“I’m very grateful, God is just so good,” Actress Madeline Carroll told me in a recent interview about her role in the newly released hit film, I Can Only Imagine. I could immediately see why she so boldly and beautifully stands out from the typical Hollywood crowd. Protective of her convictions as a committed Christian woman, she carefully selects the films she becomes involved with. I had the joy of sitting down with her at the National Religious Broadcasters convention a few weeks ago in Nashville, TN and here’s what she had to say.
Nashville Christian Voice (NCV): Why did you want to be a part of this film?
Madeline Carroll (MC): It was really random. I was at another audition and was reading with another woman who said, “You’re Madeline Carroll right? You’re a believer, right? There’s a new film they just released the break down for called, I Can Only Imagine, and you need to go. I left, called my manager, and said, “I need to go in for this movie.” I knew as soon as I heard, I Can Only Imagine, it was going to be beautiful. She set me up a meeting. It turns out, they were trying to get a hold of me and so it was completely a God thing. I go in and I talk to them about God for an hour. Literally, I didn’t read lines or anything. I came out and messaged my Mom. I said, “It’s okay if I don’t get this one. I’m just so grateful to know that there are other people out there trying to do what I’m trying to do.” It just so happened that they liked me, and I got it. They cast me because of my faith, because of God. I’m very grateful the way it worked out for me to go and just talk with them rather than go in and read for them because if I had of just went in and auditioned, well, there are so many good actresses out there that are more deserving of the part and probably did a better job, but because God had ordained it for me to be a part of it, I got to go in and share who I was to them first. Before they saw my talent or what I can bring to the character, they got to see God inside of me first. I’m so grateful. I’m so happy and so thankful to be here.
NCV: What is I Can Only Imagine about?
MC: It’s based on the song by Mercy Me, I Can Only Imagine, and when I first heard about it I thought the movie was going to be like the song – about heaven. I read the script and I was blown away that it was such a hard story and that something so beautiful came out of something so horrible. It blessed me to read something that was edifying and good because I see so many scripts come along that are just so disgusting and dirty; things you wouldn’t be proud of. It was a breath of fresh air to play Shannon, who just so happens to be a real-life woman.
NCV: What was is like working with such a distinguished cast?
MC: I was very excited to work with Jon Michael Finley who plays Bart. He was so good, so natural, and wonderful. We really fit well. Dennis (Quaid) – I was very nervous to work with him because I had been wanting to work with him forever. He was very intimidating; very lovely and sweet, but very intimidating because he was playing such a rough character. It was a blessing all around. Andy and Jon (Erwin, Co-Directors and Co-Writers) – I’ll never forget my experience with them. They literally nurtured and spoke over me and spoke into me like two big brothers the entire time. I’ve never had a director tell me I was in the right for not taking something. I’m very grateful, God is just so good.
NCV: Why do you think this film is impacting so many lives?
MC: I think that whether you’re a believer or not – just like the song – the song crossed over into mainstream because it’s something you can’t explain. There’s a very unexplainable spiritual quality to it. Of course, they (Mercy Me) are talented, their music is great, and their singing is great, but God really took it to a whole different level. I think people respond to the film in so many ways because everyone can relate to it. No matter who the character is, you can see yourself in one or all. And I think people really respond to that. You don’t see the message of forgiveness in Hollywood, especially a father figure or a mother figure and so many people deal with that – a broken home.
NCV: What do you hope audiences take away from this film?
MC: I hope that somehow, someway they leave changed. I did a film years ago with Kevin Costner called Swing Vote. We did a very big press tour and did a bunch of interviews. I remember sitting with him and he did this interview. They asked him what he hoped audiences would take away from the film. He said, “I hope they leave with their money’s worth and I hope they go out of the theater feeling like they got what they paid for.” I thought of that the other day and I thought, wow, we were at a screening and people were getting saved. It’s them getting their money’s worth when their life is being transformed.
Clearly, I Can Only Imagine, is resonating with people. Last weekend’s opening brought in $17.1 million at the box office. See why for yourself if you haven’t already been!