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 of their interview, be sure to read that here. This is Part 2, where they share with me how they practically minister to their cast and crew on set, how God is moving in Hollywood, and their advice to aspiring Christian actors.Read More
Some may recognize Shane Harper as Josh Wheaton, the in-over-his-head college freshman (God’s Not Dead). Others know him as Spencer on Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie. His latest role on MTV’s Happyland is quickly shooting him up the ranks of Hollywood’s young heartthrobs.
In this exclusive interview with MariletteSanchez.com, Shane opens up about about his ideal role, the reaction of the Christian community to Happyland, and his most important life lesson.
MS: Let’s pretend the best movies you have seen were never made, and were still in the production stage. What script would you want to get in the mail that would make you say, “I have to play this part?"
SH: Newsies. It’s a movie musical that was released in 1992. Getting to play Jack Kelly would be the coolest!
MS: How is it going filming "Happyland” for MTV? Tell us a little bit about your character and why you chose that role.
SH: Filming “Happyland” has been wonderful. It was a short production for season 1 but it was action-packed… long days and late nights were the norm! My character Ian Chandler is “bad boy prince charming”, but he has a good heart underneath the bravado. When I read the pilot, I immediately gravitated towards Ian. It’s always fun to play a character with many emotional layers to them.
MS: Can you share a time when your Christian values put you in an awkward situation in your acting career? How did that turn out?
SH: My values as a Christian hinge on the centricity of grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ. The biggest challenges I face all revolve around the temptation of narcism and self-worship. Christianity is all about loving God well, and loving our neighbors. We’re called to serve the people around us but It’s very easy in this business to be self-serving.
MS: Share a story about a time when your decision to take a mainstream role conflicted with the opinion of the religious community. Would you have done something differently based on their reaction?
SH: think my role in this MTV series brings to mind a good example that relates to your question. There have been some interesting remarks from the Christian community commenting on the content of the show, and how they’re “disappointed” I would take a role like this, insinuating that somehow all of the characters I play and all of the narratives I participate in are supposed to share my faith and beliefs. This kind of thinking is the result of looking through the short-sighted, conservative American evangelical lens. That is not a Christian gospel mentality; it’s an us VS. them mentality. Jon Foreman put it concisely when he said, “There is a schism between the sacred and the secular in all of our modern minds”. Every narrative has the potential to show us something powerful and important about the human condition. Life is messy and so should art be. The Bible, after all, is filled with messy stories. But we find God’s hand of redemption in all of them. My faith in God leads me to understand the inconceivable value of all people, and it breathes passion into every good endeavor.
MS: What’s the song that you just can’t get out of your head right now?
SH: “Ink” by Coldplay
MS: Who are your top three musical influences?
SH: Coldplay, John Mayer, Jon Foreman
MS: Give us your cardboard testimony.
SH: In need of grace and mercy. / Still in need of grace and mercy.
MS: What is the most important life lesson you have learned? What struggles did you have to go through to learn it?
SH: What’s the truest thing about me? That’s the question I’ve learned to ask myself. The truest thing about any one of us is that we are loved by God. When you know who you are, you know what your purpose is. The cross reminds me every day.
MS: How are three specific ways my readers can pray for you in the next year?
SH: That would be so wonderful, thank you. I’m always praying for wisdom. Lately, I’ve been focusing on being patient in all things. And please pray for peace.
WANT MORE SHANE? Check out this interview with Family Christian, in which Shane describes his Christian upbringing and his personal journey to own his faith, and gives us glimpse into being a vocal Christian in Hollywood.
Earlier this month, Christian band Anthem Lights released a lyric video for their song “Dear Hollywood” off their latest album You Have My Heart. The band is more widely known for their acoustic covers of pop songs on YouTube (last year, they won Ryan Seacrest’s contest for best Taylor Swift cover of all time with “We Are Never Getting Back Together”). Still, all of their original songs are clearly faith-based. I always had an inkling that they shared my desire to engage an unbelieving culture for the sake of Christ, and not simply create music that preaches to the choir. I no longer have any doubts.
The song points to the spiritual emptiness that plagues many celebrities:
Broken hearted but pretending you’re alright / You’ve lived out every dream / But something missin’ / There’s a bigger picture calling you tonight / You could know your worth if you would only listen
The calling to reach out to these people is urgent, for the Bible says that “the human spirit can endure in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” (Proverbs 18:14).
In the song, the band also tells Hollywood that “It breaks my heart that you still look away / From the perfect love that’s right there on display.” Jesus Christ is the only one who is able to fill a human being’s insatiable desire to be known, admired, and accepted. Not even the biggest or most loyal fan base can accomplish that.
Besides the celebrities themselves, their fans are spiritually hungry as well. And the artists have the greatest potential to influence those fans for good. Through the song, Anthem Lights also tells Hollywood that “There’s so much good that you could do / With so many eyes watching you /…When all the world is listening.”
Alan Powell, another band member, says that as fellow musicians, the band has an “overwhelming desire to see this medium of entertainment be used in an uplifting way. Tragically,…it’s used to glorify things that are not edifying, that aren’t uplifting to the individual, more specifically, are not glorifying to God.”
To be clear, Alan says, “we don’t mean this in any means like pointing fingers, like ‘Hollywood, you’re stupid.’” Rather, it’s simply to point out the entertainment industry’s potential.
“There’s so much influence that they have,” says Caleb. “In a very real way, entertainers run the world.”
Alan shares his hope for Christians who hear the song. “As a believer, you either feel this way about Hollywood, or you’re like ‘Oh, man I should feel that way,’ or it’s like ‘Yeah, I didn’t know it, but that’s the way I feel.’”
I used to think I was the only person who saw celebrities in this way. But as God once showed Paul, He has “many people in this city” (Acts 18:10). I’m glad to know that I’m not alone.
Bonus: Check out their mash-up of this year’s most popular Christian songs.
Related Article: Lecrae: Engaging Culture or Forsaking Christ?
#Glee’s @Heather_Morris on keeping your head straight in #Hollywood. #fame #BeYourself