Opening Thursday, the new film “The Blind” tells the story of how “Ducky Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson fell in love with his wife Kay before spiraling down into a life of addiction and darkness. Starring Aaron Von Andrian and Amelia Eve, the film is set in 1960s Louisiana, years before Robertson invents the duck call that put the family on the map.
The film is the first entry of a new production company, Tread Lively, fronted by Willie and Korie Robertson. In an interview with Reel Faith writer DeWayne Hamby, the couple talks about the radical transformation that happened when Phil encountered the gospel of Jesus Christ, what lies ahead for the Tread Lively, and how the Robertsons keep their family together.
I would imagine this film has been in development for a while.
Willie Robertson: Yes, the movies been in development for years.
Korie Robertson: Maybe a couple of years for the film, actually. Willie’s cousin Zach, who partners with us and our production company, Tread Lively, when you see the film, you’ll get to know Aunt Jan, who is Kay’s sister. Zach is her son. He’s someone who came up with it and said, “You know, I really think we need to tell this story in a film.” We said, “Whoa, that’s a little intimidating to come out there with your first film right out of the gate being our family story.” But it felt right. It felt like that was what we need to do. A couple years later, here we are.
I think it’s going to be a big deal. Some people attribute some of the success of “God’s Not Dead” to your cameo. So, I think this film will have some attention, a lot of momentum behind it.
Willie Robertson: Yeah, hopefully. I think with “God’s Not Dead,” “Duck Dynasty,” all the things that happened, you’re seeing the aftermath of our family. On this movie, we take you back just to show people how close it was to never materializing, and the family falling apart. There would be no company. There would be no Duck Commander. Dad would have never done that. And (Phil and Kay) wouldn’t have been together, which my life would have changed drastically. I don’t know that I would have met Korie. We met at church camp. And church camp was new for us because we didn’t go to church before. All these things were new. As life has turned out, it’s amazing the story how the gospel changed that couple’s lives, and they were in South Arkansas with three little kids at the time. I’m 51 and you can go that much further see all the impact that the gospel is made through “Duck Dynasty,” through podcasts, all the books we’ve written, the movies, what Sadie has done all over the world. I can trace the spiritual “23 and Me” all the way back to this little couple. It would have been so hard to even imagine that that could have come out of that, but thank God that preacher went up and drove up there and because Aunt Jan begged him to and shared the gospel with Phil and he obeyed it. And thank God that Kay forgave Phil and was willing to put that marriage back together. The story honestly is more about Kay. Phil had this drastic life change. His life was in the toilet and so bad, but Kay having that strength to stay with him. It’s amazing.
People say we don’t see a lot of miracles in life anymore, but this is a miracle.
Korie Robertson: Yeah, absolutely. I love that you say that, because people say, “Oh, people don’t change,” but actually with God, and through Jesus, people can change. And I think Phil’s life is real proof of that, because he went his life was going one way and whenever Jesus came into it, it went a whole different direction. And that is miraculous. It doesn’t just happen by chance.
You mentioned earlier “For this to be our first movie out of the gate . . .” would signify that you have more coming. What. . .
Willie Robertson: “What else is behind the gate?”
Korie Robertson: Actually, we did start a production company, Tread Lively and that came because we made the show “Duck Dynasty” and realized the impact and the power of it for the gospel. We had this little prayer at the end of a funny kind of quirky show about our family. And the way it impacted people was just so powerful. People would come up with tears in their eyes and say, “You know, our family prays together because of your show,” or “My husband goes to church now because of your show.” And we just saw that impact and thought, “Hey, you know, we need to do more of that.” We realized people were yearning for that. Like you mentioned, “God’s Not Dead,” the success of that said, “We want more of that. We want more things that are faithful, positive, hopeful.” Honestly, you don’t get a lot of that and entertainment right now. So, we’re setting out to do more of it. And we do have a couple more films in pre-production works and are excited to do more.
Willie Robertson: The movie business is hard, obviously, right now, with actors and writers on strike. So that makes it more difficult. And that’s affected us as well. On some projects, like “Duck Dynasty,” that was not our production company. We didn’t really know anything about production other than our videos we had made, seeing that production, being a part of that. It opened our eyes to how that can happen. Then being on “God’s Not Dead,” again, that was our first movie set to see how that works. They’re a lot different. That’s when we decided “Hey, let’s get into this and let’s actually make more stuff not about ourselves necessarily, even though we can make a movie about Mom and Dad, but really more to tell other stories” and so that’s now getting into production, her more than me. I’m not as in love with production as a thing but Korie really did and has those gifts. We noticed, “Hey, we can do this and help tell stories.” We were storytellers, and just naturally growing up sitting around that dinner table, the same one that at the end of all the TV shows, we sat around that table and told stories our whole lives. We didn’t have a lot of TV. We didn’t have much money, we certainly didn’t have the internet or cell phones. So, we told stories, stories about hunting and fishing and cooking and all the stories. Korie’s family were storytellers as well. At their family meals would sit around, especially when her grandpa was there. What has happened in America is a lot of people don’t sit around that dinner table anymore. They’re out grabbing food and everybody’s on the run. I think a lot of people saw that was like “Wow, that’s a cool moment.” Hopefully we inspired other people to sit around that table. We even have to be intentional today just to sit around that table and gather everybody up, get the food and then tell those stories as well.
So that was the next question. Sometimes failure can rip up family apart. Success can rip a family apart to if they’re not careful. So how do the Robertsons stay together? Is it your faith? How does that how’s that been prevented from, from just every pitfall that people go through when they hit like, you know, the level of fame that you’ve had?
Willie Robertson: Well, anything can tear a family up. Families are being torn apart all over, and most are not famous, most are not successful. And honestly, probably most don’t have any money. So like anything can get in there. The key for us, the family dinners, all those kinds of things are more just byproducts that are coming out of truly having faith in God, truly taking our stand on the gospel, trying to live by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These are the core things that we do. And our things are authentic to our lives. We’re not perfect. When we do get off the track, when we do have those times, it’s important to forgive, which we said in the movie a lot, but even way past that, we’ve had to, we have to forgive each other, we have to move on. And we have to encourage one another. All these things that come out of faith, they are pretty much the fruits of the Spirit, joy, peace, patience. We have to remind each other that we talk about that we study the Word. We engage and have community really with people. Since “Duck Dynasty,” there’s a community all over the world that we’re able to talk to, whether it’s pastors or athletes or whoever it is, who are believers and they’ve kind of seen a little bit of what it’s like to be in that spotlight. That’s been helpful to share with them as well. You realize that no matter what, you’re not as good as what people say you are, and hopefully you’re not as bad as what people say. I don’t look at social media because I I don’t care. We’ve done things but I can’t get caught up in what somebody sitting in Indiana thinks about me at that particular moment. So, I just try to focus on God, focus on the Word, focus on our family, and then live truly live by that faith, family, and ducks or whatever that is—vocation, hobbies. Everything else comes after that.
“The Blind” opens Sept. 28 in theaters from Tread Lively and Fathom Events. For more information or to purchase tickets, click here. Watch the exclusive extended interview with Willie and Korie Robertson and DeWayne Hamby below.