Actor Caleb Castille on Faith, Football and Filming Woodlawn
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Editor's Note: Woodlawn released on Blu-Ray and DVD this week.
From the first audition, newcomer Caleb Castille knew he would play the role of high school football phenom Tony Nathan in Pure Flix's new movie, Woodlawn. The filmmakers just didn't know it, at least not at first.
Up until four days before production, Castille occupied the role of Nathan's stunt double. His audition tape was lost, so he wasn't even on directors Andrew and Jon Erwin's radars when they needed to replace their lead actor. His chances of playing Nathan on screen were doubtful. But, he never lost faith.
He fully expected to be the lead in this true-story film about the racial violence and faith-led reconciliation surrounding Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1970s. And that's exactly what the University of Alabama champ did--after the film's football coordinator pointed the would-be actor out to the filmmakers.
The former defensive back recently sat down with CBN.com to share about his faith, what it was like making his first movie and his hopes for Woodlawn. Here are excerpts from that conversation:
What went through your mind when you finally got word that you would play Tony Nathan in Woodlawn?
Well, number one, it didn't take me by surprise because I was prepared. I went into the project kind of expecting to get the lead. So, I started doing things a month out from that when I got the script--running, growing my hair out, reading the script. Luck is just preparation meeting opportunity. When I got the call, I knew it was time. I was ready to make a film.
What sparked that unwavering expectation that you'd get the role?
My faith, definitely. I shoot for the heavens; I guess you could say, as far as you could shoot. I place my goals in that expectation of what God can do in my life. I wanted the movie so bad and I expected it. I even just signed the script and dated it when I got the script that day I did the audition.
When did your Christian faith become an important part of your life?
I was first introduced to Jesus when I was six; and I would say we became friends when I was 21, 22 years old.
Was it a family thing?
Yeah, it definitely was a family thing. It just had to become real to me. Instead of just seeing my parents in the way that they operated, it had to become something that was real to me. I felt the power of it, and how it operated in my life.
With your dad and brothers being former University of Alabama and NFL players, was there any other option in your mind, other than football?
Ever since I was little, everyone always said that Caleb's going to be different. Caleb's going to do this; he's going to do that... I have always had this passion in me to do things outside of football. I didn't specifically know that would be acting, but God has His way of working things out.
When did you start working that out, that acting bug?
Oh, man. That came at about 14, the acting bug. I did my first play, Wizard of Oz, in drama, in middle school.
Who did you play in Wizard of Oz?
I was The Tin Man and I fell in love with it. After that, it just became a thing that I tried to juggle with football. I got into modeling in high school, but then the acting became what I was going for my junior year in college.
Growing up in the South, you undoubtedly learned about the Civil Rights movement and the violence that happened in Birmingham in school. When did you first learn about Nathan's story?
Yeah. I learned his story when I started studying for the film. I read the script, studied the interview videos of Tony [Nathan] and that's when I really found the history of the story. I always kind of knew the history of the city, but not from that angle.
Are we repeating history?
Oh yeah. History always repeats itself. What doesn't repeat itself is the right solutions or the right answers to these problems that we're facing. There should be more awareness in our culture for things that have happened in the past. How do we prevent those things from happening socially? How do we be better people? How do we become the best human beings we can become to each other?
How does Woodlawn play a part in helping with that solution?
Because it faces all the issues that we're pretty much dealing with right now, and shows that love pretty much overcomes any situation or any problem or circumstance. So you face the problem, you diagnose it and the answer is in the film, in the message of the film.
What is Woodlawn's main takeaway for young people?
Young people should feel inspired and encouraged to influence their friends, their school, and know that they can actually influence our culture today. There's so much that's fed, so much content through media that's fed to my generation and our generation. They need to realize that it's up to us to make our own actions, even though all these things are thrown at us. Young people should definitely leave this movie inspired in knowing that they can make a difference, that they matter. That's what I want young kids to know; bottom line is that they matter, and God has a plan for their life.
What mark do you want Woodlawn to have on history at this moment in time?
I want it to be a catalyst, a catalyst for change in our country and in this time. I'm not saying that this movie can single-handedly change our world, but it can create a spark and that's the only thing that you could really hope for. That's my prayer.
Is it true you've turned down roles because of your faith?
Yeah, yeah. There are certain things that I'm not OK with as a man of faith. There have been a lot of times that I've passed on scripts. You can only make your first impressions one time. And I'm glad I'm learning that now instead of having already been in the industry and had that big break, and then trying to turn around and say, 'hey, all of a sudden I don't want to do things that contradict my spiritual beliefs.'
I'm glad that God was able to bring me a film that would bring me into the industry in a way that I want to. I'm not saying that I won't do secular films; I definitely will. But, I'm the judge of that. I keep that power in my hands. And if this is the only film I ever do, then so be it.
Do you think God ordained this movie?
Most definitely, yes. Very much so. From the way I got the role to us being able to raise our own money and fund this independently. There are so many God moments in this. It's mind blowing.
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