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

These are Happy Days for Ted McGinley. Pure Flix’s newest faith film, Do You Believe? debuted at No. 6 at the box office last weekend. With an estimated weekend gross of $3.6 million dollars, and a release to over 1,300 theaters nationwide. While not quiet matching the B.O. returns set last year by the company’s unexpected hit God’s Not Dead, I’d say that’s still not bad — especially when you consider the positive audience reaction on social media. In my view, in terms of quality, Do You Believe?, which expand to about 100 additional theaters for Easter weekend,  is actually better than its predecessor in terms of storytelling, acting and production quality.

For those of you unfamiliar with the film, Do You Believe? is about a group of people whose lives unexpectedly intersect in a way in which they all must individually answer the question of whether or not they believe in the power of the cross of Christ. The ensemble cast includes Mira Sorvino, Cybill Shepherd, Lee Majors, Sean Astin, Alexa PenaVega, Brian Bosworth, Andrea Logan White, musician Shwazye,  UFC star Mavrick Von Haug and, tying it all together, Ted McGinley as a pastor forced to question the depth of his own faith.

I recently had the opportunity to interview McGinley — best known for his regular roles in iconic TV series like Happy Days, The Love Boat and Married…with Children about his role in Do You Believe? and about his own quiet-but-real Christian faith. I was joined in the interview by Jeannie Law of

JWK: You’ve spoken very lovingly and respectfully about your upbringing that was far from the world of show business — about your mother being a rock of the family while your father was busy working to put on the food on the table. What did your father do?

TED MCGINLEY: He sold cardboard boxes and, at one point, sold corrugated egg cartons. When I was a kid I couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t president of the company…I was angry at them (the company) forever. He was in sales and he’d have to take these guys out. He was always taking them places that I thought “Well, why can’t we go there?!” He had to take these people and I couldn’t understand what was wrong with the company that they wouldn’t make him the president. But, that’s me. I’m wired to want to be the president. I don’t know that he was. I have no idea where he came down on that deal.

JEANNIE LAW: What was the appeal for you and the other actors to be a part of such an overtly Christian film?

TM: (Producer) David AR White called me and said “Hey, I think I got something for you.” He sent me the script and when I read it there were four parts that I wanted to play. That never happens, right? So, I thought this is pretty interesting. Right away, just the script alone was enough to pull you in…The story, the writing was everything. The script comes first. If that isn’t good enough, you know it’s gonna be a long ride. So, I was pulled into that. And..,to have the opportunity to play the pastor and sort of marry one of those fantasies of mine as a kid (to be a pastor) to your real life, that’s pretty cool.

JL: Not that you would really know, but what do you think drew the other actors?

TM: There’s always a part, as an actor, where you just take it because it’s a gig. Billy Bush…(asked) is that a gig or is that a passion project? I said both — how lucky. So, for some actors it is just a gig. Maybe there were some in their (because) it’s just work. But, I think what happens on a film like this — now that they’re seeing it — is now (they) realize the full scope of a project like (this). You can’t work on a film like (this) without being changed in some way.

JWK: Did you and the cast get along well? .

TM: Yes.

JWK: Considering the subject, it would seem natural that you and the other cast members might talk a bit about the subject of faith. Did you talk about faith with any of the cast?

TM: Well, I certainly did with (Tracy Melcior who plays my wife) on the (film) and the director (Jon Gunn). Most of my scenes were just with them — with (an) exception (being) my interaction with Delroy Lindo (in) the beginning. That was it. But, really, I had to cover it with my (screen) wife and with Jon Gunn. We talked about it quite a bit in the beginning. Brian Bosworth talked about it. The guy who gets hit by the car with the tattoo on his face, Mavrick (Von Haug), he’s a UFC fighting champion but he’s a born-again, out-there, proud (Christian). He talks about it. That’s all he talks about. He’s very cool, a very, very interesting guy. He’s frightening to look at. You think he’s gonna eat you.

JWK: You mentioned that you have thought about being a minister? Have you ever played one before this film?

TM: Somebody else asked have you played one before and I said “I can’t even remember” half the shows that I’ve done.

JWK: You’ve mentioned that you’re a little shy about talking about your faith — but playing a pastor in this film has, in a way, forced you to open up about your faith. Have you found that to be cathartic?

TM: Yeah, absolutely. I’m very proud of my faith. So, it’s not so much (being embarrassed by it). It’s just it is really personal. It’s not one of those things I’m willing to compromise. I don’t have to bounce it off other people. I’m not willing to take judgment on what I believe — and I would hate to not live up to it. That’s just not fair.

JWK: In the sense that the film has given you a reason to talk about your faith, have you found that to be at all liberating ?

TM: Yeah, absolutely, for sure.

JL: Because the Cross is so important in the film, I’d like to ask you if you could summarize in one sentence what the Cross means to you?

TM: It means forgiveness. It means everlasting life. I believe it is the Way and it is the Truth. When I say that in the film, that wasn’t…the script. I meant that. I believe it’s the Truth. I think what it really means to me personally is that I’m never alone and that, as a man, as you go through your life, there’s no way anybody gets through this life without being bloodied along the way.  It’s rough. We’re human. It’s hard. So, the truth is that in my deepest, darkest moments, I realize that I’m not alone. I feel bad for people who (don’t have) faith because they don’t have that blanket of comfort…If I’m going out on stage, I always say a prayer right before I go out. Whatever it is. Before I take off on a plane. There’s just always this connection…God knows. I know. That’s all I need. That’s how it works for me.

JWK: Have there been any films that you’ve seen that have been particularly inspirational to you?

TM: Off the top of my head, I would say Schindler’s List. For me, I think it is the most powerful movie I’ve ever seen. I’m always amazed…that someone would be willing to risk their life for the lives of others.  That’s the truest statement there is, that kind of courage. That one sticks with me.

And the film-making aspect of that is the highest level there is. No matter what category — if it was costume making, if it was lighting, whatever — they were the best of the best. It was a masterpiece (to) me. Hard to watch. I couldn’t speak afterwards.

JWK: Getting back to Do You Believe? what did your wife think when she saw it?

TM: She loved it. I didn’t let her see it…until I saw the film. So, I watched it but I wouldn’t let her watch it with me because I wanted her to see it at the premiere so that I could really get that experience — and she loved it. She was very, very moved — (to) tears. And that’s fun (to experience it that way with her).

Note: In July Pure Flix will release its next film, Faith of Our Fathers, in theaters. In May the studio is set to begin production on God’s Not Dead 2 which is scheduled for theatrical release next Easter.

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

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