Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP
Dressed as if he had stepped out of a scene from “Grease,” Max Ehrich walked into Zoom, fixing his hair and smoothing down his black leather jacket.
It was as if the actor had not left the scene of his latest film, “Southern Gospel” in Spanish “Evangelio del sur.”
Ehrich, 31, will no doubt be familiar to two groups of people: those who watch daytime television and those who follow singer Demi Lovato. The first because he stars in “The Young and the Restless”, and the second because he was briefly but intensely linked to his now ex-fiancée.
In fact, it was that brief romance that inspired a certain vulnerability in Ehrich, who plays 1960s rock and roll singer Samuel Allen in the faith-based film “Southern Gospel,” which opens in theaters Friday.
The film, based on true events, chronicles Allen’s life, from his imprisonment on drug charges – a consequence of the riotous lifestyle he adopted after years of pain inflicted on him and his family by abusive parishioners – to the dismissal of the charges against the rock star by a judge, as long as he agreed to give talks in churches and schools about the dangers of drug addiction.
Overcoming the obstacles that came his way, Allen took advantage of the second chance the judge gave him. He gained faith in Jesus, was baptized, and followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming a preacher.
Preparing for the film, Ehrich told CBN’s Faithwire, was a unique task. He remembers that he spent a lot of time studying the Scriptures and reexamining his own view of God.
“My faith increased immensely while preparing for this role,” he said. “I think, just to put myself in context, I read a lot of the Bible and I would say that I have grown a lot as a person because of this experience and that the film has probably had the most profound impact on my life of all the projects that I have done.”
He went on to say that the movie, shot in 2020, came “during a very specific time in my life and I’m so grateful to have had that movie there,” referring to the rise and fall of his relationship with Lovato.
When his character was baptized in the film, Ehrich decided to be baptized himself, a significant spiritual step he recalled taking “for many reasons,” one of which is a faith that deepened during the tumultuous end of his engagement to Lovato, a break that occurred the morning the scene was shot.
“It was very public and people were very intrusive,” he explains. “I just felt like I needed the protection of God and Jesus during that time and I would say that was one of the many reasons I (got baptized).”
Of course, it should be noted that baptism is not a mystical act that grants someone greater access to God or his provision. Rather, stated plainly, it is an outward display of an inward spiritual transformation. Baptism, though closely associated with salvation, is not necessary for salvation; it is an act of obedience, since Jesus calls all believers to take that step of public declaration of faith.
According to Ehrich, it was during the breakup that he “really leaned” on his family, his friends and his faith in God.
“One thing I definitely leaned on was my faith, which is why I say this movie was super important,” he explained. “I don’t think things just happen out of the blue; I think there’s a reason and I think because I was able to work on this project, and I have a character who is overcoming so much and has an emotional arc, I was able to use (my personal experience) to the movie, actually.”
A central theme of “Southern Gospel” is redemption, something so desperately needed in today’s canceling and divisive culture.
“I really hope that a movie like this will soften people’s hearts a bit and give us a greater sense of inner peace,” says Ehrich. “When we have that feeling of inner peace, I think it also transmits to the outside.”
You can listen to our full conversation with Erich here.