An Unusual Suspect: The Stephen Baldwin Interview

Actor Stephen Baldwin Courtesy, Reverence Gospel Media

Actor Stephen Baldwin
Courtesy, Reverence Gospel Media

Stephen Baldwin is an actor, family man and born-again Christian who makes his home in upstate New York with his wife and two young daughters.  The youngest of the Baldwin brothers acting clan, Stephen is one of the few Hollywood actors versatile enough for key roles in everything from “The Usual Suspect” to “Bio-Dome.”  Equally adept at drama and comedy, Baldwin has appeared in over 60 films and been featured on such top-rated television shows as “Fear Factor” and “Celebrity Mole.” Stephen has his own production company that is developing projects for television and the big screen and is active in charity work for the Carol M. Baldwin Cancer Research Fund.

Kevin Williams:  What is your take on the growing market for faith-based films?

Stephen Baldwin:  I think that it is a little strange right now, because in the wake of what seems to be a proven model of distribution [through] direct marketing to Faith-based people, we’re seeing tremendous results.  First, obviously with “Passion of the Christ.”  Then you have these two anomalies called “Fireproof” and “Courageous” by the Kendrick brothers who are pastors of a church.  It was fascinating to me that we have seen movies [that were] direct marketed to the Church – succeed in amazing ways.  But, it wasn’t until I was recently sitting in the offices of a major cable network that I just was offered my own reality show based on my family, my faith-based activities and my life.

The cable network I met with said, “Everyone is jumping on the bandwagon now because Christianity has become cool because of Mark Burnett’s BIBLE series on the History Channel.”  I kind of scratched my head, but these types of surges often occur in ways we can’t always figure out.  I think what we are about to see in the next three to five years is many of the mainstream studios and networks [will] hone in and understand that the market of faith-based consumers are people who are going to respond to content geared towards them.  So long as it is made in a way that has excellent production values that can compete with what mainstream Hollywood has to offer.

And just like why we are having this conversation… “I’m In Love With A Church Girl” in my opinion, is the first mainstream Christian movie that was made with that [creative] sensibility.  You have Michael Madsen, Vincent Pastore, Adrienne Bailon and Ja Rule in a movie with Stephen Baldwin.  This isn’t your normal faith-based movie.

I'm In Love With A Church Girl PosterKevin Williams:  I agree completely.  In just seeing the names alone, I thought “Wow! How did they pull this together?”  Because no faith-based film has done that.  Where you have gotten name-talent whom the audience has heard of and followed their careers for a couple of decades in this movie.  

Stephen Baldwin:  Right!  And that has been the funny thing.  We did a forty-city bus tour.  The money that was put into this thing was pretty serious money as far as independent films go.  When Galley Molina, the Executive Producer and Writer (and who Ja Rule plays in the movie)… when he called me on the phone about this opportunity I said, “You want me to do a movie called I’m in Love With A Church Girl?  Huh?”   I asked him, “Who is in it?”  And he said, “Ja Rule is playing me.”  That’s when the light bulb went off and I said, “Okay, this guy gets it.” 

Kevin Williams:  Well, what is “getting it” exactly?

Stephen Baldwin:  What “getting it” means is that we live in a digital age where with the right cameras and the right people who have the right talent and the experience… you can make a film for $1M look like a $5M film.  That is what “I’m in Love With A Church Girl” is.  That coupled with… Galley’s sensibility of himself as a guy who was incarcerated for several years, becomes a Christian and now is a Worship Pastor of a church in Northern California.  His life was radically transformed.  That happens every day, but Galley was smart enough to say “I’m not going to make a nice film just for the Christian audience.  I am going to make a full-blown, unapologetic Christian movie that hopefully the Christian audience will respond to, but at the same time I’m going to tell the real story in a hardcore way.”

Unfortunately, most of the Christian and the Faith-based filmmaking community feel as though they probably have to play it safe.  And now what is really cool is that there is a surge of Faith-based filmmakers realizing that [playing it safe] isn’t working.  The motivation here is to get the Christian message across and to communicate to the “un-Churched” so to speak.  The way to do that now is to start having the same sensibility that Galley had with this film.

Kevin Williams:   Well, do you feel that independent filmmaking is a better track for people who want to make faith-based projects?

Stephen Baldwin:  Right now, you are going to see that be the trend.  You are going to see mainstream Hollywood start to recognize that there is the audience and there’s the ability to do direct-marketing.   Hollywood is going to start doing a lot more of that.  Now let’s be honest, the mainstream side of it will always try to take “Christian” movies and dumb down the Christian side of it as much as they can because that will allow for them to have more success with the mainstream.  That is always going to be the case.  When Galley Molina started the process of making this film.  He had a lot of mainstream companies come to him and say, “Great.  Let’s make this movie, but let’s take out all of the obvious Christian parts of the story and let’s do something like “Scarface for Jesus”!

Galley [told them] that he didn’t want to do that either.  He was smart enough to figure out on his own how to do it.  The way he knew it needed to be done.

Courtesy, Gramercy Pictures

“The Usual Suspects”
Courtesy, Gramercy Pictures

Kevin Williams:  As you look back on your career since “The Usual Suspects” (1995), has your outlook on the movie business changed at all? 

Stephen Baldwin:  Obviously the internet has changed everything.  You see the realities of Tivo and Hulu and others.  You can basically get whatever your specific interest is content-wise when you want it, how you want it.  I think that has really freaked out the film, TV and music [industry].  But, that is just about it.  That is the thing that is the game changer now, where you have these whales and dinosaurs of companies that had monopolized content in such a way that they would control distribution.  That has radically changed.  I think that is a good thing.  It is really going to allow for the little guy to really have a much greater chance now, similarly to Galley Molina.  I mean, Justin Bieber, was discovered on YouTube.  That kind of changed this dynamic forever.

Kevin Williams:  So I guess as an actor, it doesn’t really affect what you are doing.  Just what the end product’s going to look like and how people are going to get to it?

Stephen Baldwin:  I think in the trickle down, it has changed the normal dichotomy of the process.  You had the major agencies with major talents and deals getting done with that [older] process.   Now, you have a Bethany Frankel who is a lady who never went to an acting school or formally trained in media.  She has her Skinny Girl company doing tens of millions of dollars’ worth of business.  She came out of a reality show and now she has a successful talk show.  It is almost like Andy Warhol’s “Fifteen Minutes of Fame” is really becoming a true reality.  Because anyone can come out of nowhere now and command attention or gain success.

Kevin Williams:  You are definitely one of the heroes of filmmakers and actors who are also people of Faith.  Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to make a career in filmmaking and acting while not compromising their faith or moral beliefs?

Stephen Baldwin:  Everybody is different.  I happen to be a guy, who in my testimony, where I am literally the last guy to have believed that I would be where I am today.  In my testimony, I had a very radical situation where twenty years ago my wife and I hired a housekeeper from Brazil (where my wife is from).  The woman explained to us later on that the real reason she took the job and came from her prayer group at her Church in Brazil was that it was “prophesized” that if she came here to work for us – we would become Christians and become involved with ministry.  Which at that time was utterly absurd.  But lo and behold, everything that she [told us] that God said is going to happen [actually] happened.  For me, that wasn’t really enough.

Stephen Baldwin reading to children at White House Easter Egg Roll

Stephen Baldwin reading to children
at the White House Easter Egg Roll

When I started to pursue this journey in the way that the Bible says is authentically, as opposed to “designer faith” meaning I believe this part and I don’t believe that part.  That part works for you, but doesn’t work for me.  When I started to pursue this thing authentically, for me I made a deal with God.  And the deal was pretty simple.  If you show me this thing authentically according to the correct way you are supposed to do it and you show me it is real, then I won’t be one of those people who plays it safe.  I’ll be one of those people who really stands up for what you are calling me to stand up for.  In that respect, everybody is different.  Everybody’s calling is different.

When I worked with a very large ministry many years ago, I would sit in their office and watch some older folks come in everyday and lick [postage] stamps and put them on envelopes for the mailings for his ministry.  I thought, “that is not my thing.  How could you do that?”  In retrospect, I realized that what they were doing really matters.  Even that little piece in the whole, giant pizza pie makes a difference.  So if you know this thing is real and true and it is impacting your life in a way that you know to be meaningful and authentic… then my recommendation to everyone and anyone is don’t play it safe.  Be one of those people that makes a difference.  In the way God hopes you will make a difference and stand up for what you believe in.  That is becoming harder and harder to do in this culture.

Kevin Williams:  Well, you have begun to Direct films yourself with your documentary “The Will to Drill” and your narrative short “Cognac.”  How have you been finding the directing process and do you think that you’ll direct a feature at some point?

Stephen Baldwin:  Yes, I have a feature in development now.  Believe it or not, it is a big Rodeo picture in the Western genre.  I did a picture called “8 Seconds” that was very successful many years ago and I am looking forward to that opportunity.

Kevin Williams:  I know you have “Costume Shop” coming out in 2014 and some other projects, can you tell us anything about those at this point?

Stephen Baldwin:  Another one is called “To The Wall,” which Alex Kendrick is Directing.  He directed “Fireproof” and “Courageous.”   I’m really looking forward to this film, but there is an even bigger one called “Riding Destiny” that I am going to direct.  That is the one I am most looking forward too.    We’ll start shooting in early 2014.

Stephen Baldwin in Church Girl

Stephen Baldwin as “Josh McDaniels”
in “I’m in Love With A Church Girl”
Courtesy, Reverance Gospel Media

My weekend radio show “Baldwin/McCullough” is becoming quite successful as well and that is another project that that is important for me.  The website for it is BaldwinMcCullough.com.  Our show has a Biblical world view but it is really a call-In, weekly topic Q&A show.  Because as Christians, we developed the Show to be the same way, we were trying to create a radio show that was geared towards the Faith-based and/or Conservative people.  We didn’t want to do something that was this talking heads thing.  We wanted it to be similar to the show “Loveline” with Dr. Drew and Adam Carolla, where you had a smart guy doing that smart thing and a goofy guy doing the goofy thing.  We’ve got that dynamic with our Conservative Christian talk show and the response has been amazing!

© 2013 The Willams View

About the Author:

Jennifer Williams is an accomplished writer, interviewer and critical reviewer having written about or covered many subjects of interests. Having graduated from Tulane University, La Salle University and New York University, Kevin's career background in Politics and Civic Affairs, Public Relations, Marketing, Non-Profit Management and Filmmaking have helped inspire much of her past artistic and creative efforts. Jennifer directed and co-produced the documentary feature film, Fear Of A Black Republican. Her latest film, Rebel Song, looks at a middle-aged American Celtic Rock band and the music inspired by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Rebel Song is expected to be released in 2014. In addition to The Williams View, Jennifer is also the Entertainment and Politics Editor for Politisite, a Contributing Writer for Townhall, Breitbart's Big Hollywood, Liberatchik and Hip Hop Republican. Jennifer has been interviewed or profiled across many Media outlets such as the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Philadelphia Inquirer, Kansas City Star, L.A. Weekly; Current TV, Christian Broadcasting Network, Huffington Post Live, Al Jazeera and BET News; radio programs ranging from National Public Radio, Voice of Russia - American Edition, the Mark Davis Radio Show, the Chris Stigall Show, the Steve Deace Show, the Bob Grant Show, Victoria Taft Show, to the Michael Eric Dyson Show and many others.

1 Comment on "An Unusual Suspect: The Stephen Baldwin Interview"

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  1. Jack says:

    Excellent interview. It is nice to see at least one of the Baldwin brothers is not a complete @#%$!. No shortage of brains in that family. Keep up the good work. Thank you for taking the time to interview faith-based actors and directors. There are a lot of decent people starving for wholesome and clean entertainment at the movies.

    Jack

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