Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

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Baldwin’s back! When I last spoke with Stephen Baldwin, he was talking passionately about directing  singer/songwriter Cory Lamb‘s music video Break the Cycle, which he described as a sort of anthem to all those who are, in one way another, moving from darkness into the light. Now, he’s stepping back in front of the camera to tell another tale about moving from darkness into light — and he’s equally passionate about it.

Inspired by the real-life story of writer-producer Galley Molina, I’m in Love with a Church Girl (in theaters now) spins the modern-day parable of Miles Montego (played by rapper Ja Rule, aka Jeff Atkins), a retired high-level drug trafficker whose attempt to leave his past life behind is derailed by his refusal to completely cut ties with the dealers and gangsters who lead him astray to begin with. And then, of course, there’s Jason McDaniels (Stephen Baldwin), the dogged DEA agent intent on making Miles pay for his crimes.

JWK: Tell me about I Married a Church Girl.

STEPHEN BALDWIN: It’s based on a true story about his fella Galley Molina who back in the day was a music producer who eventually got mixed up in drug trafficking which was unfortunate. As he puts it, he was…wrapped up in the things of the world. He realizes, in retrospect, that the only way that (he came) out of that life was for God to use a woman to change a man…Basically, what I think is rather fascinating about I’m in Love with a Church Girl is it completely is unapologetic in its presentation of the Gospel, the Bible and Christianity while, at the same time, being very culturally relevant…”Galley) knew he was going to have to do it a level of quality and excellence that allowed for the film to compete in the mainstream…I really think this one competes with (virtually) anything I’ve been involved with in my whole career.

JWK: It’s fairly gritty in tone for a faith-based film.

SB: That’s part of the idea. You know, Passion of the Christ was an unbelievably graphic and violent film. I’m in Love with a Church Girl is almost an oxymoron because it’s got this really kinda nicey-nice title but what it deals with is very relevant…I think that Galley realized that in order to really get everybody’s attention he had to keep it as (raw and) true to life as his experience was.

JWK: Tell me about your role.

SB: I play a DEA agent — one of the law enforcement officials that is following (the main character) around along with Michael Madsen. It was a lot of fun for me because…my character is a person of faith, as well. It was an interesting through line and subtlety that I got to play. It was very unique.

JWK: Was it that aspect of your character that attracted you to the movie?

SB: No. That was something we kinda developed as we set out to do the film and kinda turned up the gas a little bit on it as we went along the way…

…For ten years now I’ve been born again and for ten years  the Hollywood filmmaking community kind of has come to me and asked me my opinion of what’s the best way to do the Christian thing and vice versa. The Christian filmmaking community would say “Hey, what’s the best way to make films that might perform in Hollywood.” You know, when Galley had the instinct to cast Ja Rule (in the lead) that was kinda when the light that went off in my head. It made me think here’s a guy that’s willing to take a risk and really create something that, hopefully, the faith community will come out and support. (So far) the reaction we’re seeing in the faith community is just absolutely amazing…I mean Galley and his company (RGM New Breed, a partnership with Grammy-winner Israel Houghton) has taken a significant (risk) between the production financing and the marketing and promotional funds. I mean it’s over five-million dollars these guys will have spent. In the faith-based marketplace that’s a pretty serious commitment.

JWK: How has being born again affected your life and your career in Hollywood?

SB: Well, I’ve been pretty outspoken… is a good place for someone to hear that story.

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SB: When I first got saved I was just excited. I went pretty public out there in the media and talked about it. When you do that, particularly in Hollywood, it’s gonna have a blowback effect…And that’s, in retrospect, pretty understandable.

JWK: Were you expecting that?

SB: I didn’t really think about it. I just did what I believed God was calling me to do at the time…Several years later I was at some movie premiere or charity function and a very, very high-ranking casting director pulled me aside and just said “I want you to know that I feel real bad about what’s happening with you because I brought your name up for several opportunities where you were just perfect for a role I was casting. When I said your name the producers of the film just looked at me like I was crazy. I guess they were pretty scared that you were gonna be walking around with your Bible under one arm.”

JWK: So, you’re openness about your faith has put up some barriers for you when it comes to being considered for some roles.

SB: Exactly. The kind of wonderful/amazing thing here is God’s timing is pretty awesome…Right now the mainstream of Hollywood — from all the movie studios to a lot of the television networks — they’re all now gearing up…Now that Mark Burnett and his Bible series  on The History Channel was so successful, they’re all of kind of jumping on the bandwagon to get ready over the next several to produce all kinds of new Christian content. I’m getting a lot of phone calls now. It’s kinda strange. At the end of the day, I’m not completely surprised that perhaps God might work it out in my favor at the end of the whole thing.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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