“I think we’re all looking for breakthroughs,” actress Chrissy Metz told the Register during a recent press junket in Dallas. “We’re all looking for this path or answer or particular goal in our lives — whether we’re trying to pursue a career, or we are literally praying our children back to life.”
Metz, who is best known for her role as Kate on NBC’s This Is Us, is the star of the new film Breakthrough. The movie depicts the true story of John Smith, who was dead for an hour after getting trapped under ice on a frozen lake. The young man lacked a pulse until his mother, Joyce Smith, played by Metz, calls on the Holy Spirit to save her son’s life.
That is the first of a series of breakthroughs that the Smith family experienced. Themes of love, forgiveness and letting go of control permeate the film, which hits theaters on April 17, just ahead of Easter.
The creators of Breakthrough partnered with Ignatius Press to encourage people to pray for breakthroughs in their lives during the season of Lent. For each day of Lent, Ignatius shared a “breakthrough story” from a prominent Catholic.
Following that theme, the Register spoke to Metz, producer DeVon Franklin, director Roxann Dawson and Christian actress Priscilla Shirer about moments where God made himself known and changed their lives.
Metz revealed that she views her life — and her success as an actress — as a series of breakthroughs. “There were many times where I was ready to give up, move back to Florida, and teach preschool again and not pursue acting. And lo and behold, every single time that I was just about to give up, something would happen,” Metz said.
She’d receive residual checks in the mail or people in the industry would tell her that she should be on TV. Those nudges gave Metz the fortitude to push forward and continue pursuing her dream.
“I’d be like, ‘Okay, okay, okay: I hear you. I hear you. I hear you,’” said Metz, gesturing upward in a reference to God. “It wasn’t until I stepped out in faith and realized that I’m doing it because there’s the bigger picture [that things began to work]. It’s not about fame or fortune; it’s about what it is I’m supposed to be doing.”
Metz also said she’s grateful for the hard moments in her life. She said it’s the ups and downs that have allowed her to be a good actress.
“I’ve had things happen in my life that have helped me be vulnerable and to be an actress and to convey and to tell these incredible stories like Breakthrough.”
Franklin, who was also producer of Miracles From Heaven and The Star, also sees how God has been moving in his life. Franklin left his job as the senior vice president of product for Columbia Pictures to pursue his dream of starting his own company and produce his own films.
“I had been there for about 10 years, and I felt like it was time to step out on my own. It’s a breakthrough that, here I am, and I’m still okay,” said Franklin. “By God’s grace, I’m here and being able to work with incredible filmmakers like Roxann and make great films like Breakthrough. And so that’s a breakthrough in and of itself.”
Director Dawson, who is a Catholic, had to step out onto a limb in her own career. Dawson is best known for her role as B’Elanna Torres on the television series Star Trek: Voyager. After acting for decades, she decided to make the switch to directing. She has directed several television episodes, including PBS’ Mercy Street and This Is Us.
“I was acting for the majority of my life. Transitioning into directing was something that I knew I wanted very much, but I didn’t know how it would work out. Now it’s been 15 years of directing, and I’ve fallen in love with it,” said Dawson, whose work on Breakthrough was her first time directing a feature time. “With each job, there are breakthroughs, as you learn more and as you open yourself to taking risks and sometimes failing.”
Franklin and Dawson told the Register that they saw God’s hand in the production of their new film. They believe things would not have come together as seamlessly as they did without divine intervention.
“I don’t think that either of us could be here without God. Beginning of January of last year, we didn’t have a green light. Once we got Chrissy locked in during those first two weeks of January and the studio gave us the green light, we were rushing against time. We had to start shooting in February in order to shoot on a frozen lake before it melted,” revealed Franklin.
“The ice was literally melting,” added Dawson.
“We shot on a frozen lake — literally. Who does that? There were no issues; there were no safety issues,” continued Franklin. “So we have seen God’s hand tremendously through this process.”
On the red carpet of the press junket for Breakthrough, the Register also spoke to Priscilla Shirer, the star of the Christian movie War Room. Shirer shared a profound moment in her college years where God spoke to her through Scripture and transformed her life.
“I remember being in college, and I was struggling with some things in my relationships and in the choices that I was making. There was this one evening where I was alone in my dorm room. The best way that I can describe it is that the words of Galatians 5:1, which I can never really remember studying or reading directly, came alive to me,” Shirer said.
She said it felt like the Lord was speaking to her through the Scripture verse, reminding her that she was meant to be free in him.
“It’s just kind of bubbled up in my heart and mind. Galatians 5:1 says, ‘It is for freedom that I’ve set you free, so stand firm and don’t be subject again to a yoke of slavery.’ It was almost like [God] was just sitting right next to me, reminding me of all the good gifts that he’s given me as a result of our salvation.”
Ignatius Press invites moviegoers to say the “Breakthrough Prayer” and welcome God to guide their lives. As these stories remind us, God can do amazing things with our lives when we surrender our wills to his.
Ella Hadacek writes from Idaho.
Holy Spirit, breathe life back into my home;
Holy Spirit, breathe life back into my relationships;
Holy Spirit, breathe life back into my dreams;
Holy Spirit, breathe life back into my finances;
Holy Spirit, breathe life back into my family;
Holy Spirit, breathe life back into my church;
Holy Spirit, breathe life back into my life.
In the mighty name of Jesus, Amen!