In The Case for Christ, which released on home video from Pure Flix Entertainment (Blu-Ray, DVD and digital) this week, the true story of Lee Strobel’s journey to faith, already detailed in the bestselling book of the same name, is dramatically presented for movie-going audiences. Mike Vogel (The Help, Under the Dome) stars as Lee, whose world as an editor for The Chicago Tribune is shaken as his wife, Leslie (Erika Christensen), comes to faith in Christ. L. Scott Caldwell, an accomplished actress of stage, screen and television (LOST, The Fugitive, Madam Secretary), plays Alfie Davis, a nurse who befriends Leslie and leads her to Christ. In this interview with Reel Faith, she explains what it was about the production, her first faith-based project, that attracted her and how the role and environment affected her.
The character of Alfie and how you portrayed her was so crucial to the success of this film. What attracted you to play this role?
L. Scott Caldwell: I was very intrigued by that character, but I would later find out that the character of Alfie was not the actual person that brought Leslie to Christianity. She’s a composite of a couple of women that Leslie Strobel knew. The main person was another woman, but they blended some characters together, which gave them the opportunity to hire an African American woman to play the role. So that again gave me some room to add something else in there that wasn’t strictly connected to the true part of the story.
She was the catalyst and the fact that she was a nurse was also a positive thing for me because I revere nurses, because I have nurses in my family. My mother was a nurse, aunts, and cousins. One even worked at Mercy Hospital where this takes place. I’m a Chicago native. I already had this knowledge of nurses and how God just really puts them in connection with people for almost miracle working. I don’t want to stress that too much. It makes perfect sense that the writer is making this woman a nurse. The interaction she has with Leslie initially is through her profession, her vocation. The rest of her is what I call her being the Lord’s advocate.
How was this experience on a faith-based production?
I can tell you as a person that has done a lot of stage—that’s mostly my core business—a number of films, and mostly television in recent years, what was immediately different about this experience with The Case for Christ that the producers gathered everybody in a circle at the beginning of the day, at 6 am or whatever time we were called, and started the day with prayer. That was different. I believe because that’s the way the day started, that that was also the way the day ended, people just being grateful that we had a successful day. I think the fact that a company like Pure Flix who’s the producers of this film attract so many like-minded people, whether the director or actors, people who did the costumes, camera man, makeup – it felt like everybody was on the same page. Everywhere you turned there was positive energy coming toward you. When that’s happening it makes it very easy for you to do our work. You see a lot of people under a lot of stress when you’re working and a lot of stress and a lot of negativity and all of that, but there was none of that during the filming, at least when I was there. The other plus for me working on this film was I had an immediate connection with Erika Christensen, who plays Leslie Strobel. Because we connected immediately, I think that we had a chemistry that showed up onscreen. You really can’t fake that. I think that was what was different about this experience, which was my first faith-based movie.
I play characters that are pretty serious and it takes a bullet to bring her down. Most everything I do, though, in a way, has an anecdote to it. On this particular one, one of the things that in the script is that this character smiled all the time. I said ‘Okay, well that’s going to be easy because I got nice teeth, I don’t mind smiling.’ But I’d walk around all day with this smile on my face to the point where my teeth were getting dry, I could hardly close my mouth. I realized why that was important in this character, because usually people who smile a lot are glowing on the inside and that smile is an outward manifestation of what’s going on in the inside. I felt that was very important. It was a key character thing I was able to use. I never stopped smiling.
One of the other things that appealed to me when reading the script was I got to say a line that I had heard before and didn’t really know what it meant. Alfie got to quote from Ezekiel, ‘I will give you a new heart and a new spirit, I was put within you. I will remove the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’ It was having to say that over and over that I came to an understanding of what that means. The reason I’m bringing that up now is Charlottesville. It’s like we are living in a time and in a world where everyday our hearts are being filled and broken at the same time. So remembering that from the scriptures ‘I will give you a new heart and a new spirit and take from you the heart of stone and put in a heart of flesh.’ Boy, do we need that now!
Yes, that is powerful! We do need God to replace hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.
That just popped into my head that was one of those moments in the film where it almost stopped me while saying the line. It suddenly filled my heart where I knew what those words meant. That’s the thing about faith, it’s not revealed to you, the message, until you’re able to receive it. That was a big moment for me in the film.
Do you have any other observations or takeaways from the production?
It’s not just about the characters’ journey to Christianity but also they stressed the importance and sacredness of the marriage. That was interesting. We’re not just talking about finding our way to God, because He’s always going to be there. I think that was one of the things my character said to Leslie, take care of the sacredness of your marriage. Don’t forget the importance of that within your journey because God is waiting with open arms whenever you turn and He’s going to be waiting with open arms when your husband finds his way there. But, in the meantime, don’t give up on your marriage. I’d never seen that kind of thing before, when they tried to bridge the two. While you’re waiting for the other person to get to the number one, don’t forget what your role is. I thought that was handled very well. I thought Mike and Erika did a wonderful job in recreating that marriage.
For more on The Case for Christ, including an interview with Mike Vogel, click here.
Watch the scene where Alfie Davis (L. Scott Caldwell) enters the Strobels’ lives here: