The courtroom scene in God Not’s Dead 2 is easily the most powerful moment of the movie – if not the entire GND franchise thus far. Teacher Grace Wesley, played by Melissa Joan Hart, is a Christian whose faith is literally on trial after she speaks about Jesus in her classroom. One of her students secretly taped her comments and before too long Wesley finds herself in court. When she takes the stand, her own defense attorney, played by Jesse Metcalfe, grills her about her beliefs for several minutes. The rerelease of God Not’s Dead 2 gave Townhall the chance to chat with Hart about the powerful film, and that unforgettable scene.
Hart said she was honored to be a part of the courtroom scene because it was “so raw and so real.” Yet, she wasn’t without stage fright.
“I was really nervous because the whole movie sort of hinges on that,” Hart admitted. “If I don’t pull that off right, believable, truthful way, the movie falls apart. I was terrified and excited the whole month leading up to that.”
Hart recalled that the cast was “lucky to have some amazing apologetics professors and theologians” in the courtroom filming with them. She "got to pick their brains a little bit about everything from the Scripture to the shroud."
“It came across as the greatest Bible study I’ve ever been a part of,” she beamed.
It took a lot of prep work and a lot of prayer, she added. She had a group pray with her in her hotel the morning she was to film in the courtroom.
“I told them that I needed to be a vehicle for God’s word and touch people’s hearts in this scene,” she said. “I went in raw and ready and you definitely feel like when someone’s yelling at you and attacking you it puts you in that place too. It was a very nice scene to be a part of. As an actor, as a Christian, everything. It was great.”
Once she signed on to the film, Hart knew that her portrayal of a persecuted teacher would resonate for the actress in real life.
“I knew when this movie came out that I was going to get a lot of that too,” she said. “I was prepared for it, but I wasn’t really prepared for as much love as I got. I was living the part of the character who’s being judged and condemned for her faith. When the movie came out I knew it was going to happen to me in real life too. I pushed that stuff out and I was able to focus on the good stuff and the love that came in and the people that got something out of the movie.”
In any industry - education, Hollywood, etc. - people who speak out about their faith are at risk of condemnation.
“There’s a lot of fear behind any faith,” Hart said. “People want to judge. Unfortunately, voicing your opinions these days means you’re going to get some major feedback. The people that are going to speak out are not going to be the nice ones or the ones that agree with you. That’s going to be rare. It’s generally going to be the naysayers.”
Hart, who has three children with her husband, Mark Wilkerson, says her schedule is one big balancing act these days. One of her new projects, for instance, will require her family to move to a new area of the country. I asked if she ever brings her kids on set and she laughed and said not too often “because they’re pretty disruptive.” But, they always enjoy the experience.
Her final musings were on marriage. She and Mark just celebrated their 15th wedding anniversary, and she admitted that it hasn’t been all sunshine and roses.
“It’s tough,” she said. “It’s not easy. If you stick it out the good outweighs the bad. We have our good years and our bad years.”
Lately, she said, she and her husband have been disagreeing on politics. Yet, “as Christians we took a vow under God that no man can tear us apart.”
So, they stick it out and they work on it.
“The downs make the ups so much better,” Hart explained.
God's Not Dead 2 is being re-released in a 3-pack DVD that includes the original God's Not Dead and God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness. More information can be found at www.Godsnotdead.com.