Brian Presley starred in the soap opera “Port Charles” and “General Hospital” and now makes faith-based films with his production company, Freedom Films. He graciously made time to talk with me about his new film, “Touchback,” where he plays a man who gets a second chance 15 years after an injury in a high school football game ended his hopes for a professional career. We spoke about his goals for Freedom Films, his own comeback, and the Bible verse he carries with him.
You were a producer as well as star of this film, is that right?
Yes, my company is called Freedom Films and we produced the film, helped raise all the financing and organized this craziness around a pretty awesome story.
Tell me how the story first came to you and why you picked it.
Well, when the story came to me, I was at a pretty rock-bottom place in my life. I had been working as an actor since I was 19. I started making films back about eight or nine years ago, and had a vision to do movies that were family friendly; movies to bridge a secular audience together with a faith audience around a message with uplifting stories.
As we set out, I kind of lost sight of those principles and began to focus on movies filled with violence and stuff that didn’t necessarily reflect that message. I also started living a more self-centered life-style. Anyway, to make a long story short, they had a movie that came out and then the unthinkable happened—I was Washington, DC with lawsuits, I wrestled with addiction that brought me to my knees—and through my faith in God I’ve been able to rebound back and have a second opportunity to be here, to really rebound and revamp Freedom Films.
“Touchback” came to me during that time period. Here was a story about a guy with different circumstances but a very similar situation to the one I was in, as far as what he was going through, and so I could relate to this character. I just knew immediately that this was a gift I just knew that I had to make this movie. We were able to get it organized and it gave me hope again; the movie’s about second chances and it’s ironic that it happens to open the weekend after Easter, given the meaning of Easter.
There’s something very tantalizing and compelling about the idea of second chances, because it makes us think more hopefully about the choices that we make.
You know, to me it’s easy to look back at life and go, “Wow, maybe I wouldn’t be in this predicament hadn’t I made that choice,” and I think sometimes those choices—whether they be bad or good—some of those low points in life are some of the greatest teaching points. There are the storms of life or the places where we get to a fork in the road and we can go this direction or this direction—I just believe that whatever path we choose, God knows the path we’re going to take. There are always going to be storms and trials in life.
One of my favorite lines is the movie is “Life gets a heck of a lot harder than football.” And you know, that’s so true. I played high school football and was quarterback, and we went to the state championship. When you’re in those moments and you’re a kid, you tend to see them as the only things that are important. Life stands still. But it’s just equipping you for what’s to come. Life is challenging, life throws us curveballs and unexpected challenges, and circumstances might leave us going, ‘Why?”
For me, I’ve been dealt those circumstances and wrestled with my demons and my addictions. You really learn from those time periods and try to change to be a better person. I have a wife and two kids, and I strive. No one likes to be in those dark valleys. But my faith in God has helped me overcome and I feel like I have a second chance with “Touchback” and some of the other projects we’ve been able to get going.
You have a number of my favorite actors in this film: Melanie Lynsky, Christine Lahti, Kurt Russell, Marc Blucas. So tell me a little bit about how you went about casting, what you were looking for.
In a way, it’s why I think this movie was a gift, to have it come together with Christine Lahti and Kurt Russell and Melanie and the rest of the cast, and to have everybody fit. It’s like when you try on something and it fits—this one just had that kind of chemistry. Everyone came and got involved in it because of the message behind the movie; they loved the story. Whether living in a small town called Coldwater, Ohio or in Hollywood, California, people gravitate towards the same things: family, community. You want to find your place. The message in the movie is: no matter how small, when our eyes are diverted outward versus inward, God starts to do amazing things.
Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
I do. Philippians 4:13. When I was in High School I would wear that on my wrist band. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” and that’s why I think it’s kind of interesting that the movie happens to open up on 4:13—that wasn’t planned. That’s been the verse that I’ve kept in my back pocket as I travel through life.
That’s what the movie does; we tried to layer God throughout the movie without being heavy-handed.