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Christian Living

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Priscilla Shirer on Finding True Identity through Overcomer

Hannah Goodwyn - Senior Producer
Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

In 2015, noted speaker/author Priscilla Shirer surprised more than a few when she agreed to appear in the Kendrick Brothers movie War Room.  Assuming the role of a seemingly perfect wife, mother, and career woman who was battling some deeply rooted problems beneath the surface, Shirer dazzled in her screen debut.

Now, four years later, Shirer returns to work with the Kendricks in a supporting role on their latest release Overcomer (opening nationwide August 23rd). This time around she plays a high school principal who befriends a troubled teen in search of her true identity.

Mixed with a powerful blend of faith and humor, the Kendricks’ sixth feature length film seeks to answer the question, ‘What do you allow to define you?’

CBN.com recently sat down with Shirer to discuss the importance of finding your personal identity, why she chose to work with the Kendricks again, and a pivotal scene in the movie that could change the hearts of many.

Right off the top, what made you want to rejoin the Kendrick Brothers for a second movie?

Priscilla Shirer: You know, really it is the integrity that those two have and that their projects have. I knew that they would honor the Lord unapologetically. So it seems like a privilege to me to be able to be a small part of something that I know is going to have a broad impact and that is going to be unapologetic in sharing the Gospel. Also when I'm on set, it is an opportunity to bring my sons along. They were with me for the entire filming of War Room and then the two or three weeks that I filmed my part of Overcomer the boys were with me and they interned on set. They helped out and got to be around Stephen, Alex and Shannon Kendrick.

Those men call together the cast and crew every morning for devotions. They stop for prayer before we film certain scenes that they know really could draw people to the Lord. For my boys to have a front row seat to see that kind of work ethic and that sort of prioritization of Jesus Christ in a working environment is priceless. And to see all those different kinds of people with different talents and skills and abilities all coming together to make one project happened that will glorify God is tremendous.

This movie conveys the very strong theme of personal identity.  When you were preparing for your role in this movie did you think about your own identity and refocus that in any way?

Absolutely. The heart of the film is really directed in and around Ephesians, chapters 1 and 2. Also, I'm writing a book (Defined) and a Bible study just on this topic too. It has helped me to revisit and remind myself not only of my identity as a daughter of God, but my inheritance. The enemy is going to do everything in his power to get me to forget who I am and what I have because he knows that if I believe his lies that I'm rejected, I'm unforgivable or I'm lonely, that means that's who I am. Descriptions are not identity. It reminds me that I need to re-compartmentalize those things that I've done or how I may feel those may be true, but that doesn't tinker with the identity that I've been given by God.

In Overcomer you play a high school principal.  What did you bring to this character that made the movie stronger?

I don't know if principal Olivia Brooks would have had as much sass if it weren't for me. I tried to give her a little sass, she needed to roll her neck a little bit, snap her fingers, that sort of thing.

There's this one pivotal scene where I get the privilege to lead Hannah (Overcomer’s main character) to the Lord. It was scripted. There were a couple of times Alex (Kendrick) the director wanted me to do it exactly as it was scripted, but then there were several more times he said, ‘Now, I don't want you to do it as it's scripted. I want you to lead her to the Lord as you would as Priscilla would lead this young lady.’ That's what I did and that's what they are using for the film. Our hope and prayer is that it would give theater-goers a prototype for how to pray and receive Christ as savior. If they've never even considered that and they've never heard anyone lead someone else to Jesus this would be a way to do it.

We were hoping to give literal words that you could pray, but also so that it would encourage people who are in professional settings because Olivia Brooks is all put together. She's in her nice clothes. She's in her work environment and yet she takes time to sit down with one little girl and lead her to Jesus. The hope is that professionals will see that even in our working environments we can ask the Lord to open up our eyes to who might be the one that the Lord might stir an organic conversation and an organic opportunity.

That connection is really evident on screen between your character and Hannah. Could you tell me a little bit about the connection you have with the young actress who plays Hannah?

Yes. Aryn (Wright-Thompson) is delightful in every way. She is just sweet and kind. This was her first film, so I could empathize with that because War Room was the first time I had ever been on a set and done a film. She was just very gracious and humble, wanting to learn from the director. She was a great listener and we had an opportunity to just kid around, enjoy ourselves while we were filming, and enjoy getting to know one another. I have great expectations for that young woman, and not just in film if she chooses to continue to pursue that. But just in her own personal relationship with the Lord. She's experienced a little bit of hardship. Her mom was having a lot of health issues at the time we were filming and her tenderness toward God and seeing God move in the life of her mom was evident.  She brought that to the story. I'm excited to see how the Lord has been at work, putting all of this together so that she becomes a woman who knows firmly and truly who she is in the Lord.

With the Kendrick Brothers, a successful movie is not measured by how much money it makes.  As you know, ministry is just as important or even more so.  How would you measure this film as being a successful one? What would make it a success for you?

Well, I think it would be a success if we hear the murmurs of people walking away from it and actually considering the implications for their own spiritual life. It's a movie about identity. We want people to start wrestling with that. Am I placing my significance in any illegitimate source? Is it my career? Is there applause or appreciation or acceptance by a particular group of people that I'm hanging my significance on that that I shouldn’t be?  We want them to recognize this and to walk away wrestling with that and wanting to say, ‘Okay, Lord, what needs to be pruned from my life so that I can come back to you being the sole source of significance and value in my life? How do I do that? We want people to wrestle with that. We also want them to just enjoy themselves at the movie. We want them to have the best tub of hot buttery popcorn they've ever had. We want them to cry, laugh, enjoy the technical excellence of this film and the beauty of the cinematography. But at the same time, we want them to have a revelation of spiritual things that leads them to some conversations with God. For me, that's a great ending.

Watch a trailer for Overcomer (opening in theaters nationwide on August 23rd:

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