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Actor John Corbett Plants Seeds of Healing in All Saints Movie

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

Actor John Corbett has had a long and productive career in Hollywood. Making his mark playing young radio announcer Chris Stevens on the hit television series Northern Exposure, Corbett has gone on to play notable roles in many hit movies including My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Raising Helen.

Needless to say, at this stage of his career Corbett can be selective in choosing the roles he wants to pursue. For this West Virginia native who sort of fell into acting through a variety of circumstances, it is ultimately all about the script. If the essence of his character comes alive on the page, Corbett is far more likely to be drawn to the project.

This was the case with All Saints, a faith-based movie opening this weekend in theaters nationwide. In it, Corbett stars as Michael Spurlock, a small-town minister sent by his denomination to shut down a struggling country church in Tennessee. In the process, Spurlock is befriended by a group of refugees from Southeast Asia who literally step in to plant seeds of hope for the failing parish.

I spoke with Corbett recently to discuss All Saints, how his character’s faith was tested and ultimately restored, and how small acts of kindness can create positive results that last a lifetime.

You have had a great deal of success in your acting career through a variety of roles, chief among them Northern Exposure and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. What attracted you to the role as Michael Spurlock in All Saints?

To do these things (movies) for six, seven, eight weeks and really lose money because you have to leave home, it’s a hard thing to do. When I read this (script) I made it to the end. That doesn’t always happen for me. And I just fell in love with this guy, this true life guy who really risked a lot, and I know Nashville fairly well having made a couple of country records over the last 10 years and spending a lot of time there. I knew this landscape, I knew this area, and I had spent time in Franklin (Tennessee) which isn’t too far; and it was intriguing to me to investigate it.

There is a great deal of internal conflict from a variety of areas that confronted your character Michael Spurlock. From your view, what was his greatest challenge while at All Saints Church?

It’s the same challenge that everybody (faces with their employer). Listen, being a pastor is still a job and when you buck up against the boss, you’re risking getting the ax, and I think that was it. But he got into this job to be of service to people and his number one goal as a pastor was to care for the poor. And poor people showed up at his door and wanted help and he had compassion for them. He showed kindness. I think that was his main motivation and he knew he was probably going to fail. (The Karen people) didn’t speak English. They didn’t have jobs. They didn’t know how to work an oven. They stored their cold food in cupboards. They didn’t really get the idea of a refrigerator, and only one of their people, Ye Wen, spoke English.  So there were all those obstacles. I think this job would have been a lot harder for them had Ye Wen not showed up in Michael’s life.

You would like to think that you would have the church on your side in helping others to survive.  Yet, in many ways at the time, All Saints Church had become nothing more than a proposed business transaction.  How was your character’s faith tested through this experience?

Michael Spurlock is just an average guy. There’s nothing special about him, and here he is just trying to be of service to people and do the right thing. And what happens when he’s walking in a field one night thinking about his next move? God literally speaks to him. According to Michael, it was as clear as the voice I’m talking to you in and it was not a voice he recognized. And he was sure it was not his own voice thinking out loud. It was a voice from God. What do you do when that happens? It has never happened to me. It never happened to anybody else I’ve ever met. I’ve been around for 56 years. What do you do when God is telling you: here’s how you help these people? I guess you have to risk everything.  The church was struggling financially so they have to make certain business decisions. His wife is saying what are you doing? You’re going to lose it for these people that you’re trying to help; you’re going to lose it for us. What are we going to do? They’re going to kick you out as pastor. Get it together and close the church. But he couldn’t. I guess when you get instructions from God, you have to do it.  I’d think I was just thinking out loud, but Michael had a real clear vision of what he was hearing.

This movie is a great example of how a small idea can have a significant impact if everyone just pulls together and believes in it.  That’s essentially the essence of this movie.  What are your thoughts on that concept?

I kind of live my life like that.  I think what people want most is to be heard, and all we do is talk. If you ever sit in a restaurant and hear four people, they’re all talking over each other; and no one’s really listening to the other people.  For me it’s trying to be more patient in my life, listen more, do something nice for someone, and don’t tell anyone about it so that I can keep the sort of positive feelings no matter what it is. If I do something nice for someone during the day, I try to not come home and say, “Guess what I did?” Because I find that I get more power in it, it’s a stronger feeling inside of myself if I just keep that nice thing that I did to myself.  I live in a very small town. That little thing might be literally helping an elderly person carry some bags that I see them struggling with. They’re trying to open their car door and I help them. Then I take the time to have a five-minute talk with them.  I’ve been in big cities before where I’ll spend months and months in New York, and I can go for days walking around and the only person I talk to is the person in the coffee shop who I order a large coffee from. They say, ‘That’s three dollars, here you go.’ I can go days without talking to anyone.  “Hello” can really change someone.  It might lead to, how’s your day going, and a little smile. It’s always the little things. The big things are really easy to do. It’s like acting.  The yelling scenes are so easy to do. It’s the little subtle scenes that are really the hardest.

Do you have a favorite scene from All Saints?  Why do you like it?

My good buddy Barry Corbin from my Northern Exposure days, where I got my start that changed my life, is in the movie playing Forrest. We’ve known each other for such a long time; and a lot of my scenes back in the day were with Barry. I hadn’t really seen him in 25 years, and it was great to be there with him; and I just cherished every scene I got to be in with him. Another favorite was working with the Karen people. Steve Gomer (the director of All Saints) was smart to put all of the Burmese in the movie. The extras are actually Karen churchgoers or family members with the little kids. They were all members of the church. It was really cool to spend some time with them and talk to them.

After people have seen the movie All Saints, what do you want audiences to take away from this movie?

We’re in a place, here in the United States and other places around the world where we have a lot of different people who aren’t like us coming, who don’t speak our language. They’re coming and they’re not going to stop coming, and they just want what we want which is a better life. If you want to know what it’s like to be a Burmese refugee, turn on the news and within ten minutes you’ll probably see something about Syria. It’s happening right now with Syrian refugees. I think we just have to have more kindness. We have to care for others. I think that’s part of what the movie is all about. I don’t think this is a huge message movie, but there’s a scene in the movie where the character who plays my son says to me, “Aren’t you God’s help?” So, if we’re not going to care for the poor, we Americans who have everything and can help, if we’re not going to help people who need a hand, who’s going to do it? Who’s going to have compassion? Who’s going to listen?

Official Movie Trailer for All Saints:

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