Fireproof Actress Follows Her Call in This is Our Time
By Chris Carpenter
CBN.com Program Director
CBN.com - Most people remember Erin Bethea for her role as long-suffering wife Catherine Holt in the 2008 hit movie, Fireproof. Playing opposite of Kirk Cameron, Bethea impressed a legion of movie-goers with a solid performance in just her second professional acting role. Fireproof, an instant hit with Christian audiences far and wide, went on to earn $33 million domestically, making it the highest-grossing independent film of 2008.
Since then, Bethea has quietly crafted a promising acting career with roles in Letters to God, Waiting on the Warrior, and The Heart of Christmas. Her current project, This is Our Time, has just been released on DVD.
I recently sat down with Bethea to discuss the importance of a movie like This is Our Time, why it sometimes takes a tragedy for someone to focus more closely on God, and what it takes for a person to follow their call in life.
Leading off, you had the unique opportunity to be part of the Sherwood Pictures story through acting in a couple of the films (Fireproof, Facing the Giants), and obviously you grew up in the church there (her father is senior pastor Michael Catt). How has that experience helped you to develop and evolve as an actress?
Oh, my goodness, it completely changed the course of my career. I had grown up doing theatre and had wanted to do theatre always, and then through Facing the Giants. But during Fireproof, I just absolutely fell in love with filmmaking. And I’ve always loved movies. It just had not occurred for me to be an actor in them, I just had always thought about being an actor on stage. I tell people all the time that theatre will always be my first love, but now I feel like film is my true love. It set an incredibly high bar in what I expect on a set and what I expect of films to do, and how I expected to test people. It’s like, when the first film you ever starred in goes international, and you’re getting email after email, it’s a little like, ‘Whoa, is this, wow!’
It’s been awhile since we have talked but you have been involved in a number of interesting projects. Tell me about your new film This is Our Time.
This is Our Time basically follows the story of five friends at that stage in life where you’ve just graduated from college, and you’re sort of asking the “what now?” questions. Do I move back in with my parents? How do I find a job? Now I have this degree, what do I do with it? It’s that time when your life can be really confusing, especially when things don’t happen exactly like you had planned, and how do you then react to the circumstances in your life when they aren’t what you planned and hoped for. Does it spur you on, do you still move forward in faith that God has a plan, or do you give up and stop trusting. My description makes it sound like such a sad movie. It’s really funny, a very fun movie.
Can you tell me about your role in the film?
I play Allie Taylor and she is one of these fantastic five people. She and her husband, Luke (played by T.J. Dalrymple), get married literally like a week after they graduate college, and they are called to the mission field to go and work in India with an organization called Embrace a Village. That’s an actual organization in India; it’s a leprosy outreach organization. We’re the people in the film who are absolutely sure of what it is that we’re called to do, and we go and we do it with vigor. It was wonderful.
What attracted you to this role? Why did you want to play this part?
I think two things. One was that I was finally actually getting the opportunity to play somebody younger than I am. We all want to play younger, nobody wants to play older. So, in a career move sort of thing, that was part of the attraction, because people always think I’m older than I am, because I played seven years above my actual age in Fireproof, so, people always think I’m older. The other part of it was that I wanted to work with Lisa Arnold, our director. I’ve known her for a long time, and I thought that she wrote just a really beautiful story. I don’t think the target audience for this is an audience that a lot of Christian films really go after, which are those twenty-somethings. A lot of Christian films are geared toward married couples and parents, so the single twenty-somethings sort of get neglected a lot of times. I was excited about the film because that’s a tough age.
The main focal point of this movie is a tragedy that happens within this group of friends. With that said, what does This is Our Time have to say about the age-old question, ‘Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?’”
When tragedy strikes, that tends to be the first question that everybody asks in real life. When Sandy Hook (Connecticut school shooting) happened, everybody asked, “Why does God allow this to happen?” And so, I think it’s a relevant question. How the film really deals with it is that it gives you permission to ask that question. I think that’s an important thing, it’s not wrong, and it’s not an absence of faith for that to be your initial reaction. It’s okay to ask that question, to say, “Why does this happen? I don’t understand, what is God doing?” But then what the film also points out, is that our next step as believers is not to just dwell on the “how could God let this happen?” but instead, to then ask the question, “Okay, this happened, what does God want me to do with it?” We acknowledge it, and we realize that God has a purpose and a plan in everything. Whether it was good or evil, He can be glorified.
Let’s spin that thought forward a little bit. If I’m digging too deep, let me know. Why does it sometimes take a tragedy for people to refocus in on what God has planned for them?
There’s power in desperation. There are countless stories in Scripture of people who, in their desperate times, were then turned to God and were huge powerfully. But I think that when times are not desperate, and when tragic circumstances aren’t in place, we can tend to get really self-focused, and really pointed towards just our everyday, the little things, and forget about the big picture. We forget about what our role is in this world according to God’s will, and there’s something about when tragedy strikes or when you find yourself in a desperate situation—because that’s how we’re wired, it’s to immediately turn to our safe haven.
For a young adult who is trying to find their way, what does it take for a person to really follow the call in their life? What’s the moment when a person knows that they’re in the right place that God has for them?
There are two types of calling that God places on our lives. One is what we are called to do in action. You’re called to the ministry, or you’re called to the medical field, or whatever it is, what we’re called to do. And that’s the thing where we look at, what are my skills, what are my passions, things like that, and that points us to when God instilled those things in us for them to use them for a purpose. That’s what we’re called to do. But then, the more important question, and I think what This is Our Time really beautifully lays out, is that there’s a second higher calling on our lives, which is who we are called to be. That calling is the same for all of us, so, whether you’re a missionary or a waitress, or whatever it is, who we’re called to be is the same, and that is we’re called to be faithful, and we’re called to be obedient. That’s where we will find fulfillment no matter what our action is, no matter what we’re doing. We find fulfillment actually in just trusting and being obedient.
Final question for you, and that is, after people see This is Our Time, what is the one thing that you would like them to take away with them, after they see the movie?
I think one of the big takeaways from This is Our Time is that whatever happens in your life, whatever circumstances you find yourself in, good or bad, exhilarating or heartbreaking, God always knew that you were going to be there. He always knew that those things were going to happen in your life, and even though they may be a surprise to you, they’re not a surprise to Him. He’s got the next step, and the next, and the next ready to go. So, it’s all about that trusting and knowing that He’s got it figured out; you don’t have to figure it out.
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