Max Ehrich in Southern Gospel film
It’s a well-worn story that we have all heard before. A rising musician becomes a bonafide rockstar but doesn’t quite know how to handle fame. Rather than seeking wise-counsel, they opt for a tawdry, cliched world of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Soon the swirl of success leads this celebrated musician to riotous rebellion and eventually the pit of brokenness and despair.
What I have just described pretty much sums up the early adult years of Samuel Allen. A 1960’s rockstar, Allen soon finds himself in jail, not a prisoner to his music, but for his struggle with anger and blame toward organized religion. Rather than spend the next several years incarcerated, Allen eventually finds himself caught up in a divine moment. The judge dismisses charges against him with the understanding that Allen speak to local schools and churches about the dangers of drugs.
But God has a sense of humor. Given this second chance, Allen not only fulfills his obligation to the courts, he eventually follows in his father’s footsteps to become a preacher, the very thing he had been running from for years.
Based on a true story, Allen is the focus of a new biopic opening in theaters this weekend called Southern Gospel. Featuring a wealth of wonderful music of that era, Southern Gospel is the story of a man overcoming his demons yet never surrendering his quest to find wholeness through the Gospel.
I recently sat down with Max Ehrich (The Young and the Restless), who stars in the movie as Samuel Allen, to discuss what sets Southern Gospel apart from other musical biopics, how acting in the movie strengthened his personal faith, and why we should always make it a priority to use our talents for God’s purposes.
I’m sure a fair amount of scripts cross your path on a regular basis. What was it about Southern Gospel that attracted you to your role as Samuel Allen?
I’d say one of the biggest parts was just the overall theme. I love biopics in general, but I also love biopics where you get to really watch someone’s character development start from a certain place of pure hardship, they are or have experienced massive pain and have unhealthy habits, to sort of numb that pain and then find a way within themselves and in their faith to be able to overcome that. For me, I love being a part of projects where I get to be challenged as an actor. And this role is probably the most challenging one I’ve had to step into. But I also love being a part of projects that I believe have a good influence because I do think that art, especially film, television, and music have a big influence on society and really can cause a massive shift in consciousness. So, I’d say the overall theme of the film is what brought me to feel drawn to wanting to be a part of it.
Southern Gospel shows a story of overcoming your past. We have seen a lot of movies over the years with similar themes. What sets this film apart from all the others?
I just think there’s so much authenticity behind it. I think being behind the music adds such an element to it as well. I think the music is profound. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see the movie yet but I’m a big fan of all the records that are in the film. I feel like what sets it apart is the fact that it’s a faith-based story. I really do feel like it’s just a story of humanity. I think each film has their own heart and I think with this film, it’s very evident that every person involved in it really poured their heart and their soul into it.
This movie has several strong themes – redemption, brokenness, and forgiveness are chief among them. These themes go hand in hand with someone’s personal faith. How did your personal faith grow from participating in the movie?
In preparation for this role, I definitely feel like my faith was heightened immensely. I was studying the Bible day and night just because I knew that that’s what the character lived and breathed. I feel like it brought me so much closer to my faith and this character. In my own life, I feel like I was going through some interesting challenges during that time. And I really am grateful that this film strengthened my faith to be able to turn to God and be able to turn to messages from the Bible that I don’t think will ever leave me. I was baptized during this film. I feel so much closer to my faith from this film.
Southern Gospel serves as an inspirational reminder to use our talents for God’s purposes. Why is that message so important to anyone watching this movie?
I think we all have a purpose here on earth, and I really do believe that we all are given gifts and talents. It can range from a variety of things. I feel like God has given me the talents of storytelling, artistry through my music, and through my acting. I do feel like everyone has their own gift that God has intended for them to share with the world. I feel like a lot of people have this misconception that once you’ve given your life over to Jesus Christ, that everything is just this beautiful journey. And while I do believe that there is so much flight that comes from it there, a lot of times there’s a lot of adversity that comes because we are challenged all the time.
And I think those challenges really strengthen our faith. We live in a society where one day people can love you and the next day they can hate you. The same thing happened to Jesus Christ. And I think sometimes the more faith you have, it’s interesting, the more challenges you might face. And I do feel like that is a test that God has given you to see how strong your faith is. How are you responding when things are not going great? And I think that that’s what builds your character.
It has often been said that our lives are simply journeys from beginning to end. How does Southern Gospel help remind us that our stories are never done, never completed?
I think a lot of times we reach these peaks or these plateaus and we think that we have it all figured out and then all of a sudden a challenge will come and, and that at the time it might seem like this. Why is this happening to me? And then later, you realize that that is actually meant for a greater purpose. And we know we don’t always know about that purpose. I can definitely relate in my life. I’ve had moments where I have felt like I have reached a point where I thought everything was exactly where it was supposed to be. And then things have gone in a completely different direction. I didn’t realize at the time that there are these blessings and disguises through which we have these growth opportunities.
After people have seen Southern Gospel, what would you like to see audiences get out of the viewing experience? What is your greatest hope for the film?
My greatest hope is that people walk away feeling a bit lighter in spirit, a bit more open in their hearts, and have more kindness and compassion towards themselves and to others. I just hope that we as a society can expand our compassion and have a sense of unity. I think in these past few years especially, we’ve all together have had to face a lot of obstacles. You could even call the pandemic a huge obstacle that we’ve all have had to face. And I hope people walk away from it with a bit more hope and joy in their spirit.
Watch a Trailer for Southern Gospel: