(Photo courtesy of Rogers & Cowan)
WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS CONTENT FOR MATURE AUDIENCES ONLY
Q&A: Justin Torrence (Talent/Prodigal Son, “The Heart Of Man”)
By Sarah Komisky
Making your acting debut in a leading role as the prodigal son is no easy feat, especially when there is no dialogue. Yet, “Heart of Man” star Justin Torrence, embraced the challenge executing it with excellence and emotion. Perusing an acting career in his late 20’s, gaining experience as a stunt actor and then moving into a myriad of roles including directing and writing, lead him to the path of this special film. Now, on the brink of its release, Justin took some time to chat with Marked Ministry about acting, imagery, the re-telling of an infamous Bible story, and his personal takeaways from this incredibly moving film.
Playing the role of the prodigal you were able to act out the story of a man who is a broken and finds redemption. What was it like to be in a film like this without dialogue yet having so much emotion?
Justin: Playing a character without dialogue has its challenges. As an actor, you’re always waiting for that moment when the scene “makes” you say something. When the story pushes your lines out of you organically. The adjustment for HOM was that there wasn’t any dialogue, so all of those moments of living believably had to come out only in my actions. A true test for an actor. No lines to rely on to help tell the story. A beautiful challenge, I discovered. This film allowed me to be totally entrenched in each moment. I didn’t have the luxury of leaning on a line so all of my focus was directed at my physicality. I think it helped my emotion and action be, quite possibly, the truest it’s even been. Feeling each moment to the depths of my core. I definitely gained valuable experience while working on HOM.
The imagery in this film was stunning. One that was really significance and moving was that of the music making scenes between the father and son that is laced in the film from start to finish. What does that imagery mean to you and why?
Justin: Eric Esau, the film’s director, and myself spent countless hours talking about the film’s nuances– the ins and outs of the story and its deep meanings. The time the Father and the Prodigal spent making music together was, in our conversations, comparative to a father playing catch with his son. It was the fun-filled moments I remember having with my dad after he got home from work; we’d grab our gloves and go outside and play catch, just getting lost in the fun and the togetherness. These moments– in real life with my dad, and in HOM– had a very “Field of Dreams” flavor to them. The most important thing in the Prodigal’s life was to just hang out with his dad. This imagery is, perhaps, one of the most impactful themes of the entire film: God likes you and likes hanging out with you, plain and simple.
How do you think the re-telling of the story of the prodigal son can be impactful for this generation perhaps hearing the story for the first time and how did it impact you?
Justin: Reality is, whether people have grown-up in the church– hearing about Jesus, etc. — or not, the story of the prodigal resonates with every human heart. We’re looking for the good life, adventure, meaning, identity, significance, acceptance, love. The Prodigal in the Bible was an archetype, resembling all of mankind, as was the character I portrayed in the film. So, whatever generation is seeing this story in the theater, or reading it in the Bible, the message is the same: you are loved beyond what your actions deserve. Sonship was the main thing the Prodigal sought, and that is exactly what the Father bestowed (good thing to remember: the Prodigal was never not the son of the Father– as we are when we’re in God’s family– he just thought the Father had disowned him). In the end, the Father, kind and gracious, runs to meet His son in his lowest state. I loved having that reminder from working on this film: God loves me no matter where I’ve been. He’s simply glad I’m coming home to be with Him (and He’s definitely looking forward to playing catch).
Now having completed this film and nearing its release, how did the film impact your life?
Justin: This film, and, really, the people who are a part of it, have echoed deep messages I’ve felt creeping into my soul for a number of years. The message is that sin and shame are much smaller than God, His love for us, and His desire for nearness with us. I feel like I was brought to this project for many reasons; because the message runs deep within me, because it was fun, but perhaps most of all, to be thrown into a tribe, a family of people who know the depths of the kindness of God in the same ways I do. I can no longer ignore the fact that God likes me. When I have a bad moment or a bad day, the deep truth of God’s smile toward me collides with my doubt time after time, and the people I’ve worked with on this film will remind me of that tirelessly.