By Marilette Sanchez
Clayton and Keeley are my good friends and a married couple whom I admire greatly. Both are working models and actors based in New York City, who also happen to be Christians. It is an incredible privilege to know such strong followers of Christ who take seriously their mission to be God’s salt and light in the entertainment industry. If you missed Part 1 and Part 2 of their interview, be sure to read that here and here. This is Part 3, where they share with me how being married has expanded their influence, why they thrive in New York City and how we can be praying for them and the entertainment industry.
Part 1 >> Read Interview Here.
Part 2 >> Read Interview Here.
MJ: With my husband Moses and me, I think part of the reason God was calling us to be together was because our ministry was expanded. What are the ways you have seen your ministry expand together with marriage?
KM: That’s funny because one of the reasons I didn’t want to date Clayton was because he was an actor. I had kind of dated this actor in college and he just annoyed me so much. I just was like “I cannot do this again.” It’s been really cool–our ministry has literally expanded. We have twice the amount of people in our community, and his friends are interested in the same things I’m interested, and the same thing with my friends. So to bring this entire community together is great. One of our prayers is that Clayton and I would get to work together. We want to make webisodes together, we want to make short films, we want to partner with people. We were talking with one of our friends last night who is an actress and she married a guy who isn’t an actor and she said it’s hard to be motivated when that’s not your environment. With us, today we got up, we came to do this [interview], we’ll like spend our day together. The other day, we went to our agent’s office together. We do things together because our careers allow it. I love it. It’s been the biggest blessing.
MS: What was unexpected about marriage?
KM: I mean, it’s been good for me because I work best in partnership. Like pursuing an acting career by myself, I’m kind of like “I don’t know what to do next.” But to have someone else to bounce ideas off of, and to move forward together helps me a lot. In school, I always loved group projects. That was my thing.
CJ: Relationally, I don’t think it’s by accident that we are both from Texas, have similar culture, we have similar values, we have similar theology. I think we found a real ally in each other.
KM: And we’re going after the same thing. Even before dating, we had a similar heart for the acting community and it wasn’t like I said to him, “I have a heart to minister,” and he said, “Eh, that makes me uncomfortable, that’s not really my thing.”
CJ: We didn’t start dating because we were both actors. It’s not like I was looking for someone who was necessarily in the same industry as me, so could minister in the same way. That is the situation that the Lord kind of made.
KM: It’s really been His grace. For me, I could have easily married a business kind of guy and drifted away from acting. But God was like, “Keeley, I am making your life partner the same industry as you: I want you to stay here. This is where I want you. This is where you are called.” It’s so easy to drift away from those things [you are passionate about] once you get married.
CJ: I think if your theology is the same (not exactly the same, I mean we disagree about certain things) but we’re heading in the same direction. Generally, something comes up and we’re like “we’re going to go in this direction, right?” “Right.” There’s not a lot of “Well, I don’t think this is right,” “Well, I don’t think this is right.” “What about this?” “What about that?” There’s not a lot of that.
KM: We don’t really argue a lot about direction, which is such a blessing because both of us understand the Great Commission. When you understand the Gospel, it puts you on the same page.
CJ: The cool thing is, a lot of people who are in separate industries as careers verbally support each other and have to look for ways to like “Yeah, I’ll watch the kids while you go do this” or “Yeah, I’ll come home from work early so we can go.” Or their ministry becomes something that is not career based as much as church-based or organizationally-based. You always have a career. You always should be ministering in your career. I think the cool thing about our situation is we physically support each other. Keeley comes with me.
KM: We both go to my agent’s office. People are starting to get to know us together. People are getting to know us as one. We’re excited. We’re excited to see what it’s going to look like when we are parents. How does that work?
MS: When I was pregnant with Jeremiah, I was stuck in the house sick. I was feeling useless. I was like, “What am I contributing to our ministry when I’m sleeping?” When he was born, he was like a magnet. He was our my magnet for high school girls who I could potentially mentor. “Oh, can we see your baby?” It’s like a natural way to talk to girls.
CJ: Like a puppy. In college I brought a puppy home my senior year, partially because this is like a girl magnet. Bring the dog around and the girls would be like “Ah, your puppy.” It didn’t work, thank goodness.
MS: Exactly. In high school ministry in Brooklyn, just to see an intact family is crazy. People take that for granted, but in New York it’s rare, very rare.
CJ: We get that, too. We’re not spring chickens by any means, but like people are like, “You’re married, we never hear that anymore.” The circles that we run in for acting groups. It’s rare.
KM: But people love it. When we used to tell people that we are both virgins and we are waiting until we are married, even though their lives are not like that, they’re like, “That’s amazing!” I would think, “Really? You think that’s amazing?”
MS: It’s so rare now that they appreciate it.
CJ: New York is very accepting. I think one of the lies that the enemy tries to sell you when you are not in New York or when you live in Middle America is that if you come here people are going to say, “You’re a Christian, I hate you!” But New Yorkers are like “You’re a Christian? Awesome!” “Oh, you worship your cat? Cool!” It’s to an extreme, but, that’s the point.
MS: People in weird outfits on the train don’t get a second glance.
CJ: New Yorkers are accepting. We talk. We say “we’re virgins” and it’s not weird. Because in Texas it’s like, “Aw, bless your heart!” under-the-radar judgment kind of stuff. It’s refreshing in New York to be get the reaction “Oh!” We’ve had the opposite, too. “We’re not living together before we get married and people say, “That’s stupid! Why would you do that?” And we say, “Well, that’s our choice.” They’re open and upfront and have dialogue about it.
MS: When Moses and I were engaged, we got a joint account so we could do wedding stuff together. The banker was like, “You don’t have the same address?” In shock that we weren’t living together already. But I love living in the city. People think I’m crazy for raising kids in the city, but I love it.
MS: Is there anything you want to say about God having a role in pop culture?
CJ: I think it’s really cool. There was recently a blog post about “Is Hollywood getting saved?” that talk about Chris Pratt and Anna Faris.
KM: But you can never really know, we’re not in those people’s lives and we don’t know.
CJ: We were talking about putting those Christians on a pedestal and expecting them to be the poster child. Only Jesus is the poster child for Christianity. But I think it’s really cool what’s going on in Hollywood. We talk about all the time that it’s really interesting that the Unbroken, Fury stuff that’s going on with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. We talk a lot about how cool it would be if Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie–
KM: If Brad came back to his faith.
MS: I think it’s happening already. Did you read that Blaze article about Angelina’s scene in Unbroken where she was praying for the perfect lighting because they had rainy weather? I think it’s like the last scene to be filmed, it had a rainbow.
KM: Brad grew up in a strong Christian home.
MS: Angelina didn’t, but she has that humanitarian heart.
KM: She has such compassion.
CJ: Brad, it’s just interesting with him, even in 12 Years a Slave, the role that he played.
KM: The projects that they’re choosing.
CJ: With Fury, the fact that Shia Labeouf quoted him and talked about him and said like, “Brad sat me down and had that conversation with me,” is really cool. Not to put our hope in that, that’s not the point. The point is those kind of things are going on with us. We are having conversations, not with Brad and Angelina necessarily, but people that might be Brad and Angelina equivalents one day. I worked on a cruise ship and had Gospel conversations with the crew, with one of our friends from England who is a dancer there. He’s going back to England and talking to his buddies. We’re having those conversations with people in the industry that are not seen. It’s not about celebrities doing things, it’s just encouraging to know that those things are happening.
KM: It’s important for young people to be doing that, too. I starting doing that in college, like, “How do I talk with people in this industry without pushing something on them or making them feel uncomfortable?” You never know who you are friends with, especially when you are young. You never know where they will be and what they will be doing. I think it’s important to practice that while being young. And to be intentional with having spiritual conversations while you are young.
CJ: I studied architecture in college, and then decided to study acting. I really had to wrestle with the Lord, “Is this about me getting attention? Is this being irresponsible? What is this?” One of the things that I thought was really incredible was Jesus taught in stories. It’s the most powerful form of teaching that the world has is storytelling.
KM: That’s what actors are. Actors are storytellers.
CJ: When I was wrestling with what roles I should do, I realized somebody’s got to play Bathsheba, somebody’s got to play King Herod. Not everybody gets to play Moses, who wasn’t that great of a guy, either. It’s a really powerful platform. As an actor, you have an ability to storytell. That is a gift that you have.
KM: Something that’s important is that we are known what we are for and not what we are against. That is a really hard thing to do. We get questions all the time about controversial topics. We are for truth, we are for love, we are for Jesus. I think that makes such a difference. A big lesson I learned in college was that as a Christian, people generally know what I think. Christians have been talking and talking and talking for a long time, but I think it’s time for us to listen. And I think that’s the most powerful form of ministry we have nowadays is to sit down and ask someone “How are you doing?’ Because no one gets asked that question anymore. We’re used to that in this community–being really personable and digging into each other’s lives. I’ve asked people that before and they started crying. We need to be a community that listens and a community that is for something not against something.
MS: How can my readers pray for people like you–actors–or you personally?
KM: For work. For quality work. Clayton has been in the city for four years and I have been in the city for three years. It just gets hard after a while. It’s been like, “When do we give up on this? When do we try a different path?” Acting is a waiting game. That’s what it is. The longer you are here, the more likely you’ll have success because a lot of people drop out really quickly. Definitely pray for that. Please pray for work and for encouragement.
CJ: A lot of Christian actors compromise. Their career becomes primary over their relationships [with their community] and over their relationship with the Lord. Because it’s so hard, you have to be so driven. A lot of Christians fall into [the trap of] trying to make success happen. You can go to every audition for everything that you are right for, spinning the wheels. We have friends in the industry that are Christians, that are actors, and a lot of times success becomes an idol. It becomes a balance between praying for the Lord to provide success and for us to work hard. We have to get out of bed and show up and prepare and memorize our lines. There’s work to be done. But if Christians are compromising; if they are idolizing their career, then when they do achieve success, they are not going to be effective as a Christian because of what they have sacrificed in order to achieve that success.
KM: I think I’d also like to ask for prayer for the industry, for good material; for Christian writers to rise up, Christian directors, Christian producers that want to make quality, blockbuster or Indie films that are redemptive. Films that are not just for the Christian community. Those have a place, we are not bashing those at all, they have done amazing things. There are a lot of Christian actors that say, “We are wanting and desiring good materials and good stories, and honest stories.” When Lincoln came out, I remember thinking that Abraham Lincoln is known for being an incredible man of faith, but I think maybe he prayed once during the movie. I was like, “This is such a big part of who he is, how is this just swept over?”
CJ: Same thing in 42. Jackie Robinson was a man of faith and they just took that out. They take that completely out of who these people are.
KM: If those people were to see that film, they would go, “No! That is not how I gained success. They would point back to Christ.” So please pray for good work. For writers or directors or people who love that kind of stuff, keep doing that. There are a lot of Christian actors that are waiting to do some great material like that.