Act of faith: my role in Christian film
When American actor James Hooper was given the chance to promote his new Christian film A Question of Faith in Bermuda, he felt torn.
On the one hand it was an amazing opportunity to travel to the island and tell residents about the movie project that meant so much to him; on the other hand, it meant missing some crucial time in his final year of college at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.
“This trip to Bermuda came right in the middle of the school year, at a time when I wasn't on a break, so I was on the fence about whether I should take it,” the 22-year-old said.
“I would be missing a couple days of school and wasn't sure I would be able to get caught up on work, but in all honesty, my time on the island was such a beautiful experience.
“I made so many connections there and it was just another example of how God works everything out for good. It's just in His way and in His timing.”
Mr Hooper was on island last month, speaking at local radio stations and talking to schoolchildren at Berkeley Institute, Whitney and TN Tatem Middle School about his role in the Christian film, which was recently showing at Liberty Theatre.
“It was such a brief time, but I got to see so much,” he said of his visit. “I got to experience some beautiful places like Spittal Pond and Horseshoe Bay; and see the beauty of God's creation and I loved talking to the different schools because everyone there was so welcoming.
“The kids were incredible and I saw so much potential in them. I was walking so slowly when I had to leave to get on the plane to go back to the States. I didn't want to go.”
Mr Hooper began acting around three years ago, but other than a few small roles as an extra, this was his first real gig.
He plays the part of Junior Newman, whose younger brother is involved in a tragic accident, and as a result Junior starts to act out. His father, who is a pastor, also starts to grapple with his faith.
“My character has a lot of rebellion towards his family and God because he doesn't know how to handle the situation,” Mr Hooper explained. “Personally, I can relate to what he went through. I have been through points in life where I didn't know how to deal with things and pushed people away. And rather than seeking help from God, I began seeking comfort in material things and people and learnt the hard way that it isn't where true happiness comes from.”
The budding actor admits he learnt a lot from the role and it strengthened his own relationship with God. Although he grew up in a churchgoing family, he admits there have been times when his faith has been tested.
“I've asked questions like ‘Really, God?' ‘Are you really allowing this to happen to me and putting me in this situation?,” he said. “In those times, it can feel like there's no way out, like you hit rock bottom.
“But looking back, those instances are also the things that have shaped me into who I am and I'm so thankful that they happened, in hindsight.”
Mr Hooper first started out in the entertainment world pursuing music, but then decided to give acting a try when he was 19 to become “more well-rounded”. He signed with his current agent about 18 months ago and landed this job on A Question of Faith shortly after.
“Finding out I booked this role, it was indescribable,” he said. “I remember calling my mom while I was in my dorm room. I was trying to be causal and just said ‘So, Mom, how was your day?', then I just slipped it in that I booked my first supporting role in a movie.
“She was really excited for me and I was really excited as well. I auditioned twice, but in the preliminary round I didn't feel I did that great. I was surprised to get a call back the next day, saying they wanted to see me again. I truly believe that God was doing something on my behalf. And being able to be part of such a great movie, with such a great cast, is just a further testament to God's will and plan for my life.”
It took him seven days over the course of three weeks in September of 2016 to shoot his scenes for the film, which premiered internationally in the Autumn of 2017.
A Question of Faith was shown in Bermuda from February 23 until last Thursday. The film tackles real issues that families can go through, such as learning how to keep faith in the midst of trials and tragedy.
Mr Hooper hopes the movie will remind people to have more patience with God.
“The message is to always trust that God has a plan,” Mr Hooper said.
“Everything God does for you isn't always going to look pretty. It can test your faith, but hold on to that faith because that's exactly what faith is. It's something you can't see, but know it's there and at the end of the day it will work out in your favour.”