Actors, Christian Movies, Christianity, Entertainment, Entertainment Interview, Faith Testimony, Filmmaker Interview, Inspirational, Movie Promo
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Actor Scoop! ~ Interview with Rich Swingle!

Providence
For a while now, the promotion of the movie, Providence, for Faith Flix Films has been on, on this blog, and, I must admit that in interviewing some of the cast members, I’ve learned so much (you can read the two prior interviews here and here). I’ve grown as a person, and as a blogger in a way I find gratifying. I hope that’s your experience as you follow these interviews. Join me and Rich Swingle below in this lovely and inspiring chat.

Miranda: Hello Rich! Glad to have you visit TBAP today. Please tell us a bit about yourself.

Rich: This month marks 20 years during which I have received all of my income from the performing arts and applied theatre, so getting to do this interview feels like a bit of an anniversary gift from the Lord. Thanks for your part in that, Miranda! I’ve written or helped develop a dozen one-man plays, which I’ve performed around the world. Those and my workshops have taken me to 28 nations. Since 2010 I’ve performed in 21 feature films Learn more about Rich’s films on his website and IMDb). I’ve been married for 17 years to the most wonderful woman on the planet, Joyce Swingle. We discovered early on that arguments were not to be won or lost but taken to the Lord for his Direction. Since then our marriage has been getting better and better! Joyce and I have had the opportunity to perform as husband and wife in four films: Indescribable, The Unexpected Bar Mizvah, Rather to Be Chosen, and Mayflower II.

Miranda: How did you become a Christian? Tell us your story.
Rich: For much of my life I was telling people I gave my heart to the Lord at the age of five, but when I asked Mom to give me more details she started with, “You were three.” I had tremendous mentors through my younger years in my parents, grandparents, youth pastors, Ron and Deb Mulkey, and several teachers. There were seasons where I gave into temptations for sure. I was just telling my bride last night that our moral failures come from imperfect worship. Jesus was sinless because He had an uninterrupted relationship with the Father. So we give into temptations when we stop worshipping the One True God and turn our worship to things and people made gods by this world. I’m so glad for my mentors and that they kept me–by and large–worshipping the right One.
Miranda: You’re into acting. How did it all begin?
Rich: I was cast as Mr. Beaver in a fourth-grade production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. You could only see my face. The rest of me was fur. I was hooked! Later that year I played a space alien, who came to Earth to see the birth of Jesus. I wore Dad’s crop dusting helmet. He told me to be sure to rub a gel on the inside of the visor so it didn’t steam up, but I forgot. Unfortunately I forgot my lines, too. Or rather to say I didn’t go to the trouble of memorizing them since I could tape them into my space console. Oops! I couldn’t read a thing through the steamed up visor, so little Ricky learned the importance of improvisation at a very early age! I’ve continued to use improv as a core curriculum in all of the teaching I do. In high school Ron and Deb Mulkey had us doing sketch work as a vehicle for ministry. We took over whole services. Once, when General Muammar Gaddafi was striking fear into the heart of the world, I marched in as General Rickmar Swingdafi and kidnapped our pastor. We held him ransom for cans of food to feed the poor. We hung out with the pastor by a pool waiting for the goods to be delivered. In college I was a part of the George Fox College (now University) Players, under the direction of Mel Schroeder. We had a blast performing in schools and churches, and that really laid the foundation for my touring drama ministry.
Miranda: What led you to decide to go into Christian ministry as opposed to secular? Can you list some of your works for the readers? Thank you!
Rich: My grandparents on Mom’s side were missionaries to Kenya, so I always felt like I’d have some sort of ministry. Grandma had a Salvation story practically every time we saw her! She had a real spiritual gift of evangelism, and she would see the place of need in a person’s heart and give him or her the Answer. I’ve tried to always make ministry the core of whatever I’m doing, and once Joyce and I had the privilege of leading the former manager of a megastar to the Lord on row 37 of a flight from Denver.  I have done some secular work, but I’ve never made a real push to break into that since so much of the messaging is geared toward directing people to worship the gods of this world. The secular projects I’ve been a part of have been prayed through and submitted to my spiritual advisors. We even do that with Christian projects, and I’ve walked away from several of those for a variety of reasons. There was one time early in my career that I was cast in a commercial. I got the script and the opening line was “Let there be light.” I felt uneasy using Scripture to sell a plastic toy! But we prayed about it and sensed the Lord’s peace. I arrived on set in Toronto and the line had been stricken. On the other hand, there was an audition to play a mad scientist for a library program for students. I moved forward, but I felt no peace. I arrived and discovered the program was all about evolution. I had to walk away, and it caused some stress for the casting director which wouldn’t have been there had I done my do diligence and sought the Lord.
Miranda: In what ways is the Christian film industry different from the secular? Do you think there’s room for improvement in the Christian industry?

Rich: I was having lunch with a friend who was working for a major network. He told how one of the executives walked into a meeting and started by saying that their goal was to change the world. My friend thought, “Aren’t we just here to entertain?” Neither secular nor Christian media is just created to entertain. Everyone has a worldview, and that is expressed through the art that person creates. Several of my grad school profs said theatre only reflects society. I thought at the time that if that was true, billions of dollars spent on advertising should be returned. Of course media affects the way we think and behave! For more on that I urge you to watch our friend Phillip Telfer’s stirring documentary Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture.

 I think Christian media gets way too much criticism. Secularists bash it for obvious reasons and I find them to hold a different artistic standard because they don’t want anything to turn people away from their precious gods. I believe many Christians bash Christian media because they want an excuse to partake in secular media which is soul-killing. Casting director () has been good enough to address my students on a number of occasions, and one time she said that secular and Christian film are on a par with each other in terms of quality when budgets are comparable. I would go so far as to say that Christians make budgets stretch further since we see the eternal worth of our work.  looks like the Burns spent 20 times more than they did! At the inaugural Christian Worldview Film Festival producer and director George Escobar () said that as budgets increase, Christian films have the potential to become the most popular movies since they reach into the God-shaped vacuum that exists in every person, and they massage that eternal craving. I once watched a first film, by a director who has become quite prolific. He handed it to us telling us that he’s learned a lot since he made it, so we didn’t sit down with great expectations. But by the end of it Joyce and I were both weeping. Later that night we watched a program on one of the major networks, and it had a very similar theme, but it was lacking the Lord’s Truth. They literally spent millions of times more money, but my emotions flatlined. God’s truths are stirring! I believe what will improve the Christian film industry the most quickly is for people to start investing in them, and I’m not talking about millionaires investing in the producers, though that will certainly help, too, but they won’t invest at deeper levels unless they see audiences investing at the box office. We need to be choosing Christian films over secular ones as often as we have the option, especially on opening weekends when the future of a film is decided. Fifteen or even ten years ago I would agree with people who lamented that there’s nothing out there for Christians to watch. That is no longer the case, but until we go out of our way to watch it, we’ll plateau or fall off. I played a clerk in Christmas Grace, and Keith Perna has been able to get his film into a variety of outlets, which will give you a sense of where you can consistently find Christian films if you don’t know where to look: . Our nation is turning further and further away from the Lord, and every media choice we make either turns back the tide or helps catapult us to our own oblivion.

I think Christian media gets way too much criticism. Secularists bash it for obvious reasons and I find them to hold a different artistic standard because they don’t want anything to turn people away from their precious gods. I believe many Christians bash Christian media because they want an excuse to partake in secular media which is soul-killing. Casting director Bev Holloway (Beyond the Mask, Mom’s Night Out, The Ultimate Gift) has been good enough to address my students on a number of occasions, and one time she said that secular and Christian film are on a par with each other in terms of quality when budgets are comparable. I would go so far as to say that Christians make budgets stretch further since we see the eternal worth of our work. Beyond the Mask looks like the Burns spent 20 times more than they did! At the inaugural Christian Worldview Film Festival producer and director George Escobar (Alone Yet Not Alone, Hero, The Screenwriters) said that as budgets increase, Christian films have the potential to become the most popular movies since they reach into the God-shaped vacuum that exists in every person, and they massage that eternal craving. I once watched a first film, by a director who has become quite prolific. He handed it to us telling us that he’s learned a lot since he made it, so we didn’t sit down with great expectations. But by the end of it Joyce and I were both weeping. Later that night we watched a program on one of the major networks, and it had a very similar theme, but it was lacking the Lord’s Truth. They literally spent millions of times more money, but my emotions flatlined. God’s truths are stirring! I believe what will improve the Christian film industry the most quickly is for people to start investing in them, and I’m not talking about millionaires investing in the producers, though that will certainly help, too, but they won’t invest at deeper levels unless they see audiences investing at the box office. We need to be choosing Christian films over secular ones as often as we have the option, especially on opening weekends when the future of a film is decided. Fifteen or even ten years ago I would agree with people who lamented that there’s nothing out there for Christians to watch. That is no longer the case, but until we go out of our way to watch it, we’ll plateau or fall off. I played a clerk in Christmas Grace, and Keith Perna has been able to get his film into a variety of outlets, which will give you a sense of where you can consistently find Christian films if you don’t know where to look. Our nation is turning further and further away from the Lord, and every media choice we make either turns back the tide or helps catapult us to our own oblivion.

Miranda: How has your journey so far in acting/filmmaking helped grow your personal relationship with God?
Rich: I’ve certainly learned to depend more on Him and his people. Early on I learned not to take rejection too seriously, but turning away from Christian projects is NEVER an easy thing! I always take these projects to my spiritual mentors (including my bride) because I know I have desire in the matter and probably won’t have an accurate sense of the Lord’s Desire. My one-man play Beyond the Chariots tells the story of Olympic champion, Eric Liddell. The film Chariots of Fire shows how he turned down the chance to prove himself the fastest man alive when he found out one of the heats of the 100m dash would be run on a Sunday. He chose to honor the Lord and not himself. The Lord helped him break the world record in the 400m by such a margin that it wasn’t narrowed for 30 years. He literally changed that race from a middle distance to a sprint. I believe the Lord honored his choice. In fact a trainer (screenwriter, Colin Welland, made this Eric’s competition, Charlie Paddock) slipped him a scrap of paper with 1 Samuel 2:30: “…the LORD declares: I promise that I will honor those who honor me…” We don’t honor the Lord so that we’ll be honored in a specific way. He honors in the way He chooses, but I recently was led away from a Christian project and that was a very difficult walk of obedience, but in its place I was cast in one of the highlights of my career! We can’t see the big picture the way the Lord does. We can trust Him for all the details, even those that are difficult.
Miranda: What has been your experience on the Providence set? How has it made you a better actor/person?
Rich: I LOVED performing in Providence!!! Sharon and Fred Wilharm are both gems, and when you put them together as a team they’re a glorious crown. They knew how to bring out the best in each actor, and we all sensed the Lord’s presence throughout the process. During one scene I was approaching the character Rachel’s home. We had undeclared crushes on each other as teens, and it was the first time I’d been to her house in decades. I paused at a certain point, and I had no idea that I was perfectly framed between two pillars. We all acknowledged the Lord in that, and there were many similar moments.
Miranda: The role you played in Providence, how did it inspire you personally?
Rich: Every time you take on a character you live with elements of someone else.  I believe actors can be the most empathic people. Because of this we need to guard against encouraging people in their own idolatries, but at our best we know at deep levels how to lead a wide variety of people to worship the only One worthy. My character Rev. Dr. Mitchell Little could very well be the man I would have become had I continued on the course I had set. You see I was in rebellion as a young man. I was running away from my calling. I couldn’t face a life of unknown resources as a performing artist, and so I was in utter rebellion, training to be … a pastor. I tell this story to pastors and we always have a big laugh since their financial resources are rarely ample or consistent. But when I was in seminary I had a real revelation that I was to minister through the performing arts, and not as a pastor. So I might have become Mitchell Little in real life. Carrying the mantle of pastor was a joy and delight, but I still needed to derole. When we take on dark characters it may be more obvious that we need to set them aside when we leave the playing space, but in this case I played someone who was courting someone since we were children. At the end of the production I led us in a formal deroling in which we physically sloughed off our characters. Then I shook Juli Tapken’s hand, thanked her for working with me, and passed her back to her real-life husband who was watching all of our scenes. I believe if Hollywood actors would be disciplined about de-roling the tabloids would go out of business!
Miranda: What do you hope viewers of this movie will walk away with?
Rich: This film is about the big picture that we cannot see. I hope it helps people trust the Lord for the moments they can’t understand. I love that it’s a silent film, or a feature-length music video since it requires complete concentration to follow it. That’s the way it is in our walk with the Lord. The distractions can really keep us from seeing his plans big and small. I also believe it’s a beautiful picture of marriage. Genesis teaches us that we were made in his image: male and female. that means that we have a greater understanding of who the Lord is when we see a healthy marriage. Juli and I talked about how our own marriages were enhanced by this experience, because we were bringing to the process memories of falling in love with our own spouses. We hope married viewers have that same experience, and that those who haven’t found their mate receive a patient understanding that the Lord’s timing is best.
Miranda: As an actor/filmmaker, what advice would you give to anyone venturing into the industry?
Rich: If you know the Lord, get closer to Him! If you don’t know the Lord, find Him fast. I keep an ongoing list of Scriptures and stories to help people understand their need for Salvation at www.RichDrama.com/MyPassion. Without an intimacy with the Lord and a group of believers who will keep you accountable you will be constantly buffeted and burned. Worship the Lord exclusively or whatever you put in His place will destroy you.

THIS or THAT

Coffee, Tea or Mocha? 
Love them all but drink more coffee than the others. Once when performing in Ipoh, Malaysia, we discovered a mixture of coffee and tea that can only be made with a specialized machine. It was quite delicious.
TV or Magazine?
We’re quite specific in the TV we watch, but do enjoy it when it’s good and points people toward the Lord. Joyce used to be in the publishing business, and that’s one of the reasons I was able to get started in this career. To celebrate I always bring airline magazines home to her.
Jogging or Pushups? 
Both. Ran cross-country and track through college. Do more pushups now and get most of my cardio on a bike.
Rain or Snow?
Grew up in Oregon, so rain doesn’t bother me, but I LOVE snow sports!
Spring or Fall?
Both. Spring for its picture of the resurrection. Fall because the trees in NYC and northward become the Lord’s canvas.
Summer or Winter?
Both. Summer for the heat, winter for snow sports. I was in a production of the stage musical Judah Ben Hur in Singapore from October through February, and I do have to say it was one of my favorite winters. 🙂 It was 50km from the Equator and 80-90° the whole while. I loved it!
Breakfast or Dinner?
Prefer not to skip either, but I could eat breakfast any time of the day. I’m rarely able to take Sunday as Sabbath rest. When I’m not performing I’m recording our church’s sermons (www.WestchesterChapel.org), and it takes hours to edit, upload and format the posts. One of the first priorities of every week is setting Sabbath. A nice big breakfast is always a part of my Sabbath celebration, so I think it has restorative powers for me whenever I have one.
Movies or Books?
Movies, but I wish I could read more. I spend so much time keeping my one-man plays in my noggin’ reading isn’t such a relaxing activity for me, but I do enjoy it when I find a great book.
T-shirt or Collar Shirt?
Both. I live in T-shirts, but my work in applied theatre has me in collared shirts, and that is important for the Lord’s provision, so I’ve grown to appreciate them.
Gym or Outdoor?
Gym in the winter, outdoor in the summer. We’re blessed to be in an apartment in Manhattan which is set up for performing artists: www.RichDrama.com/MP. It took us a full decade to get in, so if you are in New York City or would like to live here and make half of your income in the performing arts or expect to in the next four years, get your name on the list now. We don’t have to exit the building to get to the gym, but I always put my membership on hold during the summer to exercise outdoors.
Thank you, Rich, for visiting TBAP today!

Rich SwingleAbout Rich Swingle


Rich Swingle has been involved in the performing arts and applied theatre full-time since 1995. Since 2010 he has performed in over 20 featurefilm projects. Because he’s been performing his own one-man plays for two decades, he easily jumps into character roles and is used to carrying the whole story as lead.
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  1. Pingback: Movie Review ~ Providence | To Be A Person

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