- (Photo: GraceUnplugged.com)
Stars in the upcoming drama "Grace Unplugged" James Denton and Shawnee Smith opened up about the powerful journey of faith found in the film, which is in theaters this week.
The musical drama features Smith and Denton as husband and wife Michelle and Jonny Trey. Their roles are pivotal in the life of their wayward teenage daughter, Grace, portrayed by A.J. Michalka in the film.
"Grace Unplugged" starts with Grace and Jonny serving as worship leaders together in a church band when the young singer fails to see eye-to-eye with her father and has bigger dreams of stardom.
As tensions between the father and daughter reach a fever pitch, Grace runs away to Los Angeles to pursue fame and fortune as a pop singer.
Elements of parenting, marriage and faith are explored in "Grace Unplugged," and The Christian Post was able to hear from Denton and Smith on their roles in the film.
First, Smith explained the subtle yet crucial role her character Michelle played in a family containing such strong personalities in the movie.
The actress is best known for the "Saw" film series, from which she would have to keep her young children away from seeing. Smith delightedly noted that the content in "Grace Unplugged" was a far cry from her role in the psychological thriller films she was accustomed to, and she relished appearing in a film that her children could actually enjoy.
"I read the script and wept, it's real substance in there, not someone's idea of right or wrong, but of love and truth and sacrifice," she explained to CP. "I love [my] character."
Furthermore, Smith said that her character practices selflessness and restraint in "Grace Unplugged-" a rarely seen behavior that empowers women in a new way.
"Current ideas about being a mother are so twisted," she said. "By keeping her mouth shut, Michelle gives [Jonny] a chance to react differently, she quietly guides them together, in control, respectfully."
As the father-daughter relationship deteriorates in "Grace Unplugged," the marriage between Jonny and Michelle is also strained, but faith and determination prevail.
Adding his point of view, Denton revealed that many scenes between Jonny and Michelle were cut from the film, but the audience was still aware of the struggle.
"A lot of their relationship was cut out, Jonny sleeping on the couch, etc.," said Denton. "The mother was trying to keep everything afloat, and it drove them apart."
Further clarifying the role of the mother in the film, Smith cited today's high divorce rate and the natural inclination to "always think we know best."
"Very few marriages work that you want to fight for, and a mother who kept quiet and trusts her husband and cares- the more people who see this movie the better," Smith told CP. "If I could be in that marriage, I would be happy."
When it came to his role as Jonny, Denton revealed that his first job was in the ministry of music, and that his 8-year-old daughter helped him tap into his character in "Grace Unplugged."
"It wasn't a leap, from Jonny's story to the father-daughter part of it, it was close to home," he said.
When asked about how to stay on course with God in Hollywood, the "Desperate Housewives" star admitted that there are challenges.
"It depends on the person, where you come from, and I think it's easier when you're older," said Denton. "The set helps."
Despite being an outspoken Christian, Denton has "raised some eyebrows" within the Christian community along his acting career.
"The world accepts uncompromising faith, but there are things you can't do," he explained to CP. "There are things I have said no to. I've raised some eyebrows, but it's personal, there are things you have to say no to. That's the best I can do."
Discussing the struggle of their onscreen daughter in "Grace Unplugged," both Denton and Smith compared Grace's experiences in Hollywood to the recent news about Miley Cyrus.
In the movie, Grace works with a Hollywood agent named Mossy- portrayed by Kevin Pollak- and is introduced to industry executives and stylists who force her to change her image. Additionally, the young singer is approached to do a nude photo shoot before she realizes that the hunky actor she is dating is just using her for publicity reasons- all bringing the crashing reality that stardom was not what she thought it would be.
Recalling Cyrus' Christian background, Denton and Smith referred to the former Disney star's latest bawdy behavior as well as her possible drug use while discussing what Grace is introduced to along her path to stardom in the film, including manipulative and materialistic people.
"I relate to this, I know that world," started Smith. "I hope Miley Cyrus sees the movie, I don't know how she could see the movie and not have the understanding of these worlds- what is dead looks shiny and alive [in Hollywood], you feel the power of it, onboard with that illusion. Then you see it switch, and by the end of the movie, the next girl is in the studio and the cycle restarts. When you see Grace in church, that's life- you see her alive."
"I have a feeling she will see it, but its not just [Miley Cyrus], it's the culture," Denton added.
As for the image consultants and media manipulation found in the plot of "Grace Unplugged," both actors confirmed that managers and publicists do sometimes arrange things.
"I can't think of a false moment in it as far as what happens to her when she becomes a celebrity," said Denton. "Those kinds of things push it along, and push it into the media."
On taking the role in a movie about God, Smith assured CP that the "Grace Unplugged" is religious-based, yet maintains the classic allure of a well-made movie.
"It's a movie about truth and love," she said. "It doesn't beat anyone over the head, it speaks gently to the heart. Anyone can see this movie."
While working on the Christian film, the co-stars said the entire atmosphere was unlike any other set they had worked on.
"Everything made it different, praying before you start filming, the language used, the way people are treated," said Denton.
To see a trailer for the film, click here.
"Grace Unplugged" also stars Christian singer Jamie Grace and "Twilight" actor Michael Welch. The film hits theaters this Friday, Oct. 4.