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Christian Living

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Priscilla Shirer an 'Accidental Actress' in War Room

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

Editors Note:  Set to release on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, War Room has earned nearly $68 million dollars at the box office to date.  It currently stands as the sixth most popular faith-based film in history.

CHARLOTTE, NC -- Priscilla Shirer is a lot of things but actress is not one of them … until now.   A New York Times best selling author and daughter of well-known evangelist Tony Evans, Shirer always considered herself a wife and mom first.  Beyond that, she was quite comfortable ministering to the thousands who attended her Bible study conferences each year.

But acting?  Seriously?  Shirer will be the first to tell you that the notion of standing in front of a camera pretending to be someone else is far, far away from her comfort zone.  But when the makers of such faith-based movie favorites like Courageous, Fireproof, and Facing the Giants come calling it’s hard to say no.

That’s exactly what happened when filmmaking brothers Alex and Stephen Kendrick approached her about a role in their upcoming movie about prayer.  Not just any role, mind you, but the lead role.

I recently sat down with Priscilla to discuss her experiences in the new movie War Room, the importance of making a film about prayer at this moment in history, and what she has learned about herself through this unlikely God adventure.

You have been a writer, author, and Bible teacher for quite some time.  And now you are adding actress to your resume.  Why have you chosen to jump into the lake so deeply?

I remember doing church dramas when I was in my teen years and a little theater in my early twenties but I never thought about acting as something I would do.  The only reason I considered this is because the Kendrick Brothers called and asked.  That would be the only reason.  And in fact, I told them no first.  I said, ‘You do know I’m not an actress, right?’  They said they were aware of that but thought I had the raw potential they could work with.  So, the only reason I considered this was because these great men of God really have such integrity and character.  They are not making movies to make money or to be famous or to draw attention to themselves.  They have no interest in that.  They really want God’s church to be served through these films.  That’s basically what our ministry is about.  So, it’s just a different genre of pulling the same thing off that we are trying to pull off anyway in serving the body of Christ.  So, I don’t have acting aspirations necessarily but I sure have had a lot of fun doing something unique and different.

War Room is a movie about prayer.  Why is it so important to make a movie about this topic at this moment in time?

If I were the enemy of the Church, which we do have a very real enemy, if I were the enemy what I would try to do is diffuse the power of the most potent weapon their adversary has.  I would try to target whatever I know can do the most damage to me, my efforts, and my strategies.  Then cause them to think it’s not as powerful as it is.  I think this has been one of the enemy’s ploys against the Church.  He has done his best to cause us to heighten the importance of everything else except prayer.  So, we focus on the preaching, the singing, the aesthetics of our building, on the programs – all of those are fantastic, we need those things – but we have simultaneously and unknowingly downplayed the significance of the most potent weapon. Jesus said, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.”  So, if we get back to those basics there is no telling what kind of revival is going to break out, not only in our churches but in our families and personal lives as well.

We have talked about how you came to the role.  What can you tell me about the character you play in War Room?

I get the privilege of being Elizabeth Jordan.  Elizabeth is this polished, poised woman who has this great veneer that causes people to look at her as someone you would admire from afar.  House. Great.  Kid.  Great. Handsome husband. She has a great career.  Got a little money in the bank.  She is a real estate agent and runs into this woman whose house she is going to list named Miss Clara (Karen Abercrombie).  She is an older woman who says whatever is on her mind.  And Miss Clara begins to chip away at Elizabeth, asking her pointed questions that over time cause Elizabeth to become unguarded a little bit.  She begins to reveal the deep, deep cracks that are in her life.  I think a lot of women are going to see themselves in Elizabeth.

As you have gone through this production, what has God been showing you?

Well, some of that has been personal and some of that has been corporate from the Church but … when I say personal I mean it’s just been about me.  One of the things He has showed me just about me is that sometimes the greatest adventures in our lives come when we step outside of the comfort zone to which we think we are specifically gifted or called.  Like when we say yes to a prodding of the Holy Spirit to do something that honestly is quite intimidating.  Listen, I was more excited about my family getting to be around the Kendricks’ family for a whole summer.  That was the main reason I wanted to be in this movie because of the influence they would have on my kids and we would have on them.  The movie-making part scared me half to death but I obviously couldn’t have one without the other.  Getting to do the movie has stretched me, challenged me, there were long hours.  As the lead in the movie there were hundreds of pages of lines.  So, all of that was a lot of work and I enjoyed every minute of it.

What have you learned about yourself that maybe you didn’t know before or realize?

Alex (Kendrick) has stretched me.  He would not let me get away with mediocre acting.  He knew what my potential was.  So, if I did something that I thought was ok, he would come over to me, I knew the look, he would come over and say, “That was terrible.  Do it again.”  He would make me do it over and over.  It has taught me that when I think I have done my best sometimes all we need is someone to come to us and say, ‘You really do have more in you.  You just don’t know it.’  Hearing him say that after take one, take two, take three, take four, take five, often times when we would get to that fourth or fifth take he would say, “That’s it.  We got it.”  It was so much better than what I thought was fantastic at the beginning.

Going forward, do you see yourself taking more acting roles if the opportunities present themselves?

That is just totally up to the Lord.  I would have never said I would have done this.  And here we are.  But it would obviously have to be a project that supports the ministry that God has already given me.  I’m not interested in just acting. I’m only interested in doing things that will continue to support where God has already led us in our ministry of teaching women and serving the body of Christ through the teaching of God’s Word.  And there are so few movies like that.

After people see this movie, what is the one thing that you, as an actress would like people to take away from the viewing experience?

I would like for all people but from my vantage point I would specifically like to see women walk away with hope.  That all is not lost.  That if they have been praying for years for their spouse or something in their child’s life, their own life, their marriage, whatever it might be, to finally have some passion and some peace.  I want them to realize that there is hope.  God can do what you are asking Him to do.  So, keep fervent in your prayers.

War Room opens in theaters nationwide this weekend. Check your local listings to find a theater near you.

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