You probably know the basic premise of the classic Christmas movie, “Love Actually:” Several unique lives and relationships are cleverly intertwined until they all come together onscreen at the end. Well, a new faith-based film called “Do You Believe?” features a similar story line, except this movie focuses on each character’s relationship with the same person: Jesus Christ.
Ted McGinley is a longtime actor who could be recognized from a number of recurring TV roles. He played characters on popular shows like “Dynasty,” “Happy Days” and “Hope and Faith,” just to name a few. He has also delved into film from time to time. He has an especially meaningful relationship with Pure Flix Entertainment films, a company that solely produces faith-based movies. “Do You Believe?” will be his third film with Pure Flix. McGinley, a Christian himself, spoke to Townhall about the film’s important and extremely relevant message about religious freedom, what drew him to the role of Pastor Matthew, and how this movie can prove that last year’s success in the faith-based film “God’s Not Dead” was not just a fluke.
“Faith has always been a part of my life since I was a little kid," McGinley told Townhall. “This is one of those rare instances where you get to have a weird crossover. Hollywood isn’t necessarily known for it.”
“Do You Believe?,” McGinley explained, was just too intriguing a story to ignore.
“When you read a script and you see like four parts you’d like to play, you say, ‘Wow this is a good script.’ The idea of me playing the pastor, who starts the movie and ends the movie was sort of an exciting proposal.”
The film centers on a powerful sermon McGinley’s character gives toward the beginning of the film. He shared how he has been shaped by sermons in his own Christian walk.
“As a young kid, probably up until my sophomore year in high school, I wanted to be a minister or a priest. What I realized for me, that wasn’t going to be my calling. I think what I was attracted to is that these great sermons have a drama to them, the ones that really stick in your head are a little theatrical or it was so well told that you couldn’t help be slapped in the face with the message.”
The sermon featured in “Do You Believe?” certainly fits this description. In the movie, the message is 20 minutes long. Matthew begins by asking the congregation, “Do you believe in the cross of Christ?” and proceeds to paint red lines onto a cross near the pulpit to signify where Jesus was pierced with nails. Behind the camera, this lengthy sermon meant that McGinley had to remember six pages of dialogue. Unlike other Hollywood actors, however, he wasn’t just memorizing lines - he had a specific goal in mind.
“I remember thinking my objective is, if there is someone in the audience, if one of the extras in the audience was sitting there and listening to that, could I bring them, could I get them in? That was my entire objective. Really open myself to them and the cross to them.”
The movie offers an honest look at our lives - especially by Hollywood’s standards. Instead of sensationalized stories about superheroes or unbelievable romances, “Do You Believe?” highlights the struggles of very real characters. Whether it is the young pregnant girl who thinks she has nowhere to turn, a young veteran struggling with PTSD, or a homeless mother trying desperately to find her daughter shelter without seeking pity, the movie is laced with a touching sincerity.
“In this film, there are so many different issues. I think that as a viewer, you will see yourself or someone you know or aspects of people or the tribulations or trials they’re going through in their lives, in this film and you will absolutely connect with the truth of their pain. It is an honest film in that, what is important in faith-based films in my opinion, is to take the most difficult questions asked upon Christians or believers and put them out there and let the world see them. Let them see unapologetically what those questions are and see where faith intersects with those difficulties and show how faith can be a lifeboat.”
I asked McGinley about one particular moment in which a Christian paramedic slips a cross into the hands of a dying man. Although he was just trying to witness and share his faith with the victim, the paramedic soon finds himself in hot legal water as he is sued by the dying man’s wife for reportedly shoving his religious beliefs on him.
“It’s so prevalent in our society today...These are those ugly, rough moments you just have to see. There’s all of these moments in this film that are very raw and very real. You can’t sugarcoat - you have to be honest with what the questions are.”
The importance of standing up for religious freedom, he insists, is something every Christian should acknowledge.
“It’s so important. The Christian community I think is willing to stand and be counted. That’s kind of what this is about. If you are a believer they want you to reach out and know that there is great power in the cross of Christ. You can’t be hiding in the shadows and it’s okay to question your faith and question the difficulties in your life, but if you trust in the power of the cross, you can find the answer. I think now more than ever.”
One way to do that, McGinley says, is to simply go see the film.
“I think it’s important for people who believe to stand up and this is a great way to do it - to support a movie like this because it’s surprising Hollywood. They cannot believe this is such a huge well of opportunity for them that they can’t get to. Pure Flix does it because they want to get a message out and money is a secondary thought. In Hollywood, it’s about money first and then if there’s a message fine. It’s driving Hollywood crazy - they can’t do it.”
Pure Flix was the same film company behind last year’s surprising small budget success, "God’s Not Dead,” which far exceeded box office expectations. Was it proof that audiences are ready and waiting for more faith-encouraging films?
“Absolutely,” said McGinley. “It’s a new genre of film making, which is faith-based movies. If this movie does well, you will start to see better movies. You’ll start to see better writing, better film making, better acting, everything will improve because they know it’s a great audience and people will come out of the woodwork.”
As for “Do You Believe?,” it has all the makings of a typical mainstream Hollywood blockbuster: explosions, romance, drama - and lots of tears. Perhaps most memorable, is the film’s climactic conclusion that features all of the film’s main characters in a crash pile up on a bridge. The cast and crew filmed the entire movie in Michigan, and in the extreme weather, this scene was especially trying.
“It’s a huge scene of one car hits another, and another and “boom!” It’s all this chaos that ensues in life threatening situations. It was pretty exciting and the film making aspect of it is excellent, really well done. So that was quite a test for everyone on the film - not just the actors but for the crew. Everyone who worked on it was cold and tired and miserable beyond belief and they sort of kept fighting. When you see the film, you realize it was worth it. But that was a true test.”
The cast and crew’s dedication to even this one scene was a testament to their commitment to getting out a faith encouraging message. McGinley and company hope that their hard work pays off and “Do You Believe?” will be just as widely accepted as former faith-based projects.
“This one is sort of a test, we’re going to find out: is this true or not? This movie is every bit as good as “God’s Not Dead.” It’s got everything you would see in a good, non-faith based film, except it has this amazing element of faith, trust and belief and the power to pull people out of the worst spots of their life.”
As for how being a part of this film affected McGinley’s own faith, he says it has made him a bit bolder in sharing his love of Christ.
“Even though I guess I’m a public person, I’m not a public person. So my faith has always been a very guarded thing to me, because it is so personal...Number one, I may be more proud of this film than any film I’ve done, which I love and two, I think that it really allowed me to be slightly more vocal. I want people to know how I feel and where I stand on my faith.”
“Do You Believe?” arrives in select theaters March 20. You can watch the trailer here: