“My Brother’s Keeper” hit theaters this month on over 200 screens nationwide, bringing to the silver screen a role that Christian actor T.C. Stallings described as one of the “most challenging” of “his career so far.”
"I've been blessed to do over 20 films and a lot of times, the roles are kind of one dimensional, meaning you either got to be really mean, or you got to be this or that,” the “War Room” actor said in an interview with The Christian Post.
“When I played Tony Jordan in 'War Room' that was really the first character that had a crazy emotional arc, where it was really challenging to play Tony Jordan. People got to hate you, then like you a little bit and want to be mad at you again. It's just taking you on this ride.”
In “My Brother’s Keeper,” Stallings plays war veteran SFC Travis Fox who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning home from battle.
"I've never been in the military. I had to knock down that persona, that attitude, their standards, the way they think, and all of that,” he explained. “Then his arc and the way he is, he's a very untrusting person. He's been through a lot, [has] a lot of scars. But then you have the PTSD aspect of it; I've never had it, I had to study PTSD. And studying that and hearing people tell their stories ... and watching ... PTSD YouTube videos and talking to soldiers in person.”
"You want to be authentic to the role when you do it. So when all these soldiers watch, I don't want them to be like, 'Man, we don't act like that; this dude is exaggerating.' And I also don't want them to say, 'Dude, you have no idea that PTSD is so much harder than that, you're making light of it,” he continued. “You want to do it justice. So that's why it was really, really challenging.”
Stallings told CP that after watching the film back, he believes he was able to capture the heartbeat of the film and give a sincere performance.
Alongside Stallings, “My Brother’s Keeper” also features actors Joey Lawrence (“Melissa & Joey,” “Blossom”), Robert Ri’chard (“Coach Carter,” “Empire”), and Keshia Knight Pulliam (“The Cosby Show”).
According to the film's synopsis, Travis Fox and his “best friend SFC Ron “Preach” Pearcy (Lawrence) are in their sixth combat deployment when Preach and his entire Ranger platoon are killed in a deadly improvised explosive device attack. Travis returns to his hometown to settle the affairs of his parents who had passed away years before. In searching for answers about his parents, he also discovers a new obstacle in PTSD. He finds support from church counselor Tiffany Robertson (Knight Pulliam) and slowly begins to rediscover his faith in God until he discovers a secret. Travis uncovers a secret hidden by his best friend Donnie Berry (Ri’chard) that threatens his new-found faith, restores his guilt, and causes him to consider the unthinkable.”
The movie was scheduled to be released before the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020 but was delayed and released in March.
"If it had come out, then it would have got crushed at the theaters,” Stalling told CP.
"What's funny is, leading into this as an actor, all of the team, everybody's excited, like 'I can't wait!' You’re just impatient, and you're ready, but it kept getting pushed out just a little bit. Then when the pandemic hit, I'm like, 'Man, I'm just so glad that we didn't do it.”
Following the trauma that came with the pandemic, as well as social and political unrest, Stallings, who suffered a string of unimaginable tragedies this season, including the loss of his mother to COVID-19, offered advice for those who are struggling to trust God through difficulties.
"This is the thing that gets me in all areas of Christianity. I think the simplicity of Scripture is just too simple for people. Meaning literally, when I go through stuff like that, the pain the scars, I'm like, 'Lord, you said in Scripture that where I'm weak, you're strong. So I'm weak in this area,'” he confessed.
Stallings noted that PTSD does not only affect soldiers who come home from war. It can occur after experiencing any kind of trauma.
According to Ptsd.va.gov, about “7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives." During any given year, some "8 million adults have PTSD.”
"I lost my mom, and I can see another person's mom and I could have remembrance of when I got the phone call and someone literally said to me, 'Your mother has COVID-19, she's four days in and she's going to die.' To hear that — not wanting to see pictures of caskets. It's all kinds of things people go through,” he said of his own experience going through a traumatic event.
“So I'm like, ‘Alright Lord, I'm weak here, I need you to give me the ability to press into this and have the right kind of mindset when I have this stuff happen. I don't know how you will do it. But I just know you can. Please help me; I don't want this to run my life. I don't want this to own me. I don't want this to freeze me up in life. I don't want to be a prisoner to this; please deliver me.'” he added.
The actor, who's also an author, said he doesn't understand why some feel that God’s comfort is not enough.
“He does it. I can tell you in Scripture, I can guarantee you He can if He wants to. So now, I look at it as ‘OK, let me rest in that.’ Then if He doesn't, I go back to Scripture again and see when Paul wanted a thorn removed from him and Jesus said, 'My grace is sufficient.' So you got to have that,” Stallings insisted.
“I stay in prayer. This PTSD thing keeps me on my knees with the Lord. And you know what? I'm comfortable with being in that spot,” he added. “And if you don't understand that, man, I'm like, ‘You got to try for yourself. Ask the Lord to help you navigate through your pain. And he will do it because He loves you.’ It's that simple. Easy? No. Simple? Yes.
Stallings said that “My Brother’s Keeper” grapples with “trusting God and it not being easy” to continue trusting God in the “midst of all the chaos.”
"People think it's trusting God, and then, now they're looking for that tangible thing so they can maybe go to their corner store and grab it. Well, it's trusting God and wait,” he advised.
"I wake up every single day and do the same thing every day. Which is start off with prayer and Bible study. I believe Psalms 139:16 – God has a plan for my life. He wrote it out, mapped it out before I was born. That means every day has a purpose. So my thing is leaning into my purpose, constantly asking the Lord, 'What exactly have you made me to do? Why am I still breathing? Why am I still here? This day has a purpose. What do you want me to do?'” he explained.
Stallings emphasized that holding on to Scripture and childlike faith has helped position him to win in the midst of tragedy in his life.
"True faith puts you in the ... position of, 'I don't know where I'm going. But as long as you're leading, I'm good. I don't know how you're going to do it, but as long as you're the one that's orchestrating it, I trust it.' That's it,” he maintained.
“So for me, it's like, OK, we're in a pandemic, we're in all these different things that happened this year, 'Lord, how am I supposed to operate in it? What am I supposed to do? 'And then 'I trust you to show me.' Meanwhile, let me do what I know to do, which is read Scripture, pray, tell people about Jesus, and live out my God-given purpose. That doesn't change regardless of what changes around me.”
"Satan is the one that makes it way difficult. If sin didn’t exist, if evil didn't exist, if bad didn't exist, then good would be easy,” he declared.
Filled with a star-studded cast of mainstream actors, the former football player turned Christian actor said that “My Brother’s Keeper” brought together a really “cool” set of actors to tell this story. And he enjoyed being able to share his faith with his castmates.
"I don't necessarily always look at the situations as I'm the faith-based guy and they're the secular/mainstream guys and gals, or whatever, we're all actors. For me, personally, I just like clean work. I don't care if it's mainstream or faith-based as long as it's not dishonoring God,” Stallings clarified.
The Ohio native never anticipated becoming an actor or writer but vowed to use his gifts to share Christ with others.
"I was trying to play NFL football, I wasn't thinking about acting. You walk in one day, you come out your trailer and there they are, and you have these conversations, and you just see they are people just like you. You all actors in the same industry,” he said of working with famous mainstream stars.
“A lot of times, conversation and discussions about Christ do come up, you get a chance to share your testimony with them; they can do whatever they want with it. But I'm not there to preach to them,” he stressed.
"All my gifts, I'm just like, 'Look, as long as I'm breathing, God's going to get my gifts. And hopefully, that helps people get to know Him,’” he added
“My Brother’s Keeper,” directed by Kevan Otto (“A Question Of Faith”) and written by U.S. Army veteran Ty Manns (“A Question Of Faith,” “The 5th Quarter”), is now available in theaters nationwide. Visit the film's website for more information.