Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith and media: To Sir with Love meets Northern Exposure. That plot from one of my all-time favorite films mixed with a dash of a classic TV show sort of describes the plot to The Grizzlies (opening wide in theaters next month). Except The Grizzlies is based on […]
Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.
You can read my review of the film here and my conversation with writer-director Corbin Bernsen below the trailer.
JWK: You’re the writer, director and a producer of Christian Mingle — plus you have a role in the film. Was it hard to wear so many hats?
CORBIN BERNSEN: I have a really small role, so the acting wasn’t too much of a challenge but writing, directing and producing any film is not an easy thing. But it all worked out fine. It all worked out wonderfully actually.
JWK: How did the inspiration for the story come to you?
CB: I was wanting to explore the notion of how we each have our own path to God and to Christ. The idea of doing a romantic comedy about a girl who meets a guy who’s Christian (but) who (doesn’t) really share his faith values quite like he would hope she would and sort of find your way into (the story by having her) going online and filling out a profile about herself on the dating website and not being perfectly truthful about who she is, I just thought that would be a funny way to do it — and get her into an environment where she’s with Christians and suddenly saying “Well, this looks pretty interesting. I like these people. They look happy. They’re smiling.”
JWK: How involved was Christian Mingle with the financing and development of the story? Did you have the idea for a dating story and then they got involved or did you start the process with the idea of building a story around Christian Mingle?
CB: I had an idea about a loose dating comedy that was similar to what this movie (is) but then I met them and I said “I’d love to do it in the real world instead of making up a Christian dating website.” They had some ideas about the film — things they didn’t want if I was going to call the website Christian Mingle or even the movie Christian Mingle. They didn’t want, for instance, (the woman to be) an atheist who is completely using the website to make fun of it. They certainly didn’t want to make fun of online dating. They didn’t want her making fun of Christians. So, they were a wonderful guide.
They had nothing to do with the financing. They’ve been very wonderful with the marketing….specifically reaching their users.
JWK: So, I gather, from what you’re saying, that they were more of a help on the creative level than a hindrance.
CB: Oh, yeah, they were a great help. They were really a wonderful, wonderful help — not a hindrance at all. They’re smart about their audience.
JWK: What are the particular challenges of making a Christian-themed romantic comedy — especially one utilizing the name of a Christian website? You don’t want to offend Christians, you want to keep the website happy — yet you want to funny. Is that difficult?
CB: It is a challenge. When you do things that are comedy…you’re having to look at the funnier side of life. Often I find Christians — but not just Christians, (any) people who have a certain core belief of things — don’t like to have fun made of them at all…In comedy you sometimes have to look at the funny bone a little bit. So, that was the hardest part — was not offending. I’m not laughing at anybody. We’re laughing together about who we are — and the funnier part of who we are. I’m (sure) not writing this and calling you a stereotype. I’m not doing that. But comedy is very interesting because you can very quickly cross into dangerous territory. I mean look at what happened, unfortunately, (in) Paris a couple of weeks ago. They were making comics — which were really satire — but it offended people. I’m not saying the reaction was justified but there’s definitely a line when you’re doing comedy or satire and how it might affect somebody. That’s the thing you have to watch and I think you have to be respectful of it.
JWK: Were there Christians in the cast?
CB: I don’t like to talk about other people’s faith. Certainly my buddy David Keith would call him himself a Christian but is wasn’t a “Christiany” movie.
JWK: I was just wondering if the subject matter might have sparked some interesting discussions on the set about finding like-minded partners, particularly when it comes to faith, in a very secular business.
CB: These films always create conversation. That’s part of what I love about them. (Not just) something as specific as what you just mentioned (but) also (about) the larger picture. You know, what is God? What does God mean to you? Two people on the film had no belief in God. Wonderful conversations — not trying to convince anybody to be something or believe something (just), you know, what is your point of view? When you see a baby born and when you get that feeling in your heart when you fall in love, what do you attribute that to? (We talks about things like) the perfection of the human body and the mystery of it. We had wonderful conversations. Even amongst Christians, not everybody (agrees about everything). That’s what this whole movie is about. We all don’t have to think exactly alike. We all have a path to God, to Christ, to enlightenment. Each one is absolutely different. Sometimes it’s only a little bit different. Sometimes it’s vastly different.That’s really what this movie is ultimately about.
JWK: John O’Hurley from Seinfeld is in the cast. He always makes me laugh. What was it like to work with him?
CB: John’s wonderful. He’s a naturally funny guy, as you know…He’s an old friend. I, basically, called on a lot of friends to help out with this. So, he was a wonderful, wonderful guy to come on board. He just offered a completely different take on it all.
JWK: Have you worked with him before?
CB: I have, actually. We did a short-lived series together for about nine episodes called A Whole New Ballgame. That’s where I actually met him (and) I’ve known him over the years.
JWK: What do you hope the audience takes from the film?
CB: The thing that really comes out of it — and I didn’t write it with this in mind but, through the process, you come up with what is ultimately the taste of the movie. You know, you put a lot of ingredients in there and you hope something comes out that has an interesting taste to your palate. I think ultimately what…what God was guiding me to do was. (to) talk about our paths and the uniqueness of each of our paths and truth being the key to getting on your path, being true to what you really want in life.
I’ll tell you a quick story. Each year is television pilot season. My show Psyche was ending and it’s nice to be on another TV show. As an actor you’re always trying to stay employed. I was reading this (script) and I couldn’t remember the lines. I thought I was losing my mind because I just couldn’t connect with it….I was really worried. You hear that actors hit a point where they just can’t do it anymore. I thought “I’m 59,” at that point, “I hope I haven’t hit that thing.” But I sat down and I thought I didn’t like the pilot. I didn’t like the script. I didn’t connect with it. I’m just trying to get it because it’s a job but it’s now true to me, whereas, you read something else and it may not be great but there’s something true in it and you can memorize the lines in a second.
So, this movie’s really about truth — (about being) true to who you are.
JWK: Of course, your two most famous show are LA Law and Psyche. I guess you found some truth in those shows and in the characters you portrayed.
CB: Yeah, there was, certainly for that time. The truth of the character (of Arnie Becker from LA Law)…was (that), for all of his philandering and everything he was doing, he ultimately was somebody who was terribly miserable and missing a relationship and missing something at the center of his life and that’s how I played the character. I believe (that element is what made the character) very successful…I saw the hole in his heart. That’s what I connected with.
JWK: Are you involved in any pilots this season, anything we can look forward to seeing you in?
CB: We’ll see what comes up. We’ve got a movie we’re working on right now called Jesse and Naomi. I’m not directing it but our company is doing it. It’s a romantic comedy. It’s a different story than Christian Mingle but, again, about a girl who meets a guy and this (relationship) brings her closer to her faith. It’s a totally different movie. It’s more of a straight-up romantic comedy. That’s being shot in Virginia, at Regent University which is a Christian college. They have a wonderful film department so lot of kids are getting to work on the movie and be a part of it.
JWK: Is there anything else you’d like to say to close this interview?
CB: No, except that we all have our own paths. That’s the important thing of this movie. God’s waiting there for everybody. Be true to who you are and true to your values — not to media, not to the influence of friends necessarily or people even that you admire. Be true to your heart and you’ll find that path.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11