Thomas Haden Church is a strong Christian, who in person just seems like a huggable loveable guy. He’s genuine, endearing and really funny. All I knew was He was the sandman in Spiderman.
Born in Yolo, California, but raised in Texas, Church began his show business career in front of a microphone instead of a camera, first as a radio deejay and then as a voice-over announcer. After landing a role in the independent film, Stolen Moments, Church moved to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career.
In Heaven is for Real Haden plays Jay Wilkins, a good friend to Todd Burpo (Played by Greg Kinnear). I had the opportunity to work with five other bloggers and Sony where we interviewed Thomas Haden Church and asked him about his experience with the Movie Heaven is For Real.
Did you shadow any of the real volunteer firefighters?
Thomas Haden Church: Before I went, I did this 2 day training with my VFD in Texas. And then, whenever we got up to (not Nebraska) Manatoba, we did just a little, you know, safety sort of thing and rode along with them. Not on any calls that I remember, I think we just went riding around. And they showed us, you know, this is what we are wearing right now, this is where as soon as we land, this is the equipment that we go for, you know. The biggest thing is putting on those air packs. Man, you jump on that truck and that thing lurches and before you know it you are going 70 miles per hour and you’re trying to sit down and get to the air pack and put all that stuff on and getting everybody charged, the air packs charged. There’s bells going off.
I was the chief, so I didn’t have to “man a line”. What I did was yell at people to get more lines on the fire. Yeah, you know, learning things like “structures fully engaged”, “how many units”, and “who’s setup command”. All that stuff, I did go through that in Texas and then we went through sort of a mini deal in Manitoba. Really good guys though. Really cool guys. I liked them all.
So how has this project, the book or the movie impacted your life? Was your faith stirred?
Thomas Haden Church: It’s always been there, and I sort of keep using the same analogy that, you know, whenever you’re a child you start out with a very fundamental set of tools, or call it whatever, like a spiritual train set. You know, you learn bible songs and scriptures, and you see Jesus walking with a flock of sheep and, you know, all those little things that you learn in bible school. And as you go along and you get older, you know, some of those things are lost. Some of those sensibilities get a little blunted. And then from time to time you’re sort of reminded, you know, I need to pay attention to that a little more closely because I do, I want to walk that righteous path and be the guy that makes the right choices, you know, whether it’s with my kids, my friends, my family, my community. You know, professionally I want to be known as an honorable guy who has professional integrity.
So, going along, it’s always thing this where we sort of have to readdress where we are spiritually when somebody dies, or when somebody almost dies. And it’s not as often as, you know, where am I at spiritually now that my, you know, niece had a baby, you know, it’s not… for some reason we don’t go to that. We don’t try to realign ourselves. And I’ve used this analogy too, it’s like, we don’t hear from the WHO how many healthy babies are born in Africa, we hear about the AIDS babies that are born in Africa. It’s just, we sort of, we have a tendency to kind of use the dark to realign with the light. Which is very poetic – I think all of you can appreciate that. (laughter)
But, you know, the year before this movie came out, I did have 3 people who were very close to me pass away. At the beginning of last year I went to do a movie and I was gone, and when I came back, the Heaven script had been sent to me in Texas. I read it, and they are like, you know, the director wants to talk to you. Randall and I had the first of a number of conversations and I realized that we kind of had a similar back story. You know, raised Christian, him in Tennessee, me in Texas. But we just sort of had, like this similar spiritual experience as men. I just was like, maybe this was the right thing at the right time. Instead of looking for the next cool edgy movie, you know, I think I would like to participate and I don’t need to be the lead in everything that I do. But I’d like to participate in something that is faith based and is a great family story. I think, in that way, yeah. It kind of helped revitalize where I was spiritually. And talking to you, it’s like, I wouldn’t be here talking to you about hopeful, loving, you know, spiritual dynamics in our lives if I hadn’t done the movie. So… you guys are all moms. That’s cool. You can always have good energy with a bunch of moms.
Heaven Is For Real opens in theaters on April 16th, 2014.