Grace In Hollywood: A ‘Grace Unplugged’ Interview

By Jessi Emmert –

AJ Michalka is best known for her role in the music duo “78Violet,” with her older sister Aly. The platinum-selling sisters have also starred on Disney, and AJ also starred in the films “The Lovely Bones,” “Secretariat,” and “Super 8.”

Now she’s starring in “Grace Unplugged,” a new Christian film about a teenager, Grace Trey, who runs away from home to chase her Hollywood dreams. Grace’s father, Johnny Trey, was a pop star before he became a Christian and walked away from mainstream music. When his old agent arrives to give him a second chance, he turns him down — but Grace secretly records a cover of her dad’s old hit and sneaks away to Hollywood with the agent. In California, she battles with whether she can give up all her convictions for the sake of success.

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

Photo courtesy of Lionsgate.

AJ spoke to Good News’ Jessi Emmert about the film, her faith, and surviving in Hollywood.

How did you learn about the film and what made you interested in being part of it?

Actually a good friend of mine came up to me at church, believe it or not, and said, “I’ve read this script, ‘Grace Unplugged,’ and I’d love for you to take a look at it and see it if it’s something you like and want to pursue.” I completely fell in love with it.

How do you relate to Grace, the main character?

It’s a really tough business. The thing that people tend to forget is that everything is tough in this world. We live in a sinful world that is full of surprises and things that we can’t necessarily control. You have to hold your ground, you have to stay in the word, you have to stay faithful. My character gets caught up in the idea of fame and stardom and her career taking off, instead of asking, “Why am I doing this? Am I doing this for God? Do I have the right intentions or do I just want to be a celebrity?” That’s her main struggle.

My favorite part in the film is when she comes home to the people she loves and cares about and is vulnerable and apologizes and she’s accepted back into the community. It’s not that they judged her, they just completely had to let her go. She ran away and becomes this self-centered being and is trying to prove she can make it, and she does. But then it’s the question of “Do you want to continue this life and not have family or would you rather close that experience and start a new chapter as who you are?”

What is it like to be a Christian in Hollywood?

It’s pretty amazing. I don’t know how you can do anything and not be a believer. It’s such a powerful relationship we have with Christ and is so awesome. It’s what keeps me going in anything I do. So not even being a part of the business, just in everyday life. It has helped me so much, it has really shaped the decisions that I made. It’s given me a wisdom and discernment about the choices I make. Being able to see the repercussions of a choice I could have made but didn’t, I think that’s important. I think life is about choices. In this industry you can make some really poor ones that can really affect you as a human and affect your happiness.

I feel really blessed by my relationship with Jesus that I can feel very centered in my work. I know I can be vocal about who he is and my relationship with him.

What would you say to a young Christian girl with dreams of “making it” in Hollywood?

I would say to never compromise. Don’t ever compromise who you are as a person or what you believe in, just for fame or for money or for power. It’s so fleeting. People can be very fickle. You have to make these decisions based on your gut and what you think Christ would want for you. That’s the most important thing. You can’t make selfish decisions, it’s not going to work in the end. It’s going to tear you down. I think it’s really about staying in the word and staying focused and putting God before your career, that’s really important.

A lot of people will instantly put someone in a box of being a “Christian singer” or a “secular singer.” You seem to avoid that. Can you discuss that?

I feel really blessed that I’ve been able to enter both worlds and do well and be accepted as an artist and have good feedback. My sister and I — because we come from a Christian background — I kind of feel like our music, even though it’s secular, we’re always writing from a Christian standpoint. What we believe in, our morals, and our decisions — those are always backing our music. When we were younger we had a song called ‘Never Far Behind’ that we released to Christian radio and when it did so well, it was so cool. It was awesome to be accepted in different genres. They really shouldn’t be separated. I mean music is music and it’s amazing and it should touch anyone of any race, any color, any religion. The fact that we’ve been able to enter both worlds is so exciting and I love it. My Christian fans can feel comfortable listening to my secular music and vice-versa.

What do you hope people take away from this film?

I hope people are moved. No matter what background they come from, whether they’re close to their family, whether they’re believers. I hope they feel something from the film, that they’re triggered from this overwhelming emotion that you can succeed and accomplish your dreams but there is something else you need to believe in, something else that needs to drive who you are as a person. It shouldn’t just be your career, it should be the Lord. I hope that it witnesses to people, I really do. I feel like it’s a really amazing film when it comes to relationships with parents. I hope that young women and young men are able to walk way and question their relationship with their mother or father and work on it. I hope it connects people and it strengthens bonds.

Jessi Emmert is the editorial assistant at Good News. 

 

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