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Film community is Baptist’s mission field

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–What’s a seminary professor’s son doing in a nationally televised movie with Golden Globe nominee Nikki Blonsky of the box-office blockbuster, “Hairspray?” For Philip Searcy, it’s living as a witness for God.

“Living out your faith in the real world is what following Christ is all about,” said Searcy, son of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary professor Tim Searcy and a recent University of Mobile graduate.

Fresh out of college with a double major in theater and psychology, Searcy landed a principal role in the Lifetime Original Movie “Queen Sized” alongside Blonsky and veteran actress Annie Potts, known best for the television sitcom “Designing Women.”

The television film, which made its premiere Jan. 12, features Blonsky as Maggie Baker, an overweight teenager who refuses to give in to pranksters who nominate her for homecoming queen. Searcy plays a high school athlete and the boyfriend of Baker’s best friend, Casey.

Searcy landed the role after working stand-in for “Meet the Spartans” actor Sean McQuire during the time-consuming light and camera angle setups on set. Cast also as an extra in the 20th Century Fox film that is marked for release in January, Searcy’s experience opened the door for the part in Queen Sized.

With this dream start to his acting career, Searcy said, “I can only say that this is from God.”

“Philip is using his giftedness to share Jesus in the motion picture community — a mission field that is potentially as closed as some countries,” said Allen Jackson, NOBTS professor of youth education and director of the Youth Ministry Institute.

Relating to William Wilberforce’s struggle as depicted in the recent film “Amazing Grace,” Searcy said he wondered about a career in an industry that is often hostile to Christianity. Wilberforce considered exchanging a political career for the ministry until friends encouraged him to do both, eventually leading 19th-century England to abandon its slave trade.

“I want to do both,” Searcy said. “I want to live my life for Christ but I want to do it in such a way that I can change the world around me.”

While steering an entire industry may be a monumental task, Searcy said change comes in small steps and he hopes other Christians will join him.

Searcy said the film community responds to personality and that Christians who live out their faith can effectively communicate the Gospel.

“Don’t be afraid to be who you are and meet these people where they are” is Searcy’s advice to other Christian actors.

Searcy cites his training at the University of Mobile and his experience with UM’s Upper Room Dinner Theatre for his solid career start. Although film and stage acting differ, Searcy said his stage experience helped him adapt quickly to the film media.

“In film, the camera may be inches from your face and the scenes are shot out of sequence,” Searcy said. “But UM gave me the solid preparation I needed.”

While both Meet the Spartans and Queen Sized were filmed in his home state of Louisiana, Searcy has considered a move to Los Angeles.

“I prayed about Los Angeles but realized that I don’t have to move to put my faith in God,” Searcy said. “Whether I’m here or there, I decided to just trust Him.”

The next day, Searcy received phone calls on three new auditions.

The patience to weather setbacks and endure times of waiting also may be part of Searcy’s missionary resume. Twice, his family has picked up and started over — once when his parents, Tim and Brenda Searcy, were forced out of their South American home while serving as International Mission Board missionaries, and second when Hurricane Katrina flooded their home in New Orleans.

“This is a generation of young people who are taking their faith into their living, learning and working communities through abilities and talents which make them nontraditional missionaries,” Jackson said. “That is very first-century.”
Marilyn Stewart writes for New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

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  • Marilyn Stewart