Easter 2019: The J Factor Afterthoughts
The busyness of life caught onto me and while it’s still a little crazy, I managed to sneak a bit of time away to write this post. This time round, I had help! I decided to get some inputs from fellow actors so they share their thoughts as well.
Shelia, who plays Abigail. George as the Chief Pharisee. Rainft as Josiah. Brannon as Benjamin. And yours truly as Jesus.
I hope that’ll be interesting and add a little bit of flavour to this instead of just you hearing from my own perspective.
What was your favourite part of the drama?
“Gosh, this is a difficult question.
In terms of the reaction from a fellow actor, I must give the best credit to the adulterous woman played by Janet.
Each rehearsal she gets thrown onto the floor and she did suffer some carpet burns.
However, the thing which caught me was that every rehearsal, she gave full out.
She was crying, she was in the moment, I felt like she literally felt the fear of death upon her and the relief she had when she hears that the ones who persecuted her had left… that moment felt so real to me.
So if I were to say which is my favourite, I would say that one.”
“The revelation of Josiah as Abigail’s son.
If I recall correctly, it was the scene with the fastest pace, it packed the most punch (impact and rhythm-wise).
Characters had to deliver lines right after another so there wasn’t room for delay (nor forgetting of lines… though the Chief Pharisee managed to ‘redeem’ himself with a pensive walk towards Josiah…ha!)
Most of the other preceding scenes were slower and more emotional as compared to this, that’s why it stood out for me.”
“I am biased, I loved the Revelation (Sc.11) and the Reconciliation (Sc.13) scene.
Two extremes experienced by the same two people.
Guilt & Shame on one end while Grace & Forgiveness on the other.”
“The favourite part is really the time spent off stage.
It’s really a joy to reconnect with friends, spending time fellowshipping, sharing life, encouraging one another in the Lord, and cracking jokes.
These people sacrifice their time of their lives, to focus on bringing the grace of God through their craft.”
“It’s gotta be the reveal that Josiah is the real son of Abigail.
Reason being that it’s very interesting to imagine the emotions and impact of having to work so hard for something only for all that work to contribute to what seems like your downfall at that very moment.
Not something that happens everyday manzzz!!!
Plus my character identifies with Josiah (see question 3)!”
What’s your biggest challenge as an actor in this show?
“The biggest challenge I had was to continue to up my game as Jesus.
This is my 5th time acting as Jesus and every year I do not take it easy.
I do not think it’s a role that I can relax with and I want to make sure that the character of Jesus comes through strong.
I’m just a regular guy serving in church, I’ve not gone through professional acting classes but I do enjoy acting.
I identify more as introvert and it takes a fair bit of energy and initiative from me to try to connect with people.
Jesus, being often surrounded by people and acting with them, requires me to interact with them.
And I often struggle with this.
To talk with people and to be very friendly with people whom I do not know at all.
Some of them are very friendly and would want to take pictures together – frankly, on my own phone, I have a grand total of 16 photos that have me in it out of 248 on my camera folder since Oct 2018.
So for fellow actors and volunteers who acted with me, please pardon me if I made you feel a bit distant or awkward.”
“To transition from flamboyant and cynical CEO to supportive believer in Jesus’ ministry within such a short span of time (just one resurrection actually… heh).
Have always thought it a pity that there wasn’t enough time/scenes to expand on characters’ backstories.”
In my head, I thought I could pull off a certain style but in reality, I was far out.
I think after years of acting, I stopped exploring the extent of my capabilities.
So I started doing research with some of the movies with some of my favorite antagonists like American Psycho (Christian Bale), Inglorious Basterds (Christoph Waltz), Devil’s Advocate (Al Pacino), Batman (Heath Ledger) and Silence of the Lambs (Anthony Hopkins).
Slowly, I started borrowing elements that worked for the character and the story and tried to emulate them on stage.
But as time went on, it started melding and became my own.
With the Directors (Sandy & Jaz), I was very apprehensive so there was a constant back and forth of exploring my character journey which was another frontier that I kept exploring.
That led me to change the way I responded and interacted on stage.
So the role became less of me and more of the Chief Pharisee.
“Being relatively inexperienced as an actor, I felt uncomfortable in my footwork, and became conscious of my actions until it affected my acting.
Especially in the last scene where there was a monologue for the character, I was very conscious because I did not want to rob the scene of its gravity by my distracting footwork.
It’s really by God’s grace and also the help from the fellow actors and directors to help me minimise and focus every action and reaction for the scene.”
“Can I cheat and say that for me personally there were TWO of such challenges?
One was acting ‘goofy’ so that scenes with this character in it wouldn’t be so heavy.
The second BIG challenge would have to be nailing the mandarin lines!!! Hahahaha!”
Share something about your character that wasn’t visibly shown
“This is also one of the challenges I faced – I am not particularly proud of my smile.
I don’t think I have a great smile.
During the final scene where I make the final declaration, I decided to insert a victory proclamation and hold that smile all the way through until black out.
The directors never told me to do that, I decided to do that on my own accord and if they thought the smile wasn’t good, I’m thankful that they were merciful enough to not mention it haha.
Perhaps that’s not exactly answering the question about my character because this is more about me instead.
Hmm, so if it was about my character… ah yes, during the scene where Abigail got my agreement to record the show.
The initial script was for me to have the makeup artist Lydia, played by Faith, whose daughter was just resurrected… to apply make up on me while the disciples are getting ready to be recorded.
Frankly, I thought it was weird but played with it since there’s the video recording going on anyway.
Thankfully, later this part was removed and I just went about my activities of teaching the disciples.”
“That Abigail treated Benjamin as her own son, though not much was written to expound on that.
(what’s Ben’s backstory anyway?)
And that Abigail has indeed been thinking about Josiah every day. I’ve always thought it’ll be nice to establish that right from the beginning. “
I realised you could communicate so much without telling a word.
So I had close to 10 variations of laughs for each moment and it would either convey my egocentricity, scheme, jealousy or outright fear.
Would this qualify as ‘audibly shown’?”
“I think many people don’t realise that only Josiah acknowledges publicly that Jesus is the Messiah.
The different characters will call Him Lord or Teacher, but only Josiah recognises that Jesus was the prophesied Messiah through connecting his studies as a Pharisee, and also what he witnessed 1st hand”
“That I was an orphan too!
Therefore, like Josiah, I didn’t know my real birth parents; therefore, when Abigail initially asked if it was me who was her son, my character had that glimmer of hope; but since it wasn’t, when Josiah had the revelation my character could immediately identify with him in a certain way.”
In what way did this story impact your personal and/or spiritual life?
“I do not deny that I act as Jesus, it is a both a gift and burden for the role.
It impacts my personal life because whenever someone recognizes that I’m Jesus, they sometimes bow and stuff and I’m like “bro/sis, I’m just doing a role, please don’t bow”.
I haven’t done anything for these people and when they do that, frankly, it stresses me out.
Even just being recognized as Jesus is a wee bit stressful because it’s like I can’t screw up or just be myself.
Spiritually though, each year that I do this, I fast to prepare for the role. I don’t do a complete strictly-only-water kind of fast but I would do the keto fast as it’s a good balance between what I need while restricting myself from all the foods that I usually indulge myself in.
I would fast for 40 days and break fast about a week before the show so when I ease myself back into my regular diet, I don’t have any unexpected physical issues.
I broke fast during the show before and it almost made me faint before the show started.
So I decided not to repeat that same mistake.”
“The trial scene kinda hit close to home, and it could be difficult for some to watch.
Spiritually, the amount of physical energy needed (flamboyance, crying, and of course crucifixion, is exhausting!!) to pull the scenes off just reminded me to lean more on Him. “
When you play the Antagonist against Jesus, every fiber of my being hates what I am doing. Consider me an amateur, I can’t compartmentalize me and my character either I am all in or not.
So I put in extra work to learn the Word and examine every single doubt I have about Jesus because everything the Pharisees did was very intellectual and cerebral debates, only Jesus engaged in the Spirit.
In my head, one thing that I always incorporate (every Easter) is a ‘Redemption’ scene with Jesus and Me, where I would repent and get saved.
The scene is done in the crucifixion scene when Jesus is on the cross and I am in the dark end of the stage.
It is all played in my head and no one sees it.
2019 was the first time that I had a scene after crucifixion so I had to execute my ‘Redemption’ in the last scene when I am backstage.
“I discovered I actually love fasting. In preparation for the role, I spent a lot of time alone at work and at home to pray and be in His presences, and started fasting for alternate days.
It developed my yearning and hunger (pun intended) to rely on Him and Him alone to pull this through.
Not trying to say that I’m twisting God’s arm through fasting, but it cause me to have clarity on what He wants me to do, and through fasting and prayer, I see Him unfolding His plans with us in the picture.”
“TBH, for me personally, it rarely is the story that impacts me but the time spent with the people involved and the journey from the first rehearsal to the last show.
Throughout this period I have learnt many things about myself and how it relates to my walk with God; and from this I am able to set my heart to see wisdom and maturity in the Lord which greatly impacted me.”
Any tips for other aspiring actors who are either thinking of joining the drama ministry or who are already in it?
“For those who are thinking of joining, hmm, I’m not sure when the next audition will be but hey, stay connected with us – you never know when there will be auditions.
This is a service unto God and if you know you have a gift for acting, this is great place to use your gifts to help open the hearts of people to receive the Word.
For those who are already in it, thank you so much!
Every joint supplies. Whether a big role or a small role, it will not feel complete if a character is missing.
We have many characters in this show who only have a few lines but they gave their all for those lines.
Putting up a drama production on this scale doesn’t just require actors, it needs lots of cooperation from lighting, tv, sound, makeup, costumes, location, camera production, backstage, logistics, props, etc. It’s always an amazing experience to see how many volunteer to serve God this way.”
“Listen to one another (yourself included) and utter every word with thoughtful intention; it won’t feel like acting, you’re just reacting.”
It was my desire too but I never got any lines and I was a calefare for the longest time.
The key to being effective is being humble and being faithful with the little you are given.
We forget that an Actor is supposed to be like a lump of clay in the potter’s (Director’s) hand, the clay doesn’t have a voice and is constantly molded to the potter’s desire.
Less of me and more of Him, what you experience in the spiritual is true in ministry as well.
When you serve in ministry, put Him and the Gospel first and faithfully fulfill what the role demands.
Like what Sandy & Jaz shared on stage, in every production there is a moment where your art and His Word collides and that is where power is released on earth.
Wouldn’t you want to be a part of that?”
“I think one encouragement is that God can use things we have sowed or placed in His hands when we are younger.
The monologue from Isaiah 53 were verses I meditated on when I was a younger Christian, so you can imagine how wide my eyes open when I read the script.
Another is to remember to be faithful, regardless if you have a major role or not. We act to unlock God’s gift in our life, and as we steward and develop it with faithfulness and humility, the favour of man and God will bring you to adventures with Him.”
“Hahahaha… Don’t think I am at the level to give tips!
But my two cents worth of reflection from the productions that I’ve been in is to
1) always set your heart to seek the purpose & glory of God to be manifested,
2) stay opened & humble (NOT false humility) and
3) enjoy what you do!”
Other thoughts, if any?
“One of the parallels I drew when I first knew about the show was that there were some slight similarities to the Hunger Games. I liked how there was a video crew in ancient Jerusalem.
For those who aren’t familiar, our church takes quite a fair bit of creative liberty with the Jesus story. Some people want to keep watching the same story over and over, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
One of the aspects of our show is that it isn’t just for the people who come to church once or twice a year, the show should impact current believers as well. Most of the audience will consist of people who are already regular church goers, Jesus died for them just as much as He did for the unsaved. So the story had to do more – it had to touch both the saved and unsaved.”
If you are not vigilant, it will consume you for the worse. Having an ungodly soul-tie with your character is never good news. So once everything fades away after every production I go back to fasting and prayer to zero-set my spiritual and mental life.
I saw this interview by Chris Pratt which put it aptly, ‘If the spotlight that is shining on you is brighter than the light that comes from within you, it’ll kill you.'”
“He is risen, He is alive.
And that means there can be resurrection in all areas of your life when you seek Him”
“Productions are very seasonal and some might even call drama ministry a seasonal ministry; but TBH it’s not so.
As actors for the Lord, in our “off-season” we are prepping for the season (spiritual pursuits, responsible for guarding our hearts, living out the gospel) when we might possibly be called to serve and that is something that sometimes people overlook.
Bible says to be ready in season and out and as actors for the Lord (because we are entrusted with the responsibility of being on stage for so many people to see), it ups the responsibility to be prepared even more.”