|Reverend Dave (David A.R. White) and Josh Wheaton (Shane Harper) in|
God's Not Dead: A Light in Darkness. (Pure Flix Entertainment)
INTERVIEWI had to wait a few minutes before my phone call interview with actor Shane Harper to begin. The actor who appears in God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness explained to me that he had a Skype interview earlier in the day that went longer than it should have as the interviewer started requesting personal shout-outs and “happy birthday” messages to their friends. I get that. I’ve seen Harper give interviews to young female reporters who could hardly contain themselves when talking to the guy reliving their earlier crushes.
At age 25, Harper has been acting, dancing and singing since he was nine-years-old. He has played a variety of roles over the years including Awkward and Happyland, but he is probably most remembered for playing the role of Spencer Walsh on Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie for four seasons. However, some people are only aware of his connection to faith-based movies. He tells me that it’s not uncommon for interviewers to think that 2014’s God’s Not Dead was his first movie, ever and have asked how he got into the entertainment industry. (I wanted to tell him that the Disney show was probably after their time.) So as it stands, Shane has two types of fan bases; those who only know him from the faith-based movie world and those who grew up watching him on TV. The latter are the ones asking for special favors.
I asked Shane what is the oddest question he receives. He tells me that even though Good Luck Charlie ended airing original episodes in 2014, he still gets teens asking him if he would join them for their high school prom or those slightly older asking if he would be interested in dating one of their friends. “It happens more often than you would think,” says Shane.
|Shane Harper (TKO Marketing)|
In the first film, Wheaton enrolled in a philosophy class taught by atheist Professor Jeffrey Radisson (portrayed by Kevin Sorbo) who demanded that every one of his students sign a form declaring that “God is dead” in order to pass the class. Wheaton refuses to sign the form but Radisson agrees to let the student debate the teacher on whether God exists.
Harper was asked back to star again in God’s Not Dead 2, but for whatever reason didn’t care for the script. (Though the film was sequel, the main story featured new characters portrayed by Melissa Joan Hart and Jesse Metcalf.) However, Shane agreed to reprise his role for the third movie where his character, who originally was headed toward law school, changed direction to become a chaplain at the college featured in the first movie. In A Light in Darkness, Reverend Dave (A.R. White) has to contend with the reality of having his church building burned to the ground and has to rely on help from his atheist brother (John Corbett). Wheaton returns to the story with a bit of a role reversal giving advice to the pastor. Harper describes Wheaton as “a dad in a 25-year-old body.” His character is not preachy, just “more grounded about things.”
Though technically a sequel, Harper insists that A Light in Darkness is really a standalone story. “Fans of the first movies will like how the film wraps things up for the main characters, but really, the story stands alone, and we haven’t pointed that out enough.”
Last summer Harper ruffled a few feathers when he appeared in ABC’s remake of Dirty Dancing not because the network had the audacity to remake a "classic," but because he played against type as the jerky and womanizer Robbie Gould who pursued Baby’s older sister with ill intentions. Harper’s fan from both worlds were surprised to see the actor play such a role. “He’s just a character” says Harper explaining how it is fun to play a role that is opposite of who you really are in real life. This led me to ask Harper how as a Christian he stays grounded in Hollywood.
“I get asked that a lot. There’s no great secular divide here [in Hollywood.] I was often told that Hollywood was the gates of hell. That narrative is so false,” says Josh. “Staying grounded is tough everywhere. Honoring God is challenging everywhere.” He does says that he has great friends and family that help keep him on track. “I don’t know where you live, but it’s a jungle out there wherever you live.”
God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness also stars Ted McGinley, Jennifer Taylor, Tatum O'Neal and Benjamin A. Onyango. The movie opens in theaters on Friday, March 30, 2018.