s my act of service, that I get this blessing to walk in different people’s shoes and see through their eyes. And it blows the blinders open of how I walk in the world and how I see the world. Because we see the world through our experiences, so I get to enrich mine through walking in Sharon’s shoes or Brandon Teena’s shoes or Maggie Fitzgerald’s or Erin Gruwell’s in ‘Freedom Writers.’ That act of service is how I’m evolving as a human.”

–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice


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