- (Photo: Grace Unplugged.com/Lionsgate)
"Grace Unplugged" starring James Denton, A.J. Michaelka and Kevin Pollak is in theaters Friday offering a quality faith-based film to families everywhere with its theatrical release.
Written and directed by Brad Silverman, the movie is based on the true-life experiences of his pastor's daughter.
"Grace Unplugged" follows stubborn teen Grace who plays in worship band alongside her former rock star father Jonny when creative differences arise. Acting on bigger dreams of stardom, Grace defies her father and runs away to Los Angeles where her faith is tested.
Silverman recounted getting saved in Hollywood before "walking away for a decade" when the Lord opened up an unforeseen opportunity for him just a few short years ago.
"And here I am," he said during the press junket for "Grace Unplugged."
Speaking to CP, Silverman went on to explain that he had launched a nationwide search began for an actress to portray Grace in the film. However, the campaign proved to be unnecessary as a recommendation for A.J. Michalka arrived the next day. The singer and actress has strong background in acting and music, including appearing in "Secretariat" for which she recorded the theme song and video.
"She was so different and unique, and I had just watched 'Secretariat,'" Silverman recalled of finding the star of "Grace Unplugged."
The Christian Post was also able to hear from the star of the film herself. Michalka opened up about what drew her to the role as well as her own relationship with the Lord.
"Reading the script and connecting with it, not only as an artist but as an actress- it was really the faith behind it," explained the former Disney star. "Once I met [director] Brad Silverman and [producer] Russ Rice and just seeing their love for God and their passion for this film, reading it was so moving for me."
In addition to acting, Michalka is part of the musical duo 78violet alongside her sister Aly. Raised as a Christian, the actress continues to practice her faith- even in Hollywood.
"I actually came home from that meeting and I cried, I was overwhelmed," the 22-year-old added of the script for the film. "Here is this movie in the dead center of Hollywood yet has nothing to do with Hollywood, it has to do with the Lord."
Alternately, Kevin Pollak revealed the appeal behind his character in "Grace Unplugged." Portraying L.A. talent agent Frank "Mossy" Mostin, award-winning actor discussed the realities found in the film, which drew him into the role.
In the film, Grace gets her chance in Hollywood by going behind her father Jonny's back and using his former agent named Mossy. When Jonny turns Mossy down for a reunion, Grace seizes the opportunity to break onto the music scene.
"The script was unbelievably true instead of exaggerated, the relationships were among real people," said Pollak. "The Mossy character was a real person, not demonized- he saw a business opportunity, Grace has incredible talent. The lack of vindictiveness or retribution in the character shocked me, and this is a real-life drama."
As the film progresses, Grace's defiant actions allow the film to to explore family ties and the true meaning of success through her journey in faith.
"I've done films that I'm really proud of, but this was a different experience that I am especially proud of," Michalka told CP. "I will always feel good about it."
Unlike some roles, Michalka had no doubts about appearing in "Grace Unplugged," especially since she already has a vast background in music. Furthermore, the actress hopes that portraying Grace serves as an example or inspiration to young Christian women.
"I kinda feel like in a way I'm an advocate for young Christian girls who worry about being loud about their faith," explained the actress.
"My sister and I have always been really open about our beliefs, God has taken that opportunity that yes you can be spiritually driven and love the Lord and can still be cool," Michalka added. "God knew I was in the place in my life and in the industry, that it was time to pepper me in the faith-based world. I'm hoping it will make me an advocate for the subject matter, and kind of inform people who aren't believers without forcing upon them, that this film is going to make you feel really good, check out this film, if you feel something, come talk to me after."
While Grace strays from her faith before it strengthens, Michalka went on to talk about her own background in the church, which started at a young age.
"So many people grew up in the church and you can have an awesome upbringing, but I made a personal conviction, I made a personal decision when I was very young," said the actress. "I enjoy going to church without my parents. On Sunday mornings I want to go. Bible studies on Wednesdays … I have a relationship, not just through my parents."
Michalka also compared her own walk with the Lord with that of Grace's.
"She leaves and finds her way back," the actress observed. "Grace was driven to church because of her parents, but then she came back and found her own way."
Among the many valuable lessons found within "Grace Unplugged" is the time-tested warning: be careful who your friends are.
Touching on this, Michalka admitted that her career requires a careful consideration of who she surrounds herself with, but that her faith plays a major role.
"You kind of need to weed through, who is wanting to be a true friend," the actress asked. "I think its my relationship with the Lord- I am pretty good about filtering through people. I think you have to be guarded, but not closed off."
As for the scenes with Chris Tomlin, Michalka complimented the singer as being a "strong Christian guy."
"To have him involved was such a cool thing, selfishly because I love his music," she said of the singer. "Fans of his can go to the film because he's in it, even if they don't want to see the film, they can see him- it's a worthy appearance. He's a light."
Jamie Grace also appears in "Grace Unplugged," but not in a musical role.
The film is in select theaters Friday, Oct. 4. Watch the trailer here.