The Rebecca St. James File:
by Tracy Darlington
Rebecca St. James Interview
loving acting. It's wonderful. To play pretend as a grownup is pretty
-- Rebecca St. James
Rebecca St. James hardly needs an introduction. In the Christian music industry for 18+ years, she has received numerous accolades including Grammy & Dove awards for her music.
Recently she's embarked on a dream of being an actress. Her first feature film, Sarah's Choice, was released with critical acclaim and was at one point the #1 selling DVD on Amazon.com.
Currently making her home in California three blocks from the beach Rebecca says, "I'm kind of pinching myself at my life."
We caught up with her
to chat about Sarah's Choice, her other film roles and the future of
Regarding Sarah's Choice, what was the hardest scene for you to do in the movie?
It was the crying scene, the come-to-Jesus scene. It was the first time I've cried on film. I had always watched people on tv or movies and thought, “How do they do that?” So it was an intimidating concept. The hardest element was that due to the location we had to film that scene on Day 2 (they film everything out of sequence). So I was massively thrown into the deep end! (laughs) But God came through for me, and the emotion was real. It was a profound experience how He provided what I needed in that moment.
Did you have any coaching on how to do that as an actor? How did you bring up that emotion in yourself?
I had been in an acting class for six months or so, and they talked very much about when you're playing a character you can't exactly relate to on a specifically circumstantial level, then try and find something in your life that prompts the same emotion. Playing Sarah, I definitely couldn't relate to her exact circumstances as being unmarried and pregnant, but a lot of what she was feeling was pain and fear and pressure, and I've read a lot of stories about girls who have gone through that. And I've felt a lot of fear, pain and pressure in my life, so that's what I brought to the table. With the crying I had a friend who said, “Whatever you're authentically going through on that day, try and bring it to the table emotionally.” And really what I was feeling in that moment was fear that I wouldn't be able to do it. I was feeling very scared, so I started out saying, “I'm so scared,” and that was authentic. It got me going, and there was a lot of real emotion there. Then I started talking about my character's father, and that whole father/child thing is emotionally packed as well. God provided through my life what I needed for my character's life. It was real emotion, just not coming exactly from Sarah's story; it was coming from my story.
The take we did before that was way more tears, but they had a focus problem and they couldn't use it. So I was actually way more out of control crying before that. I haven't seen that one, but in some ways the one they chose might have been better anyway, because it was a little bit more contained. There are actual tears there!
What one thing do you hope people will come away with when they watch the movie?
I really hope they see the love of God pursuing Sarah, just like He pursues every one of us. I hope the redemptive theme of forgiveness really comes through. The power and the beauty of family and life, the pro-life message---I hope it comes through in a really strong way to some of the younger people watching, too. Even though they may not think they'll ever have to go through something like that, if they're ever in that situation they'll know to choose life down the track.
Can you share with us your most memorable on set moment?
The date scene, when Julian (who plays my boyfriend Matt) and I were in the restaurant, was a really crazy scene. I was feeling super emotional that day and feeling really bummed and not attractive at all. I was feeling so badly about myself. And I remember the director, Chad Kapper, a wonderful guy . . . we really understood each other creatively. He was like, “What's going on with you today? Are you okay? You seem really withdrawn.” I was honest with him about how I was feeling. I was supposed to be on this fancy date with this guy that I love, and I was feeling awful physically and emotionally. He was super encouraging, and I remember being in that scene and he was like, “Okay, we need more excitement. We need more energy.” But the truth was that it was 4 or 5 am in the morning, and we'd been shooting all night. We started at 8pm and finished at sunrise, like 6am. So the crew was falling asleep in chairs. And he's like, “We need more energy!” (laughs) “You guys are excited! You're out on this date!” It's an interesting memory. We ended up with me and Julian, who's actually one of my dearest friends now, and my sister who was on set (she plays my daughter but she's always with me on set since I general need somebody with me as my support) - the three of us went and watched the sun rise over Malibu beach. It was a very memorable time.
It was awesome having Libby play my daughter. We have a very special connection. I was fourteen when she was born, and I always looked older than I was so even back then some people thought she was my baby. It's not that crazy to play, even though she's taller than me now and we're more like peers. She's a super cool gal and a friend as well as a sister. When I watch the film I can see on the screen that connection you can have when you're family. I think it made that scene even more poignant and special when I'm hugging her. It was awesome. I loved her playing that role. Actually in the film I'm going to be shooting next week she may end up having a small role as well. I'm shooting a film called Frontier Boys in Michigan. She's going to be with me on set whether she gets the part or not. And we'll probably use her as an extra.
In your opinion, what's the biggest challenge facing the Christian movie industry today?
Budget constraints. It's hard to raise financing for a film. And then when you do have financing, it's generally a small budget. Trying to have a high standard of creativity and content and excellence in production is challenging for directors who are shooting family films. I think that's going to get better and better, because of films like Fireproof and Facing the Giants doing so well. Even The Passion years ago, that really kicked off an awareness that Christian movies could be very successful and that there are lots of people who are longing for that. It's started a different culture in Hollywood. I think we're on a bit of a roll here. There is energy building and excitement. I'm so excited to see what's going to happen. I want to encourage people to buy Christian films, to support the genre. If you're thinking, “Oh, this isn't the same standard as the blockbusters I get at Redbox.” Even if you're not thrilled every time with the production value, you can support the content. The more Christians who get behind movies that have quality content, the better the standards are going to be.
Can you give us some specific advice for teens on how to reach their friends for Christ, and what are the biggest mistakes teens make when witnessing to their friends?
The biggest thing we can all do to invite people to Jesus is to live out our faith. We can be inspired daily by the love of God. The biggest mistake people make is trying to preach at people. They speak in a religious language that people don't even understand. I've quoted St. Francis before when he said, “In all you do be a witness, and if necessary use words.” Our lives need to speak of the faith that we have. But then when it's opportune and God gives an opportunity, we know when we should speak from that very real place of encountering God and being changed by Him. Speak in every day language, rather than in some kind of Christian-y talk.
Can you give us a sneak peak of your next role?
It's called Frontier Boys. The film is about some young teenage boys who play basketball. I don't want to share too much, but the film is focused on young, teenage guys. I play the mother of one of the boys. Steven Baldwin is actually playing my husband. We start shooting that next week. I'd love prayer for that.
Is there a film called Faith of our Fathers coming out soon?
I don't know when that's coming out. I think it was delayed. I believe it's all edited and ready to go, but they had major delays in getting it distributed. There's another film called Rising Stars that I did mid-way through last year. That one should be coming out this year sometime. And there's another one called Suing the Devil where I play a legal commentator. That's got some pretty well known actors in it. That's coming out this summer. I was meant to play a lawyer in that, but I couldn't work it out because I had some shows. So I played a legal commentator and we just filmed it in L.A. a couple months ago.
I'm loving acting. It's wonderful. To play pretend as a grownup is pretty awesome! Another part that has been very fulfilling is that I'm doing a lot of shows right now that are crisis pregnancy center fundraisers. Sometimes it's a full on movie and music night, so I'll do a show and we'll show the whole movie. I had a passion and vision for this about a year ago. Seeing it come into fruition is so beautiful. It's really wonderful to leave the stage and know that ministry is continuing on even though I'm not there. It's a ministry that happened a year ago that's impacting people now. At the end of the show you hear people sniffling and talking to people afterwards. It's very, very profound. People who have had abortions are feeling the forgiveness of God through the movie. And talking about how important the pro-life message is. I am very encouraged seeing how the movie and the music are really going hand in hand so well. I feel this sense of fulfillment in the calling God has given me.
How is work coming along with your new album?
It's bits and pieces; it's been a long journey. I've been working on this album for awhile. (laughs) I haven't been fully, fully diving in. I've been working on it in bits and pieces. I just got together with another writer out here in L.A. just a few days ago, and we were talking songs and the vision. I feel like the songs we have now we could record the whole album, but it's just the question, are they the exact right ones yet? There's no set date, but it is being worked on. I like it because it gives me breathing room, since I just started writing a new book, too, on dating. It's given me room to focus on that as well. But it would be great to have some new songs to do. (laughs) I love new material.
What's your favorite food of all time?
I love Thai food. There's this stuff they have for dessert called coconut sticky rice. It's like a sweet rice thing, and they put mango on top. Oh, my goodness. It's to die for!
And speaking of movies, what's your favorite movie of all time and why?
Probably Pride and Prejudice, the new one with Keira Knightley. I hadn't seen the old one until after I saw the new one. I love the story. I love Joe Wright the director, how he shot it. It's so beautiful. It's very well acted and heart warming. There aren't very many movies I can watch over and over again, but that's one of them.
If you're stranded on a desert island and could only take three things, what would they be?
The Bible and my future husband, and then maybe enough food for as long as I was going to be there!
Is there anything else you'd like to say to TitleTrakk.com readers?
I'd love to ask for prayers. It took three or four months of me living in this city for me to stop feeling spiritually attacked. I would love to ask for prayer for inspiration and protection from the enemy, and the God will continue to protect me and direct my life and my ministry.
Watch the Sarah's Choice movie trailer:
Tracy Darlington is a freelance writer, and her work has appeared in Brio, Breakaway, YS, CCM Magazine, Insight, Susie Magazine, and other publications. She has interviewed countless Christian musicians including Rebecca St. James, Delirious, Newsboys, Leigh Nash, Barlowgirl, Krystal Meyers, Joy Williams, Pillar, Michelle Tumes, and many others. In her spare time she can be found riding horses or listening to music and sipping a Venti 3-shot sugar-free vanilla latte. Visit her online at her blog where she talks about Music, God, dogs and coffee. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.