Tragedy led ‘Reagan’ actress Jennifer O’Neill to share Christ more intentionally with her children

Actress Jennifer O'Neill promotional photo, 2023.
Actress Jennifer O'Neill promotional photo, 2023. | Photo Credit: Cooper Alan

Actress Jennifer O’Neill, who plays the mother of former President Ronald Reagan in an upcoming biopic, says a recent personal tragedy and studying her character made her want to share her Christian faith with her family more.

O'Neill is slated to play Nelle Reagan in the biopic "Reagan," which will premiere in theaters later this year. Although it's not a Christian film, Reagan's faith features throughout the movie.

“Any mother would be proud. She truly shaped, I believe, who he was,” O’Neill told The Christian Post. “Who he was and how he acted, what he achieved speaks for itself. He was always very, very close to his mom.”

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The actress said while the film doesn't delve much into the impact of Reagan’s mother, her faith was what shaped him despite his difficult upbringing.

“He had that foundation imprinted on him from an early age, not coming from an easy family. And yet, he came out of it with a caliber that very few men carry in history, and I think much of that had to do with her influence,” O’Neill said.

O’Neill spent many of her Hollywood years not having a personal faith in Christ and wasn't raised in a religious home. 

“You can't give what you don't have,” she explained, addressing why her parents didn’t share faith with her and why she couldn't share the hope of Jesus sooner with her older children.

The Brazilian native was first married at age 17, and had three children and nine marriages with eight different men. She now has grandchildren and makes it her duty to share her faith with the next generation.

While she did not raise her older children in Christ, the recent loss of one of her grandchildren has compelled her to be more vocal about God's truth with her family.

“I lost one of my grandsons almost a year ago in an accident. He dove into a shallow pool and died,” O’Neill revealed, taking comfort in knowing that her 21-year-old grandson donated his organs to many people following his death.

O’Neill’s third child, Cooper, is in ministry. While he was exposed to her faith, she's unsure if her other children have embraced Christianity. 

“As a mom, you know in your heart, and you worry about where they're going to be for eternity. I have a drive, a need, especially in a time such as we're living, for those unsaved,” she told CP. “That's where I get all the way around the mulberry bush back to what I started to talk about where my grandson, as far as I know, was not a believer."

“I have had, especially in the last year, a very driving desire to make sure that my perhaps unsaved children or family or ones I love close to me know the truth about who Jesus is, what He did for us.”

Despite any resistance, the entertainer is now using her influence to share God with her loved ones, saying that she has felt a need "to state simply but clearly to my other grandsons, granddaughter, and other family members how I believe. And in doing so, perhaps, state the truth of the Gospel. And then it's up to the Holy Spirit to convict each one's soul." 

O’Neill said she encourages others not to shy away from sharing the hope of Christ with the world.

“If you simply say what Jesus has done for you, how God has changed your life, that's the testimony,” she said. “It doesn't have to go beyond that, and you don't have to close the deal. Share Christ in a very loving way. I think that we all have to be so much more bold. We are losing everything.”

Jennifer O'Neil as Nelle Reagan, 2023
Jennifer O'Neil as Nelle Reagan, 2023 | Photo Credit: Tanner Herriott

“Reagan, for instance, stood for what my father fought for. Nonetheless, everything that our heroes have fought and died for in this country is just slipping through our fingers. We have to be bold for eternity, and what's going on now is not pleasing to God. So it's not a political side; it's taking a heart side." 

Along with being an example herself, O’Neill has started an organization called Glitter Girls to help the next generation.

"It all starts at home, but I think we have so much confusion in our own lives that it's hard to give something that you don't have,” she added.

“That was the beauty of this Nelle individual, mother of Reagan, who was so staunch in her own faith and taught and believed and stayed around even though she had an abusive, alcoholic husband, and Reagan grew up with that. She was able to instill that.”

Despite what’s happening in the world, O’Neill encouraged believers to keep their faith because God is bigger.

“The monster in the room, it’s big but so are we. We serve a big God! We don't have to do it alone,” O’Neill said. “God says, ‘Don't grow weary doing good.’ This is when we grow weary, worn out and almost give up when just the details of life get in front of us, but the central issue of life is lost and lost on our children, even if we have them, let alone all the 60 million we've aborted in this country and will pay for.”

She ended with a quote Reagan’s mother told the 40th president throughout his life: “Listen to that small, quiet voice that will lead you.”

“It’s the Holy Spirit, and that's true for all of us," O’Neill said. "That we need to not carry it on our own shoulders. It's all too big for us. But be diligent about putting it down and not picking it up at the foot of the cross.” 

Jeannie Ortega Law is a reporter for The Christian Post. Reach her at: She's also the author of the book, What Is Happening to Me? How to Defeat Your Unseen Enemy Follow her on Twitter: @jlawcp Facebook: JeannieOMusic

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