New Corbin Bernsen Movie Showcases Power of Faith
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Corbin Bernsen has had a long and successful Hollywood career. From his turn as Arnie Becker in the 1980s ensemble television drama L.A. Law to more recently playing retired police detective Henry Spencer in Psych, Bernsen has always demonstrated an uncanny ability to embody the character he is playing. Simply put, he is Arnie Becker and Henry Spencer.
The same can be said about Bernsen’s latest role in the new faith-based movie My Daddy is in Heaven (releasing this week on home video). In it, he plays Vernon, a farmer and patriarch of a family that is battling through not only the recent loss of his wife but also the tragic death of his son-in-law. He finds himself trying to help his daughter through the healing process while still grieving himself. Through these travails, the family must reconcile why bad things happen to good people.
I recently spoke with Bernsen about why it is important to make movies that try to answer some of life’s toughest questions, how this movie was unafraid to tackle the rawness of this topic head one, and whether through faith there is truly hope for a better tomorrow.
This is a tragic story but it is also one filled with hope. What drew you to want to be in this film?
You just said it. It’s a tragic story but filled with hope. It’s nice to do a film that sharpens your tools, that reaffirms your own faith. This is a movie that does that and it does it in a way that’s powerful to me, because it’s not just coming back and doing something that’s like Pollyanna and syrupy. People who know me know that I don’t do Pollyanna. This movie’s incredible, because it’s set around a tragedy. It’s based on a terrible story that happened to Rebecca Crownover in regard to the tragic death of her husband, and having to deal with her daughter and her grief. It’s a story of really reaffirming their love for God through it all and their trust in God.
There are many films about people’s near-death experiences and visits to heaven – some are better than others at conveying that story. This movie is about someone who goes to heaven and doesn’t return. It also churns up the emotions that loss brings with it. Why is it important for this film to tell a story here on earth about heaven?
Faith. Let’s start with that. Because all of those other wonderful stories, they come back, and we could deduce, “Oh, they came back,” and you forget the message of faith. I talk to my secular audience friends and my atheist friends, and they do interesting things if you really think about it. Something wonderful about faith is there’s nothing on this earth that says, you know, you believe in this and therefore you’re going to get this. “Wow, daddy, I wish I could have a pony.” Well, you may not get a pony. Have faith that you will. I still didn’t get the pony but faith is this wonderful thing that if you can accept it for what it is, have deep faith that there’s something greater, there’s nothing more powerful than that. But in this one, Daddy doesn’t come back. You don’t go to Heaven. You don’t see daddy there having spaghetti and meatballs with grandma, none of that stuff. No, he’s gone, but I have to have faith he’s in God’s hands. You have to have faith that he’s okay. That’s the real definition of faith to me, that when you accept that, that kind of faith, anything is possible.
My Daddy is in Heaven strays a bit from the traditional formula that these types of movies usually travel, especially with the main character Becca. She is very honest, raw, and real. So many times in faith-based films we see a glossed over version of what was really going on in her life. This movie seems unafraid to take those emotions head on and make them part of the story. Could you talk about My Daddy is in Heaven’s willingness to do that?
I think that’s what drew me to this, and I’ll be really honest. It’s scary. I sort of came into making faith-based movies through the back door and rediscovered my faith through making movies, beginning with a film I did called Rust. I had just written a movie and directed it, and it’s got some rough stuff in it. It’s got language in it that’s real world language, and I have producing partners who think you can’t have that in a faith-based movie. But I’m saying it’s the real world. I’m not exploiting that word or those sentiments. They exist. I walk out of my front door, and I can love God, love Jesus and trust Him, but I’m still going to hear that “word”. It’s going to be there. I happen to believe God is directing me when I started making faith-based movies. He said, “Corbin, I want you to be brave, I want you to be strong. I want you to love me, and I want you to go into the world and do battle for me in the real world and bring my name forth. Do not be afraid. I’ll have your back if you misstep. If you feel like you’ve done something out of step, as long as you come back and you honor and glorify me, then I’m okay.” It’s a struggle. It’s easier now because it used to be more of a struggle if you’re just trying to get on a shelf at Blockbuster Video in the faith-based section. Store staff aren’t saying, “Oh, no, no. Daddy died - back row. We can’t have that movie there. We just want sweet, life-affirming, everything’s going to be glory be to God while everything works out nicely.” Well, the real world doesn’t work out nicely. It should not diminish our faith. In fact, it should strengthen our faith, and I’m currently exploring that.
Final question, after people see My Daddy is in Heaven what would you like your viewers to get out of the experience? What is your greatest hope for the movie?
I have two hopes. One is this is the incredible true story of Rebecca Crownover, her daughter, and the loss of her husband. In and of itself, it’s a wonderful healing piece for them. It’s going to do wonders for them and their affirmation of what they believe to be true. The other is to help audiences. I think it’s great for people to just know that there is first faith, there is hope in God, and there is a tomorrow and there is a better today, and not get too lost in the tragedy of what we see. I want people to know that we can we turn on the TV, Internet, whatever it is, and realize there’s a better life than what they are seeing.
Watch the trailer for My Daddy is in Heaven:
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