faith hope love Mira Sorvino
Oscar-Winning Actress Shares Passions & Projects David Henrie
Disney Star Talks Family, Faith & Making Movies Brian “The Boz” Bosworth
Former Football Standout On His New Feature Film
A Legendary Career Full of Risk & Rewards
Kevin Costner Spring 2015
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The Power of Humility Fresh from his 60th birthday and after receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Broadcast Film Critics, Kevin Costner reflects on his career and his upcoming films this spring as he shows no signs of slowing. From financing his own film, Black and White, to the true story told in McFarland, USA, Costner seeks out and creates compelling stories. With so many movies that have become part of the fabric of American cinema like Field of Dreams or Dances with Wolves, this Oscar winning actor is the first to say that he is fallible. While risks produce rewards, humility is a must. Another actor that knows a thing or two about humility is Brian “The Boz” Bosworth. He went from being an outlandish college and NFL player grabbing the headlines, to getting injured, ending his career and creating rifts in his family and finances. It wasn’t until one of the films that he worked on was he able to secure his faith and learn the absolute necessity for humility. He stars in the new film Do You Be-
lieve? with Academy Award winning actress Mira Sorvino. Sorvino also shared with Risen her projects, passions and the importance of using her fame to help others. Even at the youthful age of 25, actor David Henrie’s New Year’s resolution is “…to grow in virtue; specifically humility, and to eliminate pride.” Having grown up on screen in hit Disney shows like Wizards of Waverly Place and That’s So Raven, Henrie is no stranger to the spotlight. Thanks to his family, a good group of friends, and his faith, he’s making a nice transition to movie star without falling prey to the temptations that have tripped up many of his peers. He candidly talks about breaking into the industry, hockey and his next moves. Blessings,
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The views and opinions expressed by the subjects interviewed are not necessarily those shared by the publisher or staff of Risen Media, LLC. All interviews remain the sole property of Risen Magazine. All rights reserved. No part of the contents of this magazine may be reproduced without the written consent of Risen Media, LLC. Copyright © 2015 “Risen” is a Trademark of Risen Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved. Cover Photo :: Kevin Mazur
08 Mira Sorvino
Academy Award Winning Actress Takes Action To Help End Human Trafficking
14 Blessing Offor
The Greatest Gift of All
20 Kevin Costner
A Legendary Career Full of Risk & Rewards for this Multi-Talented Oscar Winner
26 David Henrie
Former Disney Star Full of Conviction, Class and Candor
32 Brian “The Boz” Bosworth
From Headstrong to Humble, Former NFL Standout Beats the Odds
Romulo and Gaby Camargo
Even a Paralyzing Bullet Can’t Keep This Decorated Military Couple from Staying in Step
Hope Leadership Foundation
From Basketball Player and Model to Mentor Meet Willie Briscoe
54 Tammy Hyler
The Sounds of a Songwriter: From Country Stars to TV and Film
The Red Carpet
60 Risen In Hollywood Out and about for the Hollywood awards season
08 Risen Magazine
Award Winning Actress
Mira Sorvino Takes Action To Help End Human Trafficking
Writer: Megan Camaisa
nited Nations Goodwill Ambassador, humanitarian, scholar…these may not be the words that first come to mind when you think of Academy Award and Golden Globe winning actress, Mira Sorvino. But this blonde bombshell best known for her roles in Mighty Aphrodite and Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion, spends much of her time in roles that are far from the Hollywood lights. Sorvino, is the daughter of Hollywood legend Paul Sorvino, and while acting roots run deep, her intellect, activism and love of family catapult her passion for helping others. Since 2009 she has served as the U. N. Goodwill Ambassador for the Global Fight Against Human Trafficking and currently works with many non-profit organizations to end the worldwide plight of human slavery. Sorvino opens up to Risen about her faith, family, and her latest role as a homeless mother in the movie, Do You Believe?
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Your dad, Paul, is a well-known actor, your mom was in the industry as well, and I’ve heard that you performed in your back yard for the neighborhood with your fellow actress friend Hope Davis. What influence did they have on your desire to pursue acting as a profession? Mira Sorvino: I think from the time I was little, like other kids, I loved to engage in imaginary play and my mom used to sort of have us do drama games in our home where she would pull out a bag full of props and then me and my friends would take turns being teams where we would improv a little skit, using like two or three random props that we’d pull out of the bag. I’m sure she had some influence on me having the idea, “Let’s write a play.” We did a play about a little girl whose doll is sick and she has to take it to the doll doctor. I was the little girl and Hope Davis was the doll and another friend of ours was the doll doctor. I don’t think about that that often but, yes, I’m sure that had an effect. I also did plays in my school and my father would coach me and teach me how to sort of use my real emotions to fill out the characters in our life and I kind of fell in love with the feeling of performing a character on stage in front of people. I also visited my dad on sets. Once he did a movie called Dummy,  which was a television movie, about a deaf lawyer who defends a deaf mute man accused of murder. It’s based on a true story and I saw how Dad worked with deaf children. His character had lost his hearing at age 12 and then years passed in the story from the initial beginning of the story so he has to relearn more of his articulation as he goes to trial at the end. I thought that the work that he did on that was very noble. I admired him so much.
I think it’s a combination of my loving the activity, being in a little amateur [backyard] production, and then admiring my father and the artistry that he put into acting and the dedication he put into it. RM: While you had a creative household, there was still an importance placed on education. You went to Harvard, studied abroad in China, and earned your degree in East Asian Studies. How did this foundation affect the way you entered acting and view the world? MS: Actually, I think it initially sort of hurt my acting in that in college you learn not to take things personally, so if you’re meeting with your professor and they’re very hard on your thesis chapter or shoot down your argument, you have to become very dispassionate emotionally. You just have to be sort of open intellectually for everything so I found that when I got out of college, I was actually much worse at taking things personally in auditions or acting class and I had to shove that and become really emotionally raw again. Intellectual people are kind of in control of themselves and when you’re acting, you actually have to give into that control so that you can react to the story and react to what the other characters are doing. You can’t tell yourself, as a character, “Oh I understand why he’s being mean, because he’s had a bad day so I’m not going to let it affect me.” That’s sort of the intellectual response, to consider the source of the behavior and then kind of let it glance off of you. As an actor, everything somebody says to you has to instinctively hit you at your gut level and then you spit back out whatever your response would be with a filter. So it was an unlearning of a sort. It’s interesting because sometimes some of the characters I play suffer so much, such as the character in this story [Do you Believe?] and then I have such heartbreak at risenmagazine.com 09
Mira Sorvino’s Cambodia journal from The CNN Freedom Project Every Day in Cambodia blog
various scenes. It’s very painful to play and it’s very painful to keep alive in your heart all of this immediate access to pain and sadness. I was told this by Marlon Brando when I worked with him. He thought acting was a terrible profession because you always have to hurt yourself for the good of the role. So that’s been an interesting thing for me. Sometimes I think, well if I had just stayed in academia and been a professor, emotionally my life would have been a lot calmer and easier to bare in a way, because I’m always breaking my heart on camera, but you know, that’s the life I chose. RM: Speaking of your film Do You Believe?, it covers 12 different story lines all exploring through their own circumstances what it means to believe in God. I understand that you were raised Episcopalian and you still identify with that. What does faith look like in your life now? MS: I pray a lot. I go to church whenever I can. I have four kids. I’m trying to raise them in my faith. My minister is a woman. She’s also my godmother. She’s an incredible, incredible lady. She guides me with a lot of my spiritual aspirations. I try and ask God to use me as He sees fit, especially in the human trafficking work that I do. As a way to go back to the last half of your question, the thing that college prepared me for was for the public service work that I do for the United Nations, the volunteer work that I do for them as Goodwill Ambassador in human trafficking. I wrote my thesis about racial conflict and then I went on to do work on prejudice and discrimination and I was looking to expand that kind of social justice work. After three years with Amnesty International helping in violence against women campaigns for social media [I then worked] with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime as their Goodwill Ambassador in their world website against human trafficking. That has been issued since 2009 and has been unbelievably satisfying and challenging and one of the greatest honors I’ve ever had and I work a lot with NGO’s [non-governmental organization]. I work privately as an individual as an advocate and activist, but that’s something that is very connected to my faith because I feel like as a human being on this planet you tend to live selfishly so I just feel very strongly that 10 Risen Magazine
you have to try and do something to help other people who are in need. Whatever strength God is according you is the way that you should serve. Anytime someone treats a human being as less than themselves, that just burns me up and makes me kind of crazy and human slavery is one of the strongest expressions of that ill, that social ill that we have in the world today. I pray before I give my speeches, and I hope I’m doing God’s will with what I’m doing. You never really know if we’re getting everything right, but we try our best. I have worked with some incredible faith-based organizations that are doing a lot of good. One of the first chances I had was making a documentary for CNN Freedom Project called, Every Day in Cambodia, and we worked side-by-side with this group called Agape International Missions. Donald Brewster who runs it in Cambodia, along with his wife Bridget, is like a saint. I’ve never seen people who are so altruistic, so loving, so capable of taking a giant burden on their shoulders and carrying it as saving thousands and thousands of kids and giving them a better life and changing the infrastructure of the communities that they are living in. It’s really quite incredible. I urge people if they can to watch Every Day in Cambodia. I wrote a blog about it and you can find that on the CNN Freedom Project blog site and in it I talk about my experiences. There are so many great groups around the world working to end trafficking, faith-based or not. There are so many heroes out there that have really blown me away and inspired me. Working on this project was a great project for me, a great resource to people looking to figure out where they can get involved in their state anti-trafficking. They have a whole network. They have a whole grid of all the anti-trafficking groups in the country and now they’re sort of expanding internationally because people want to work against child sex trafficking. IJM, the International Justice Mission, is a great group. CAST, Coalition to Abolish Slavery and Trafficking, in Los Angeles is amazing. They do really great underground work with survivors and changing legislation across the country as well as California to benefit survivors and to fight trafficking in a stronger way. POLARIS is great on legislative changes as well. I’ve partnered with them many times. There are
Mira Sorvino’s Cambodia journal from The CNN Freedom Project Every Day in Cambodia blog
so many great people working on this, but everybody can make a difference. If everybody gets involved slavery will end. It’s just a matter of enough people putting their foot down and getting involved. RM: You also did a mini-series called Human Traﬃcking. I’m curious whether your passion led the project or the project led to deepen your passion? MS: Actually, I had already been working with Amnesty International when I received that script and human trafficking was one of the topics that we were very involved in with at Amnesty because 79 percent of its victims are women and girls worldwide, both in sex and labor, it’s not just sex trafficking. Labor trafficking is equally a need that’s meant to be stopped. I was actually offered two scripts on human trafficking at the same moment. One was a movie script, and one was this mini-series script for Lifetime. I read them both and I really felt that the Lifetime script was the superior one and I vetted it with the people at Amnesty. I said, “Is this completely factually accurate? Is this sending the right message? Is it on point?” They read it and were very impressed with it. So I got to meet with ICE agents, the people who work in the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement who were working on a task force for human trafficking, after the project was done and actually over the course
of doing the publicity for the project. I was able to meet with the first survivors of human trafficking that I had ever personally interviewed. Since that point I’ve interviewed scores of them and recorded the conversations and written copious notes and most of my speech making always includes testimonial from them – that really kick-started my activism on that topic. That really made me even more entrenched in it than I had been in the beginning. I have seen it as a way to amplify the activism I was doing, but then meeting the survivors of it changed me forever – just looking into the eyes of someone who has been treated as worse than a thing, lower than a dog. The people who do this, it’s the worst of the worst human behavior; it is unbelievably evil. That really hooked me into it and since then I’ve become far, far more of an engaged and activated activist than I was at the time that I shot that film. That was really the tip of the iceberg for me. I also did Trade of Innocents , which was put out by a faith-based team. I don’t think it’s overtly faith-based but it sort of is. It’s about child sex trafficking in Cambodia. Weirdly, it’s like a fictional version of what we ended up doing the documentary on a couple years later – pedophiles buying girls in Cambodia. But we shot it in Thailand instead of Cambodia because the Cambodian government didn’t want us to shoot it there. That was very interesting and I worked with a bunch of NGO’s over there that were doing incredible things.
hatever strength God is according you is the way that you should serve. Anytime someone treats a human being as less than themselves, that just burns me up and makes me kind of crazy and human slavery is one of the strongest expressions of that ill...
RM: With the exposure through CNN, do you feel like Every Day in Cambodia was an opportunity not only to spread the message about the horrors of human trafficking, but to also share the love and the hope that your beliefs, as well as the beliefs of Agape International Missions, brings to people? MS: I don’t think you have to be a Christian to care about human trafficking. I don’t think you have to be a Christian to love people and to bring hope and inspiration. This particular man is a Christian and I feel that he is very much the embodiment of Christ’s work in action. I don’t think you need to be a party to any of those belief systems to actually be moved and affected and driven to action by watching the documentary, but I do think that it could be an inspiration for some, yes. RM: It is inspiring to see individuals using their fame and celebrity to bring attention to areas in need of change or help. MS: One thing that I was just involved in with which I think was quite miraculous and incredible, and this would apply to any person of faith around the globe, but I was at the Vatican Interfaith Declaration against modern-day slavery which took place at the beginning of December. I was privileged enough to be invited to be there, to be a witness to it and to help emphasize the message. Basically it was the first time in history that faith leaders got together on any one topic. Historically they have never done it on war, they haven’t done it on nuclear arms, but they had the Pope [Francis], the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Grand Ayatollah from Iran, a British elder, Amma, the Hugging Saint from the Hindu faith, one of the heads of the Russian Orthodox Church – all of these faith leaders sitting together making a joint declaration of unity against modern slavery and how it is a crime against humanity. It was an unbelievable moment because it was very beautiful and very moving to see world faith leaders together and everybody working together for the common good, and I was so honored to be a part of it. It was such a mind-blowing experience and I don’t think that many people know that it happened.
world a better place in their own way, whatever their passions are. RM: Taking it a step further, your onscreen daughter reminds you of how much God loves you. What is something that your own kids remind you of and how do their feelings impact you? MS: They tell me, sort of unwritten, every day at random times how much they love me and it always just kind of melts my heart – the pureness of their love, the kindness, the sweetness and just hugging and holding them. I feel like every moment is such a blessing and I always feel in those moments that this is about as good as life gets right now. This is such beauty. This is God’s random beauty. When you’re holding your child and hugging your child and your child is telling you how much they love you and you get to cuddle with them and just revel in that simple impression of goodness and love, it’s so heart expanding. It’s so joyful. It’s like the most beautiful thing in the world.
very day presents new challenges and new teaching moments – new moments to be more compassionate, more patient, more helpful and more generous.
RM: In addition to all your work in the world, you are real-life mom of four, and in your film Do You Believe?, your character is a single mom raising her daughter finding beds at shelters since circumstances have left them homeless. What are some of the challenges you face when it comes to parenting? MS: I think every parent has enormous challenges no matter what job they have, no matter what kind of exciting talents that might be in their life. Their responsibility is to be there for their children and to love them as well as they can and teach them as well as they can. Every day presents new challenges and new teaching moments – new moments to be more compassionate, more patient, more helpful and more generous. We always have to fight against any issues and there’s always baggage. All of us have back stories that kind of create negative behavior patterns that we really have to try and shape up for the good of our children. Our children are the constant litmus test of how we can try every day to be better human beings and they are our number one responsibility. Every day I try to be a better parent. Sometimes I fail. I do the best I can and I love my kids and I hope that I instill them with love and confidence and also a sense that they have to try and make the 12 Risen Magazine
RM: One of the other themes in the film is sacrifice. Has there ever been a time that this extreme kindness has been shown to you or has there ever been a mentor of sorts that has been your needed encourager or a sounding board? MS: I would have to say my grandmother was that person for me all of the times growing up and she was just the most loving, selfless person. She was so warm and so human and so funny and just always there for you with a hug or wise advice, just generous, and open-armed. Anybody would walk into her house and within five minutes she’s laid out a feast even though there had been nothing on the table when you walked in. She’d say, “Sit down. You’re tired. Let me get you some food.” Everyone turned from a stranger to a beloved friend within ten minutes of meeting her. She was really an example for me of how to love unconditionally and I will cherish her memory until the day I die. I miss her every day. She was probably that person for me that was so loving, and yet had a really hard life. But she did not let it embitter her or make her guarded or selfish in any way. In fact, she was perhaps even more generous. I don’t know why, but she was just the most loving person.
14 Risen Magazine
16 Risen Magazine
Writer: Mei Ling Nazar Photographer: Rob Springer
any people were introduced to artist, Blessing Offor when he captured the audience on the television reality show, The Voice, when all four celebrity judges wanted him on their team. While Offor is grateful for his musical career which has taken him to perform at the Kennedy Center and open for legendary acts like The Temptations, he knows that none of it would be possible without his parents. At a young age, Offor’s parents made the sacrifice of sending their youngest son from Nigeria to the United States for medical treatment and training. Risen sat down with this now completely blind, incredible talent to talk about the inspiration for his music and how he wants to not only give back to his parents, but to other children with undiscovered talents.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine in Del Mar, California
Risen Magazine: When you were six years old, your parents made the decision to send you to the United States for medical treatment and training that you couldn’t get in Nigeria? What was that like? Blessing Oﬀor: I don’t know that you really appreciate what is going on when you are six years old. I just thought I was on some really great adventure. It was my first time flying to America. I remember thinking, “America must be in the sky. You go up on a plane and land there.” I was wondering why my parents were crying so much. I kept thinking, “Guys, calm down this is not a big deal.” They must have known something more than I did. Looking back, what they did for me was, and is, the most wonderful act of self-sacrifice that you could imagine. What parent wants to send their youngest child off? Thank God that they had the wisdom to do so. You never know what God has for you in the long-term. Sometimes we are so focused on the moment and how bad it is. I am grateful to my parents because they brought about all of this. Everything I have is due to the difficult decision they made for me. They showed me a lot of love by letting me go, which is a counterintuitive thing. RM: You were born with congenital glaucoma and later lost sight due to an accident. How have those events shaped your life? BO: As a child, when I had a lot of vision in my right eye, it was minimal. I knew that I couldn’t see as well as everybody else and there was a lot of getting used to. I had to do things a little differently. I would fake things quite a bit and just try and get by on personality and charm. At eleven, when I lost most of the vision in my right eye, that was when I felt the impact the most. I went through a moment of growth in my own faith. Losing my vision made me appreciate things more. I started to pray like I was taught as a kid. I prayed for my vision to come back. But it never did. I didn’t feel like they were childish prayers. I wasn’t asking for a toy or to win a million dollars. I just wanted my vision. It seemed like a prayer that God would want to answer. There was a period of time where I was asking
myself all these deep philosophical questions, “What is prayer? Who is God?” In my eleven-year-old mind, I was asking all these questions and learning all these things. I learned that God is not a vending machine. Just because I believe in Him and His infinite goodness does not mean that He is going to answer my prayers just the way I want Him to. Most adults have a hard time wrestling with these questions, let alone an eleven-year-old. At my age now, I look back and I’m grateful for that time because I see the makings of who I am and who I would like to become, that is someone who has faith in God even when He isn’t answering my prayers. To this day, when I am going through hard times, I ask myself, “Am I a man of faith?” Because if I am a man of faith, I need to conduct myself differently; I shouldn’t be without hope; I shouldn’t be without faith and joy. What I have gone through has impacted me in wonderful ways and I wouldn’t take any of it back if given the choice. RM: You were a contestant on The Voice. What was it like when all four judges said they wanted you? BO: It was really loud and I didn’t hear the chairs turn. When I first started, I couldn’t hear myself in the monitors. So for all my musician friends out there, when you watch the Blind Auditions, I couldn’t hear myself, so don’t judge me. I didn’t know that all judges had selected me until Adam cra so I fig[Levine] had said something. Everything was going crazy ured something good happened. But I didn’t know what it was. All you need is one judge right? I felt validated, that I was in the right place doing what I was supposed to be doing. RM: You chose to go with the singer-songwriter Pharrell Williams. What went into your decision to pick that judge? BO: I really wanted Blake Shelton. Not to say that I didn’t want Pharrell; I love Pharrell. I went to school in Nashville at Belmont University for a year and a half. I loved song writing and I have developed an appreciation for the country music style of song writing, three chords and the truth. When I risenmagazine.com 17
lived in Nashville, I did a lot of that. I wanted to head into some uncharted soul country territory. I was hoping Blake would tell me a little more but he seemed nonchalant. So I went with Pharrell instead. RM: A lot of times people only see the glitz and glamor side of being an artist. What did it take for you to get where you are? BO: I grew up with my uncle and he never said, “Blessing, are you practicing?” There was never anyone pushing me to practice or write a song. It was always something I loved to do. It was a very hands-off parenting style that worked with me because I am very self-motivated. Some kids might need a little more encouragement. You will practice as much as you want to do the thing. If you think you want to be a singer and in one week, you haven’t sung one song, then you have to question if you really want to be a singer. I really wanted to be a piano player and write songs. I was the guy that would skip parties. It wasn’t because someone forced me. It was what I wanted. At the end of the day whether you are thirteen or twenty-five, you will do what is important to you. You can choose to develop good practice or study habits, or you can just not do the thing you dream of doing. At the end of the day, it is really your choice. RM: What has been your favorite audience or stage to play on? BO: I played the Kennedy Center a bunch of times. It is a great venue to play because the audience is very attentive. I really like playing where I can talk to the audience. I like being able to communicate. Pop music is focused on escaping reality and I think music shouldn’t be meant as an escape mechanism alone. Self-reflection is really important and music that speaks the truth about the world that you are in and the social unrest going on. In the 60’s and 70’s, you had the civil rights movement going on and it had it’s own soundtrack. Part of me wonders why we don’t have a soundtrack going on right now. We are missing out on that. My favorite audience is the audience hungry for that soundtrack. I want to work hard as a musician to provide that soundtrack. RM: Where do you find the inspiration for your music? BO: I’m a lover. I love Motown and love songs. Whether it is brotherly, familial, or romantic, just to sing about things that promote love. There are enough artists doing the opposite, “This drug is cool.” So I don’t want to add to that. I would much rather write something that fifty years from now will still be relevant. C.S. Lewis says, “If you don’t concern yourself with telling the truth, you will find yourself unoriginal in no time.” RM: I love your song, Like a Child. What do you want your listeners to take from that song? BO: I love Christmas. As a musician, I don’t want to be a CCM [Contemporary Christian Music] artist. Not because I am ashamed of my faith, rather, I want to reach people that may not be Christian. The music I do will not be what they are used to listening to. I hope it gives them something to think about. Like a Child was my way of speaking to Christmas without beating someone over the head with Jesus. You can sing about, “For unto us was born a child both meek and mild.” That is the truth. The bridge says, “It’s 18 Risen Magazine
peace on earth, are you listening?” You don’t have to sacrifice truth. I just want to reach more people. Sometimes in the Christian music industry there is a prescribed amount of times you have to say, “Jesus,” or the song isn’t considered “spiritual.” I didn’t want to come across as “holier than thou.” I’m imperfect. RM: How would you describe your spiritual journey? BO: My journey has been messy and complicated. There have been times where I have been hot, cold, on fire, ice cold and everything in between. There’s always a North Star in me. I can go off course, but I know I am off course. I have several friends that are not Christians and they will ask me, “Blessing how do you know the Bible is real?” I say, “Ask me more questions. I want to hear your doubts.” I just listen to them. I challenge them to take a deeper look at it, because you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions about what you believe. In the deepest recess of my mind, there is just that knowing. The North Star always pulls me back. RM: You have had the opportunity to open for some legendary acts including The Temptations and Tower of Power. What type of legacy do you want to leave? BO: I want to be able to make the type of music that my grandkids think is cool. I want timeless music. Even beyond music, I am working on a documentary right now about me going back to Nigeria, seeing my parents again, and doing a concert. I was given the opportunity to come to America and flourish here. There are so many kids in third-world countries that are disabled, but brilliant in some other capacity. While I got the chance to come to the U.S., so many of them don’t have that chance. I would love to start a nonprofit that goes and finds those kids that have brilliant minds or talents and give them the same chance that I was given. I would love to be able to help them flourish with the talents God has given them. I would like to be able to go to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia and find these people that are in cultures that aren’t aware or don’t embrace these types of kids. While I haven’t seen my family in twenty years, when I go home, my mom doesn’t have to worry about who is going to take care of me. I can say, “I’m taking you to America because I was blessed with this life.” It reminds me of the story of Joseph in the Bible, where he was sold into slavery, but later he was able to help save his family. I’m not comparing myself to Joseph. Rather, the success we have belongs to those that made the sacrifice before us. This is Nigerian culture. Whatever you do, you give back to your parents. I’m looking forward to being able to help my family and help others.
photo: Julian Torres 20 Risen Magazine
Multi-talented with a Passion to Share Compelling Stories Up Close with
Kevin Costner risenmagazine.com 21
Kevin Costner and his wife Christine Baumgartner photo: Eric Charbonneau 22 Risen Magazine
Writer: Kelli Gillespie
evin Costner is more than an actor we’ve seen on screen for thirty-something years, he’s more than an Oscar-winning director, he’s more than a country singer, and he’s even more than an entrepreneur. Kevin Costner is a man of conviction, a man without fear willing to take risks, and a man full of faith and humility with a tender heart toward his family. A household name and a silver screen favorite spanning decades, genres, and demographics, Costner’s work has affected many people in many different ways. Fan favorite films range from Field of Dreams and Bull Durham, to The Untouchables, No Way Out, and JFK. And not to be left out is his iconic Dances With Wolves. Costner is always on the hunt for the next best script, that incredible story that must be shared. Not the story, as he points out, that will be a guaranteed box-office hit, or the story that will make him tens of millions of dollars – although he’s definitely seen that within his career – but rather Costner’s passion is for the story that you can’t shake out of your head because it forces you to feel, or challenges you. Most recently, Costner was gripped by the script for the film Black or White. Making this movie not only forced him to reflect on his own life, but he hopes the film will spark others to dig deeper within themselves as well. Risen had the privilege to catch up with this seasoned talent to talk about everything from starting race conversations, to sports, forgiveness and family.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Black or White isn’t just another film you are creating awareness for due to a contract… you felt it was so important you actually financed the $9 million production budget with your own family’s cash. So what was it about this story, that gave you such conviction to get it made? Kevin Costner: I may be crazy but I thought this story reminded me of Dances With Wolves, Field of Dreams, Bull Durham… other movies that I’ve had difficulty making, but I’ve always felt they were just as important and turned out to be just as big as the biggest of movies. I thought Black or White, believe it or not, had that same kind of feeling in me. I’m not looking to try and go make a movie that deals with racism, but I certainly won’t run away from one. When I read this script and I heard how people were talking, I thought, “Oh my gosh, this is how people want to talk! This is what they hope gets said.” And that was the miracle of Black or White that I couldn’t turn my back on.
to the movies, and we can see a lot of different types of movies but we are, who we are – we are fully-grown people. But all we can do is look at a movie and sometimes when race comes up we look at ourselves and maybe we see ourselves a little bit and we think, “I don’t want to be that.” Elliot [Costner’s character in the film] clearly isn’t a racist but he was unsure that his granddaughter would be safe there [in the black neighborhood] and that felt a little racist. It’s not overt; he was a little suspicious. And there was some reverse racism in this movie where they [black family] don’t think this old man [Costner’s character] can take care of the girl. The movie is really beautiful in it’s harshness. It’s a movie about family and the welfare of a child, and when issues of custody come up, that is when things start to go really awful.
Forgiveness is something that is ultimately our salvation – both in our personal relationships and with our own God, who by design is so willing to forgive us.
RM: Black or White feels very relevant especially with the national firestorm of protests sparked by Ferguson, Missouri, in the past months and current race issues. How have you seen movies change people or at least shift perspectives? KC: When you start watching movies early as a child, what you start to recognize is who the hero is and who the bad guy is. And you think, “Okay, I want to be the hero.” We begin to learn who we want to be in this life. So as young people go to the movies, those are formative years. Now, you and I go
RM: One of the themes in Black or White is forgiveness; what it looks like, how it’s given and received, even the way it manifests within. Talk to the power of forgiveness and if willing, share an example of when you’ve seen it within your own life. KC: What you see between these two families, even though it is a gigantic custody issue, when Elliot goes to the house for the first time, those people are hugging him. In another type of movie he might be scared to be there, but in this one he’s not scared to be there at all. This family is reaching out, apologizing, and feeling bad about the loss of his wife – it’s really loving. And because there is so much love, in the end, you see him really travel a risenmagazine.com 23
photo: Eric Charbonneau
photo: Eric Charbonneau Chief Executive Officer of Relativity Media Ryan Kavanaugh celebrates Kevin Costner’s birthday with a 60th birthday cake
Kevin Costner with two of his daughters, Annie (left) and Lily (right) at the Los Angeles premiere of Black or White.
distance and understand that he is going to be better off with this family helping him. Forgiveness is something that is ultimately our salvation – both in our personal relationships and with our own God, who by design is so willing to forgive us. I think this movie is kind of a miracle in that it can be so harsh, so politically incorrect, but ultimately it’s about love. And it finds love in truth.
articulated in this movie is, the answer is no. It’s my second, or third thought that might determine whether I am. I thought that was an incredible speech I was given in that courtroom [scene] and it helped me and I thought perhaps it will even help you. RM: In turn now, being a parent from twenty-somethings to toddlers, what do you hope your kids learn most from Dad? Or what if nothing else do you hope you instill in them? KC: My older children came to me and said, “We’re really proud of you for making this movie.” I love that they would articulate that to me. I love that they understood that I am not afraid and I hope that they conduct their lives that way. That it’s not all about them and that hopefully they can get involved in things that will affect other people. And I see that in their actions. They don’t have to do big things in their life, but they can affect the person working to their left or their right. With my littlest children, I just talk to them – that’s all I do. I talk to them in language that is not dumbed down and I talk to them in a language I think they can understand about how they treat each other. Because that is where they learn how to treat others.
...maybe sometimes I would have been wiser to let go. The problem is that sometimes by not letting go, I have achieved some of my greatest things.
RM: Parenting is also a strong theme, from how a child is raised, to values, responsibility, humility, and grace; so many rich topics. In your own upbringing being raised Baptist, how have those truths carried through your personal life and even been reflected in your career? KC: Maybe because early on I thought I didn’t have to be afraid of the truth. I’ve kind of lived a fearless life and I don’t know if that had to do with my upbringing and that if God is on your side, then no man can stand against you. I don’t need to be afraid of the truth. I’m not a perfect person, but I feel like the truth is just as entertaining as a lie so why not go for the truth. I’m a fallible human being just making my way through all of this, but I don’t have to be afraid of my own shadow and I occasionally get to make a movie that deals with issues in my own life that might help other people, because this movie helped me. Because I do see people of color, I do see that, and for a while I thought, “Does that make me a racist if I see a black person?” And what is 24 Risen Magazine
RM: It’s been a great year already for you. You turned 60 in January, you have more than 50 films in your resume, and even though you were recently honored with the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at the Critics Choice
Movie Awards, fortunately for fans, you show no signs of slowing! You don’t reach this level without being surrounded by some great people. Who were some key people that played a major role in the trajectory or your career or advice that has stuck with you through the years? KC: Not so much advice, but I have to say my mom gave me the foundation of teaching me the value of dreams, but she never let that sentence go by without saying that work was going to be involved with that. It was going to be a lot of work. I have been helped along the way and I know who those people are and I always think to say, thank you to them whether publically or privately. RM: Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, For the Love of the Game – celebrated baseball films – of course other sports like golf in Tin Cup and football in Draft Day… you are returning to sports on screen once again but this time as cross-country coach in the true story McFarland, USA. What do you think are the most valuable life lessons we learn from athletics? KC: Athletics really fuel my energy. I played basketball, baseball and football as a little kid [and would play] until the streetlights came on, that is how I knew it was time to go home. You learn a lot playing sports and you also learn a lot about people. A lot times when you play sports you have to make up teams in order to have a game, and I could always see people that would let’s say, “stack the team,” so that they would win. You should know how to make a team so that there is a great game going on. You know who the best players are and you could tell a lot about somebody who would put all those players on the same team consistently. And I actually can see it in their lives now as adults and there is something about that. I’d rather have a better game than one I knew I would win. I do movies sometimes that I don’t know [if they are going to be outright winners]. Black or White was a movie that no one wanted to make. I thought it was valuable and took a movie that no one wanted and I think it is a winner. I think this movie will play for the next 100 years; that is what I really believe. Now will it? I don’t know that is up to you. For the ones that do like it and really support it, they are the ones
photo: Tracey Bennett
photo: Tracey Bennett Jillian Estell and Kevin Costner in Relativity Media’s Black or White.
Director Mike Binder discusses a scene with Kevin Costner on the set of Black or White.
that realize movies are much more important on how they travel through time, than how they do on their opening weekend. RM: You have a great knack for finding stories that need telling and I couldn’t help but notice it’s been more than a decade since you directed a film – Dances with Wolves, The Postman and Open Range – do you think there is another great story that would put you in the director’s chair again, or was that just a nice season in your career? KC: Yea, I think maybe I’d like to direct the second half of my career so I appreciate what you said, I love Postman, I love everything about it. And Open Range was a thrill for me to direct, and obviously Dances was my first movie I ever directed. RM: And it won seven Academy Awards, including a Best Director Oscar for you! Speaking of Dances with Wolves, and your films like No Way Out, to The Untouchables, and even your current movie, Black or White… there are situations beyond our control, how do you handle situations that are seemingly out of control in your own life? KC: I think a lot of my problems in life have been that I have tried to control everything. I don’t give up on stuff. And maybe sometimes I would have been wiser to let go. The problem is that sometimes by not letting go, I have achieved some of my greatest things. Other times, if I look back and I’m really honest with myself, I should’ve just let it go; maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do. I know if I would’ve run up against my first resistance where Black or White is concerned, I would have never ended up with this movie. So I’m glad I hung in there. Somehow along the line I need to figure out, “When do I let go?” That’s been my struggle because it’s hard to scare me off of something I love.
Full of Conviction, Class and Candor Meet Former Disney Star
David Henrie Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photographer: Benjo Arwas
e was a hockey player who liked to entertain his family at celebrations, but little did David Henrie know, by the time he would enter his teens he would be cast in a prime time television show that would lead to Disney Channel success on hits like That’s So Raven and Wizards of Waverly Place. Escaping many pitfalls of his famous peers, at a young 25 years old, Henrie has crossed over into movies with grace. He has two pictures slotted for spring, Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 with Kevin James, and the World War II period piece, Little Boy with Emily Watson and Tom Wilkinson. Risen had a candid conversation with this rising star to talk family, making movies, virtue, peace and resolutions.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Both you and your brother, Lorenzo, are actors so what was it like growing up in the Henrie household? Was it creative or competitive, what did those early years look like? David Henrie: It’s kind of a funny story actually. I started acting because of my little brother. He was the ticket that we got to Hollywood. We were just a normal family in Arizona, not tied to the [entertainment] business in any way. But we had a big Italian family and whenever it was someone’s birthday or we’d get together to celebrate something, I’d make a little video of the family. We were always making videos to keep them entertained. We had a big, loud Italian family and everyone in the family always said, “Lorenzo and David should be actors.” We just got lucky. We were watching something on TV one day and some manager came on and my mom said, “Boys, that looks awesome. Maybe we should email him.” And we said, “ Yea! Email him, email him!” So we email the person we saw on TV and he responds and likes my little brother, but not me. The manager said, “Come out to Hollywood and I’ll interview the young one,” meaning Lorenzo, “and we’ll see where it goes. We’ll see if we can get him an agent.” Looking back, what are the odds something like this was going to work out, right?! So we go out and interview for the person and they didn’t respond to the read Lorenzo did, but I had worked on material hoping I could get an audition – they had given us some commercial to read – so I read it and they loved me. My little brother was too young. He was maybe five, and more goofing around. But they loved me and said, “ You’re great. We should try to get you on something before you leave town.” So they sent me to a random commercial audition for Burger King, and I booked it. I competed for this big national
commercial against all these other kids and I got it. I think just because the guy [picking the kid] had a hockey jersey on and I said, “Do you like hockey? Me too. So let’s talk about that and not acting.” I think he liked that I was just a normal kid and it got me the role. And then literally my next two big auditions for commercials while we were still in town on that trip, I booked those too! Totally lucky! One day we’re reading for a manager, and the next, I’m on set for Burger King eating French fries – it was great! RM: So you had success right away. And then it continued into your teens as you landed television roles on The Pitts and That’s So Raven, which led to being the son on How I met Your Mother, and Justin Russo on Disney Channel’s Wizards of Waverly Place. Tell me about being part of such popular shows? DH: I think God had my back through the whole process. I remember the kids I was auditioning against were some of the biggest kid actors in the business at the time trying to land a role on a TV pilot for a network – it’s a big deal. I’m just some kid who did some guest roles, and some co-stars, and a bunch of commercials. I had a great audition and started talking about hockey again with one of the producers; he loved that I was a [Los Angeles] Kings fan, and he really liked me and said, “We are going to test you.” So I go in this huge room, I read my audition in front of all these huge network executives – me just being this little 13-year-old punk from Arizona not knowing which way is up – and I get it! That was the first series [The Pitts] that got me on the map and in front of the Disney Channel. The Disney Channel likes to track any kids on network shows so they have their pulse on kids that are successful, so I got on their radar. I did The Pitts which was [created by] Mike Scully, The Simpsons risenmagazine.com 27
guy, then I did a FOX show right after that called, Method & Red and then after that I did That’s So Raven and Wizards of Waverly Place, so Disney was tracking me.
story with that underlying meaning. I think they did both sides justice in the film and telling it through a piece of art. In my own life, every day is a test. You wake up each day and you try to do better than the last.
RM: Incredible. What is it like working for years as the same character on the same show and building up a huge following, versus doing films and spending a few days to a few months as a character? DH: It is a completely different experience; one feels like you are going to school and the other feels like a boot camp. On a TV show, you are there for years with this group of people, you get to know them and they become your brothers, your fathers, your mothers, cousins – they become your family. Where with a movie, it’s like you are going in for boot camp. You show up on set every day, in character, and ready to rock; you do your thing and then you are done after that. And chances are you are not going to see these people you worked with for years, and who knows if you ever work with them again, so it’s an interesting dichotomy between the two. I’m not sure which one I like more, but I probably like the TV show route better just because you get to know everyone better, bond with all around you, and there is more stability. I like both. But I’m thinking one day when I have a family, a TV show would be better as opposed to flying all over the place for movies.
RM: How has faith developed in your life from when you were a child to now as an adult navigating your career and the man you continue to become? DH: I meet a lot of people who just don’t believe anything and I read a book many years ago, which actually has nothing to do with faith, but I very much agree with the author Joseph Campbell’s statement, in The Hero’s Journey. In the book someone asks him, “What is the best thing a young person can do?” And I don’t know verbatim what he said but it’s something along the lines of, pick something and believe in it. I think that is one of the biggest problems of our generation is that no one believes in anything and everyone is afraid to make a choice. I say, “Let’s make a choice so that we all believe in the fact that there is something to choose. And then we can debate over accuracies and things like that.” Everyone needs to make a choice in life and as I grow up, my choice gets sharpened and sharpened.
we are trying to do something new that is actually very old; use art for what it was intended to do, elevate the mind and uplift the heart.
RM: This spring you have a couple of films coming out. First up Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 with Kevin James, and is it true your bother also has a role in this sequel? DH: Yes. I star in the film and Lorenzo actually wasn’t supposed to be in it at first, but Kevin James loves Lorenzo and thinks he’s really talented and gave him a role in the film as well. Making this film was so sick. I think Kevin is one of the most gracious, genuine individuals in the entire business. The way he approaches film in general and his crew and everyone around him, and his way of life is just so humble, and almost sacrificial. He makes everyone feel great, he’s always giving opportunities to anyone he can, he believes in the best in everyone and he is just an awesome dude. I can say nothing but great things about Kevin James. RM: Ironically your second film this April re-teams you with Kevin James. It’s called Little Boy and also stars Emily Watson & Tom Wilkinson. Set in WWII, it’s about believing the impossible. A big piece with both your character and the young boy playing your onscreen brother is the testing of faith. Speak to this a bit and then when in your own life have you weathered your faith being tested? DH: The script definitely deals with the subject matter of what you put your belief, or faith, in – yourself, or something greater than you. I think this is an age-old argument, especially philosophically, that people have been having since the beginning of time. They found a really nice way to tell a 28 Risen Magazine
RM: Growing up in the industry you have fended off temptation a little better than some of your twenty-something counterparts. What do you do when you feel tempted to go with the flow or take a path that you know won’t end well? DH: I love reading and I love studying, but I think you just have to stay humble. You have to have foresight. And a virtue that I think our generation lacks is prudence. Prudence is to put universal principles into action. Part of prudence is circumspection to know your surroundings and foresight to be able to see what is happening in the future. If people took time to study virtue like they did 50, 60, 70 years ago, I think a lot of problems would be avoided. I think you stay humble and I’m very close with my family – my brother, mom and dad – and a group of friends that are just awesome. We all try to make each other better and we talk about philosophy, theology and different beliefs. It’s always stimulating conversation and I think I’m lucky to have good buddies who like to talk about things that are bigger than them. RM: I understand you have a few tattoos including scriptures on both arms. Why did you pick Romans 12:2 and Galatians 5:22-23? DH: To be honest, I should’ve never gotten tattoos. I love the scripture and that’s not a mistake, but the tattoos themselves were a mistake. I don’t think I have any right to mark my own body. It’s not something I’m proud of and not something I really want to talk about. The verses are great. I was just a dumb 18-year-old who got tattoos and I wasn’t thinking. RM: So in regards to our younger audience that may be reading this, if tattoos are being considered, you’d say… DH: It’s a big mistake! [Laughing] You will regret it. One hundred percent
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you will regret it. The only reason people get tattoos is for them to be seen by others. If anyone is saying, “I’m getting a tattoo and it’s for me and it’s personal.” Then why put it where everyone else can see it? If it’s really for you, why don’t you keep it inside? [Laughing] RM: You are a crack up David Henrie. Love the candidness! In addition to growing your acting career in film, you also just recently stepped behind the camera to write and direct a short film. How did this passion develop and is it something you’d like to do more of? DH: Oh yes, I absolutely love it. I’m going to be making a feature film toward the end of this year that I wrote. I have some partners and we created a production company called Novo – which in Latin means new – because we are trying to do something new that is actually very old; use art for what it was intended to do, elevate the mind and uplift the heart. We are developing a bunch of stuff and I have some great things down the pipeline. I’m going to continue directing, continue acting and doing whatever I can to create big stories and tell stories that can make a difference.
with the truth; not judge yourself greater or less than you are, but you as you actually are. Humility comes into all different circumstances in life from relationships with your friends; to live in accordance of the truth is to live in accordance with reality. Pride is at the root of any argument, any disagreement, and any wrongdoing. RM: There are many that would look at your life and wish they had similar experiences and opportunities, but what would you say brings you true joy? DH: When I’m doing the right things in life and when I’m not going against what I know to be true and what I know to be good. When things are ordered because peace is the tranquility of order. To be at peace is to be ordered. So when I’m ordered in my life, or doing what I know I should be doing, then I find I am most at peace. Everyone always says happiness is the key and you should be happy, but I don’t think that is the goal. I think the goal should be peace. You can do a lot of things that you don’t like doing, or that don’t necessarily make you happy for the sake of another. Like when a couple is married for 30-40 years, they are not always happy having to sacrifice for the other person but they do it because they love them. They will get peace from it. Everyone places this stress on the emotion of joy, or the emotion of happiness, but it’s not about the emotion. It’s about doing what is right. And peace is the reward. You shouldn’t just do something for the sake of a feeling because feelings come and go.
Everyone always says happiness is the key and you should be happy, but I don’t think that is the goal. I think the goal should be peace.
RM: Speaking of big stories, I read the script for a project you are attached to titled Reagan, about the life of President Ronald Reagan. You will play the younger version of Reagan. What has impacted you most about this actor-turned-politician’s lifestyle and career? DH: I grew up hearing about Reagan and everyone in my family – aunts, uncles, cousins and stuff – everyone was a big Reagan fan. So I always heard quotes by him, and I always had an admiration for him. I always respected a lot of things he stood for so getting the script and getting to dive into him – I’m so stoked! I’m getting to play one of the most-known presidents in our history so it’s going to be really cool to do that. The only thing I’m not looking forward to is wearing those little speedos. [Laughter] The world is going to see parts of me that no one else has seen. I don’t know if you’ve seen Ronald Reagan as a lifeguard, but man, he’s wearing speedos and they are going to be tight. I’m going to have to go on a diet for like eight weeks before that. RM: I read on your twitter account your New Year’s Resolution… the post said, “What’s your New Years resolution? My New Years resolution is to grow in virtue. Specifically humility, and to eliminate pride.” Why is this so important to your growth now? DH: The reason I think I picked those two is that humility is a direct opposite of pride, and pride is the beginning of all defect. Pride is the thing that starts you choosing your will over other people’s will. A lot of old time writers over the past 2000 years of history have talked about pride as the beginning to all sin. Because ultimately it places the importance upon you and what is going on in your life as opposed to others. It can also make you esteem yourself higher, or less than you are. And humility directly contradicts and directly opposes that because to be humble is to live in accordance
RM: You’ve brought up hockey a couple of times as key connecting points in auditions. I have to ask, how did your love for hockey develop living in Arizona?! DH: It’s so weird. The Phoenix Coyotes came into town and my dad took me to some random game and I remember going to the game and seeing Jeremy Roenick play and I thought he was the greatest thing ever. And I asked my dad if I could get on the ice and play hockey and he said, “Sure, but the gear is really expensive so if you are going to play you need to go all out and try your best.” I did. And next thing you know, I was playing travel hockey all around the United States on one of the best teams in the nation. I never really gave up my love for it. I still play.
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From Headstrong to Humble
Brian Bosworth Beats the Odds
Writer: Megan Camaisa Photos: Courtesy of Brian Bosworth
oing from the gridiron to Hollywood was never what Brian “The Boz” Bosworth intended to do when he began his collegiate and NFL career in the 1980’s. Playing for legendary football coach, Barry Switzer at the University of Oklahoma, he quickly became known not only for his talent, but also his outspoken and larger-than-life personality. Despite his outlandish character, Bosworth became a two-time All-American player and was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 1987. His career with the Seahawks would make Bosworth into the now infamous character, “The Boz.” Unfortunately, a shoulder injury would bring his three-year NFL career to a screeching, premature end leaving him to try to recreate himself at a young age. Soon after leaving the NFL, acquaintances wanted to capitalize on “The Boz,” and lured him into Hollywood. Bosworth has made appearances in many films such as The Longest Yard, with Adam Sandler, but never landed any big breakout roles. Living what most would consider a dream life in Malibu, California, Bosworth was losing it all… his family, fortune, mind, and faith. Now, after giving his life to Jesus, Bosworth is a successful star in Christian films. He tells Risen how he turned his life around and about his latest role in the movie Do You Believe?
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: You were an All-American linebacker for the University of Oklahoma and went on to play in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks in the late ‘80s. The Seahawks franchise has had quite a couple of years, with back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. What did you enjoy most about playing, and are you still a fan now? Brian Bosworth: I’m still very much a fan. It’s an emotional rollercoaster to go through a season and start with great expectations, and then they [Seahawks] were down a little bit in the middle of the season. You just got to have faith. Coming from being the previous Super Bowl champion, you know you’re going to get the best of every game that is on the schedule, because everybody wants to knock off the Super Bowl champions. It looked like they were going to create that magic and get wins back-to-back. That last Super Bowl play was a heart crusher. Any time you put any kind of work, and emotion – your heart, and soul, and sweat, and tears, and blood – all that into something then you become connected to it; for me, it’s always been that way. My days didn’t work out as well as I would have liked them to, but a lot of that is on me because of my pride, and where I was at the time, kind of lost. Overall, I’m super thrilled that I was able to watch them. I was just heartbroken that they lost. RM: It certainly seems like the Seahawks have set themselves up to be a top NFL team for years to come.
BB: A lot of it has to come from the leadership that they have. I’m really encouraged that their main leader, [quarterback] Russell Wilson, is a Christian, very focused, and very humble. He’s kind of like a David and Goliath in that world, given the size and stature of all these players that are around him. His heart is so big, and the way he plays above and beyond the game, and the way he handles himself, I think that extends into the organization, it extends on to the field. He helps keep the team focused on the ultimate goal, which is the success of winning as opposed to the success of individual achievements. I think having a leader like that is one of the main reasons why they’re destined to be a contender for the next half-decade, as long as he stays healthy and leadership is always going to be first in his mind. RM: Speaking of the importance of good leadership on a team and Christian influence, when you played in the NFL you were known for your outlandish personality, do you think your behavior would have been the same if you were a believer back then? BB: My intensity on the field would have been the same. My humility would have been…would have just been present. I didn’t have any humility; that’s the one thing that I lacked. Your life is like a high-speed bicycle, and God is the training-wheels that keep you on the straight-and-narrow. Somewhere along the way I decided to take the training wheels off because I felt like I could balance the bike on my own. Sometimes in life we’re just risenmagazine.com 33
so full of pride. It’s very easy to get off track because of distractions, or you listen to other people and you read your own press. You have an inflated vision of yourself. There was an opportunity for me to have a bit of a Christian relationship back then because there were two [NFL] guys that were really heavy into their relationship [with the Lord]. The first one was Steve Largent; he and I spoke briefly. The other one was Eugene Robinson; not quite as deep; more on the surface of it. With Steve, he was so heavy-handed into it, that from where I was, it felt like we were canyons apart. It just felt like I was being force-fed the worst vegetables that you could feed a kid. You can’t force them to eat, you
and thought about particular choices that I was making, whether it be a book, whether it be going on a TV show, whether it would be just a certain way to say a certain. Questioning, “Is that what Jesus would do? Is that the best decision that I can make, or am I making this decision because I’m chasing something that somebody else wants me to chase, because that’s what they feel like I should be doing?” They want me to be more famous, they want me to be more outrageous, they want me to say and do all these other things because the expectation is to make me bigger, and badder, and more well-known. That always bothered me when I was playing. I never liked taking on the external villain role; I didn’t mind playing “the very aggressive football player” because that’s what I was. I always felt uncomfortable having to play this role, where you’ve got to come up with something new, you’ve got to come up with another angle, you’ve got to say something more outrageous, you’ve got to inflame the other side. When you say something, and it comes out of your mouth and you hear it, you go, “Man, that’s not going to be good.”
Your life is like a high-speed bicycle, and God is the training-wheels that keep you on the straight-and-narrow. Somewhere along the way I decided to take the training wheels off because I felt like I could balance the bike on my own. Sometimes in life we’re just so full of pride. have to bring them along. Where I was, I think I was so far gone; it would have taken years. I was humbled with an injury and I think that was my first test, and I failed miserably. When players get hurt, they get depressed. I was depressed a lot while I was up there [in the NFL], especially the first year. I was depressed because I didn’t seem to be able to do anything right in order to make everybody happy, then I got hurt. The second year it seemed like I couldn’t do anything right on the field to make anybody happy. It just seemed like I was in a state of darkness and I didn’t have anybody to lean on. It would have been nice to have had a relationship with Jesus to lean on, so that I understood that I’m not in it alone. It doesn’t mean that the struggles that you go through aren’t going to be there, but they’re going to be handled much differently because you’ve got somebody to basically hand them off to, and refocus what your mission is and you’ll be grateful for it. In my vision, I would have slowed down instead of sped up. I sped up my own ending of my career. Had I slowed down, it might have, in some ways, facilitated a better relationship with Jesus; just getting a relationship started. It would have hopefully put that seed of humility into me and made me realize how delicate this gift [of football] is and how quickly it can be taken away. I think in those days, I was abusing the gift for fame and fortune and gain that wasn’t real gain, it was kind of false gain. At the same time, a lot of those decisions were made by people that I had allowed around me, to help guide where I was going. Instead, if I had a strong relationship with Jesus, I would have sat back 34 Risen Magazine
RM: You have said publically that you had a longstanding feud with God during your NFL years and beyond. Has that feud been resolved and what started that battle? BB: That feud carried on until 2013. That feud was not only about my Heavenly Father, but it also included my earthly father. There was a lot of darkness and depression; hurt and anger and frustration circled my heart. I felt like this was just who I was going to end up being because that was the role model that was my father. I figured the DNA is already in there. You basically mimic the behavior of those that you’ve been around, and are around. You have to be around your parents, even if you don’t agree with what your parents are doing. There was a lot of contradiction in my life that I was going through, especially in the ‘90s, and then couple that with severe physical pain that I was in the entire decade of the ‘90s, up until the early part of 2000. I understand how people get mad and they get aggressive against God. Physical pain, especially when you feel like it’s an unnecessary burden or cross you have to bear because you don’t know why it’s become part of your life. You tend to want to point the finger someplace and most people, the last place they’ll point a finger is in the mirror. They’ll point it to God, they’ll point to their spouse, they’ll point it to their workmates, somebody who’s done them wrong, but they won’t ever point it to themselves until the very end. RM: In your testimony, you said when you signed on as part of the cast of Revelation Road, you had a negative connotation of Christian movies. You were in the midst of this feud and through your role in the film you actually reconciled your relationship with Jesus. How did the healing process occur during the film? BB: It wasn’t so much through the course of the film. I think things started
Bill Goldberg and Brian Bosworth on set of The Longest Yard (2005)
to stir up a little bit over the course of the film. If I was to put it in some sort of analogy or visualization, I started the film, basically, either stuck in mud or frozen in time, just knowing I was where I was because that’s where I accepted where I was. In the role in Revelation Road, when I read the script, I just realized that character was exactly who I was. It was all of the hurt and the anger, and the frustration, and the hatred from my past, but I didn’t realize that until I took the film on the road and started doing a screening in Oklahoma. I woke up one morning and kind of had a premonition or dream or whatever you call it, and felt like this [the role] had been laid upon me. I have to do this; I don’t know why, but I have to do it. Through the course of the screening process and going back home and talking to people, I saw their reactions, and found that other people had similar stories and experiences with life. I wasn’t the only one that was angry and I wasn’t the only one that was frustrated. By meeting those people, I could tell that there was something that they had that I didn’t have; they had peace. My pastor actually helped me break the walls down, Tim Hayes in Chickasha. He had a saying; he said to me, “ You think this is accidental that you’re here in Chickasha, Oklahoma, and all these things have happened? You think it’s a coincidence that all these things are happening to you? That you’re at this moment, or do you think there is a higher power? Do you think it’s providential that these things are happening because He’s brought you to this place?” I think the movie helped plant that seed and started stirring things up and loosening the concrete that I had put myself into, and helped break down that wall. It wasn’t until I came into fellowship with others around me that I could see that happening and they helped me recognize it. They risenmagazine.com 35
36 Risen Magazine
invited me in basically saying, “It’s okay. We understand all the bad stuff that’s happened in your life, and we’ll accept you one hundred percent. We’ll accept you just the way that you are.” I think that was the defining moment for me. RM: You’ve gone on now to do multiple Christian movies including your current role in, Do You Believe? Your character helps others and brings about change for the better. What was that first step in your own life that helped you to choose change? BB: Recognizing where I was. I use this mantra as part of my journey – four questions I ask myself, “Where are you from? Where are you at currently in your life? Where do you hope to go?” And, “What are you willing to give up to get there?” That mantra is kind of how I realized that I was lost, I mean truly lost. Knowing that you’re lost and accepting that you’re lost is a big step. I just think people get lazy and complacent in the fact that they live their life and this is as good as it’s going to get, so I’m just going to be okay with it. If I’m lost, I’m lost, whatever. They’re afraid to do anything about it because they don’t really know what to do about it. They don’t know that there is something that can be done about it, but they have to choose to recognize it. That first step for me was understanding that I was lost, and knowing where I am. RM: Your character also shows extreme kindness and selflessness to a homeless mother and her daughter. Has anyone ever shown you that amount of compassion and what lesson did you take from it? BB: Right after my career ended in Seattle I really didn’t know where to go. My agent kind of convinced me and said, “Hey, come out here [to California] and we’re going to make movies and stuff, and that’s how we’ll resurrect your career.” I was very, very uncomfortable with doing it because I never ever thought of myself as an actor; I always thought of myself as just an athlete, because that’s what I trained for my entire life. This to me was like stepping into foreign territory, trying to fill a void in your life with the wrong stuff, for the wrong reasons. He wanted to do it because he wanted to capitalize on my name and fame. I felt going in that it was going to be a tremendous struggle because of the negativity that was surrounding me at the time, this is back in the early ‘90s. To me, this is where I think the biggest part of being lost is, in recognizing when you feel like you’re entitled to something, and that you should be looked at as a higher being or looked at as a better person. I decided I would build this gigantic 15,000 square foot house on this hill overlooking the ocean. I felt that I’m entitled to do that because I’m “’The Boz” and I live in Malibu, California. The entire time I was building the house, anything that could go wrong went wrong – bad builder, people stealing money, people not doing their jobs right. Just every sign telling you that this is the worst decision that you’re making, but you keep on going with it. It
got to the point where we finished the house and I’m sitting in this giant house, looking over the ocean and I thought; “Now I’ll be happy.” But I was miserable. I had everything that I thought I wanted. I had the nice cars and the big house. The whole time I’m thinking I should be ecstatic, but yet I’m miserable; I hate it. I felt like I was trapped in this giant prison that I just built for myself. This big temple, that’s the temple of Boz that I don’t need, and I don’t want, but here I have it and I’m stuck with it. Then I began to lose everything. I’d chosen to get a divorce; I knew that
You tend to want to point the finger someplace and most people, the last place they’ll point a finger is in the mirror. They’ll point it to God, they’ll point to their spouse, they’ll point it to their workmates, somebody who’s done them wrong, but they won’t ever point it to themselves until the very end. would be a terrible, emotional and difficult time for my family. I’ve can’t sell the house because there was a drug rehab home [on the street complicating sales], my divorce turned bitter real fast, and my financial advisor tells me I don’t have any funds left, so now I’m going broke real fast; it’s all going to be gone. But to answer your question, I was helping out some friends that were opening up a restaurant, and I ended up getting a DUI that night, right in the middle of a custody battle, which my ex-wife took complete advantage of. Then I get a call from my coach’s wife who saw me on TMZ, and said, “I’m so sorry that happened to you. I have a gentleman friend that would like to pay for your attorney’s defense, in your DUI, because it’s going to cost you.” It costs like $10,000, or $15,000, whatever it is. I was like, “Really? Why would he do that?” She said, “He just wants to.” I had met this man one time at a golf event. He and I chatted, but we really didn’t get into it like, hey man, let’s exchange numbers and be long-life friends. It was just a one-time deal and he reached out to me this time. I called him up and I thanked him. I asked him why he would do that. He said something to me that was pretty earth shattering. He said, “ You know, we love you and we just want to help you come home.” This is 2007, so this is long before I ever even thought about a relationship with God. The wall around my heart was good, and thick and strong. I said, “Brother, if I could get home, I would. I’d leave in a minute; I just can’t. I’ve got this house anchored around my legs and it’s pulling me straight down to the bottom of the ocean and I can’t do anything about it.” He asked me, “Well, what do you need?” I kind of explained I was going through this risenmagazine.com 37
divorce, and it’s ugly, and we’re fighting over everything, I got a house on a drug rehab street. I said, “I’m slowly losing everything. I’m buying time here. I really don’t know what to do. I’m doing whatever I can to survive.” He said, “Why don’t I help you. Why don’t we take the one thing that you have left that has any value? Why don’t we just take that off the plate so you can stop fighting [in the divorce and custody] because that’s the first thing you need to do is stop fighting and realize there’s nothing to fight over. You guys just need to move on with your lives because your kids are becoming affected by it.”
RM: Your personal story definitely will impact others. How do you hope your character from Do You Believe? will impact audiences? BB: His main goal is to really help plant seeds and save as many souls as he possibly can, because he does live with a lot of regret, as all humans do. What he doesn’t have is resentment. That’s the difference between where I used to be and where I am now. I used to have not only tons and tons of regret, but I used to be full of resentment. You can’t be an effective Christian if you have any resentment at all, because your heart is constantly battling that resistance, the resentment of your past. Your past is gone; there’s nothing you can do about it. What you can do is you can help others by letting them see that you don’t have resentment. That’s the beauty about the framework of the film. We so delicately intertwine our lives that you don’t know how you’re going to affect another person, whether you know them or you don’t know them, until that moment that your paths cross. You can help people or you can hurt people; those are your two choices as you go through life. You can walk through Starbucks and be angry at the person in front of you because they cut in front of you, or you can let that anger go. People just don’t realize the affect that others have on them through the course of the day, and I think that’s what I wanted my character to really do, is just leave people with a sense of hope, that there is hope in mankind and everybody has that power to provide hope to anybody at any time.
My life is completely opposite of the way it used to be. For years in Malibu, I lived in beach houses, and really nice homes, and then the big mansion on the hill, and for the last seven years I have lived in little condos, and I live in a little 1,300 square foot, three bedroom condo in Austin, Texas. Then he ostensibly just bought my house. He said, “I’ll buy the house and we’ll partner on it. We’ll figure out a way to get it fixed and then we’ll sell it.” For somebody to come in that didn’t know me at all, to take that kind of risk; he just took a great step with me and said, “ You know, I believe in you. If this is what we’ve got to do, then let’s get it done.” It worked out. We got it fixed, and got it sold and I paid him back plus, plus. From that moment on, I was free to leave. He said, “So, what do you want to do?” I said, “My biggest fear is I don’t want to just leave my kids.” So I hung around my kids for an extra year, and then realized that the only way that I was going to move forward and be an effective father would be to get back up on my feet and start churning again. I’ve got to start working; I’ve got to start doing something. At that moment is when I got the movie [Revelation Road]. RM: God has definitely put you on a path and placed people in your life for a reason. How do you approach life differently now? BB: My life is completely opposite of the way it used to be. For years in Malibu, I lived in beach houses, and really nice homes, and then the big mansion on the hill, and for the last seven years I have lived in little condos, and I live in a little 1,300 square foot, three bedroom condo in Austin, Texas, and that’s mainly because my son is here, and I get to raise my son through high school. I just realized you don’t need all that stuff. You don’t need to go get a new car just because a new car is out there; you don’t need a new shiny this, or a big square foot that; you don’t need all that stuff to be happy. The only thing you really need is just to be reminded that the moments that you have are gifts and to enjoy those gifts. It’s really kind of a humbling lesson to say, “ You know what, I’m thankful for what I have, instead of thankful for what I think I’m supposed to have.” 38 Risen Magazine
RM: What would you say to people that try to dismiss God’s transforming love with science instead of faith? BB: I would pray that they would have that moment of realization when they take in that first deep breath of God’s air and their heart actually fills up with His emotion, that they would immediately get it; there’s no science to that. People can come up with whatever scientific theory they want to come up with, but on that day, on March 3, 2013, when I sat down and gave all my anger to Jesus I wasn’t drinking a funny cup of coffee, and I didn’t have a prescription pill, and there wasn’t any lightening bolt or standing up… it was just me standing in the middle of the high school, outside the auditorium, with three gigantic redneck, Oklahoma boys and a Baptist preacher. It’s funny. People go, “I want to be saved,” and they try to set it up, this fancy place. You can’t dress up being saved. When you get saved, it’s going to happen in the place you least expect it, at the time you least expect it, but in the moment that you most need it. RM: From sports to acting, both careers allow you to have a sphere of influence. What responsibility do you now feel when it comes to using your fame positively? BB: I’ve always wanted to use my fame positively. Even when I was playing the villain role, I guess, in the football stuff; that was all for the show
and fodder for whatever money-maker-machine-thing that my agent had on the table at the time. I always tried to take the time out to spend some time with kids. When I was at Oklahoma I had a very special relationship with a kid that had a heart disease, and he had to have multiple heart surgeries and they didn’t expect him to live. He and I ended up having a very strong, solid relationship all through the time I was at Oklahoma. I think he was probably eight or nine years old at the time. We still stay in touch. He’s alive, and healthy and happy and now has a family. I loved to see the impact. It’s strange that people still recognize me, even though I don’t think I look anything like I did back in those days. People come up all the time and they’re inspired by the way I did things. They knew that I had passion. They may, or may not, have been a fan because the of things I said, or the way I did things, but they all appreciated the way I did what I did on the field, so they got that. My biggest concern was I hated playing a villain because I hated disappointing people on the character front. I never felt like that’s really who I am, you guys don’t really know who I am or where I come from. I think that’s why the 30 for 30 [ESPN Films short] piece kind of helped explain a little bit about the misconceptions of who I was, the manufactured part of who I was was just that, manufactured. It was manufactured for a purpose, not necessarily one I agreed with, but I went along with, which means if I go along with it, that means I have to own it. I don’t mind owning it, but that doesn’t mean that’s who I have to be. I can change that part of it and change it for what I think is the best part, the best decision. That’s kind of what I do now. I kind of preach that to my son and any other kids that I come in contact with. I give them the mantra; just make your next decision your best decision. risenmagazine.com 39
â&#x20AC;&#x2039;(l-r) Andrea Salzburn & Felicia Durling
Even a Paralyzing Bullet Can’t Keep This Decorated Military Couple from
in Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photos: Courtesy of Romy Camargo
rowing up, Chief Warrant Officer Romulo “Romy” Camargo went to Venezuela every summer. His dad is a native of the country, and his mom a native of Colombia. On one of his trips at the age 12, he met his future wife Gaby. In fact, at 14 years old he gave Gaby her first kiss. But it wasn’t until a lot of life had been lived, and more than a decade later, when the two would get together and marry in September of 2006. Little did they know that same month, just two years later there would be an injury forever altering their lives. On that fateful day in 2008, during a firefight in southern Afghanistan, a bullet tore through the neck of Camargo damaging his spinal cord and leaving this U.S. Army Ranger and Chief Warrant Officer with Special Forces paralyzed from the shoulders down. Amazingly still in active duty, Camargo has almost 20 years in the Army and will retire this spring. Risen talked with the Camargo’s to learn more about the sacrifice and constant care needed, and the many hours required to get ready on what they call “long days.” Their story shows how God has been with them and continues to go before them every step of the way, and their determination to help others through the opening of their own spinal cord injury recovery center in Tampa, Florida.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in Temecula, California
Risen Magazine: Take me back to your early military days. Had you always wanted to be in the Army and what did the first decade of your career look like? Romy Camargo: I always wanted to be in the military since I saw my brothers graduate U.S. Army Airborne School when I was in about sixth or seventh grade. So as I graduated high school I tried to do the college thing, but my heart was set on being in the military. On April 6th of 1995, I entered the Army as a Communications Specialist, and then went on to Airborne School and the Ranger Indoctrination Program. After I graduated I was stationed in Savannah at Hunter Army airfield at the 1st Battalion 75th Ranger Regiment. From there I was groomed as a young Ranger and leader. In 2000, I was stationed at 1st Battalion 7th Special Forces Group where I was a Communication Sergeant. As the war started, my career began to peak upwards and I took my first trip to Afghanistan in 2005 for eight months. I was then selected to be a Special Forces Warrant Officer, and on September 16, 2008, I got injured. RM: Talk to me about that deployment to Afghanistan when you were
wounded. What type of mission were you doing when your detachment was ambushed? RC: We were doing a humanitarian mission. Our mission was in support of a much larger mission that my unit was doing farther north of us. We were helping a village so we had a doctor with us, two nurses, a female interpreter, and a veterinarian tech as well as a bucket loader that would help rebuild a road for them [villagers] to be able to go on the main route to Qalat City so they could travel without IEDs [improvised explosive devices] or the Afghan forces trying to get to them. When the bucket loader flipped over, we had to change the mission, and then we were ambushed. While the ambush was going on I received a bullet wound to the back of the head that paralyzed me instantly. My medic came and did an emergency tracheotomy, stabilized me, and got me out of the battlefield. RM: You take a bullet to the neck. In the time your team was assisting you and you flew to get medical attention in Washington, DC, what were you thinking? Or was it all a blur until you heard what had happened? RC: That three-day period for me was a blur. The only thing I remember risenmagazine.com 41
believe in God. And I know that he is going to be okay and he is going to be my best gift because my birthday is in three days and he will be here.” And thank God, Romulo arrived on my birthday.
e are not just providing a service, we are healing people that are living in a horrible situation and in need of hope and faith. was that I woke up in the plane flying from Germany to Washington, D.C., and I really didn’t know where I was or what was going on, but I remember seeing my brother next to me in the plane. I thought, “Whoa. My brother is supposed to be in Denmark.” And here I am lying in a bed and I’m seeing him next to me. So I really thought I had died and I was making the trip to Heaven. I didn’t see any lights, I just saw my brother and I thought, “Man, something is going on here.” Then I arrived at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington, D.C., and I landed on my wife’s birthday. For me it was touch-and-go as far as what was going on. RM: Gaby, how did you hear the news of what had happened to your husband and how did you initially handle it? Gaby Camargo: One of Romy’s friends [who was asked by Romulo to be in charge should anything happen to him] called me and asked, “Gaby, where are you at?” I was out doing something and I said, “I’m not at home but what happened?” And he said, “I need to talk to you.” Immediately I felt something weird in my body and asked if everything was oaky. He said, “ Yea, yea, everything is okay. I just need to give you a package.” And I remember telling him, “I will be there in 25 minutes.” Then he came to my door with two more military people and immediately I knew something had happened. They said, “Gaby we need to talk to you.” And I remember saying, “Is Romy okay? Just tell me he is okay.” And then they explained what happened and that Romulo got shot. And I remember asking them if he was stable. And they told me, “We don’t know yet and we will call you as soon as we have any news about it.” So of course I was crying and was in shock. Then about 45 minutes later, they called me and said, “Romy is stable and on his way to another hospital.” I remember telling them when they were at my house, “Look at me. I 42 Risen Magazine
RM: Romy, the doctors said you were lucky to be alive and that you would never walk again, but you didn’t just accept that news. Talk me about the road to physical and mental recovery? RC: I don’t remember the exact date they told me I was paralyzed. I just took it day by day as to what was going on and I was trying to learn to breathe again. We left Walter Reed on October 23 and we came here to Tampa to James A. Haley VA Hospital and that’s when I began my rigorous physical rehabilitation, and entered my new style of living – which basically included a lot of physical therapy and stretching to stay limber and mobile. As a young Ranger we are always told that surrender is not a Ranger word and we are taught always to be motivated and proactive in all we did. So I took that into consideration in what I was going to be living. Before I was working out to look good, feel good and be strong, but now I am working out for my body to feel good as far as no pain, no pneumonia, and to stay very healthy. Once I started to stabilize in the hospital, that is when I took control of my care. I started doing research on my injury, I started finding out what was happening with the paralysis – took charge of my respiratory gene, took charge of my nursing care, and motivated myself to wake up every day to do physical therapy and this will be my lifestyle for as long as it takes me. That’s when I found our Lord Jesus Christ and I started believing in the promises that He gave us. Through my injury I asked my wife to pray for me, and asked her to sing me songs that she sang to my son. RM: Talk to me more about finding faith, and Gaby, I’d love to hear from you on this as well. What role have your relationships with God played in this journey? GC: The Lord has always been the key to everything. I am not a new Christian; I’ve been one since I can remember. Now that it has been more than six years since Romulo’s injury, I can tell you that He was preparing me to live this. I remember being with Romulo at the hospital and telling him, “Let’s read the Bible.” And at the beginning he would say, “Ah, Gaby, maybe later.” And I was praying for him every single day, “God show him. Show him why he isn’t, because I believe in You and Your power. Show him this God that is powerful.” It’s not on me to change his mind and the way that he sees life, but I know that God can do it. And HE did it. Since then we are a very strong family and I always say that our relationship is better now than before. We have been married for 14 years, but even under the circumstances of living with this situation every day, I can tell you we have better communication and are better human beings; both of us. I know God is using us to help others that don’t have the same blessing that we have. We created Stay in Step, a spinal cord injury recovery center in Tampa, Florida, and I see this as the way that God is using us to help others. We are not just providing a service, we are healing people that are living in a horrible situation and in need hope and faith. It’s more than just the rehabilitation aspect. RM: Gaby, you had said that you believe Romy’s injury was part of a bigger plan to make a bigger impact. Were you able to have this faith and optimism right from the start or did it take a bit to see it unfold? GC: It’s unbelievable. I can talk to you for hours about this. My husband may look the same, but he is not, he is a new man. Let me say just a little bit about Romulo’s personality before the accident. I’m not going to say he was hyper, but he was energetic all the time. He was always doing something
center to talk and share and there will be a separate kid’s room for the kids.
t is something more powerful than us. I am never going to take credit, this is the Lord Jesus Christ using us for His purpose. We are His instruments. all day long. It was very hard for him to concentrate just to watch a movie. He was very active. So to see my husband after the accident, just sitting, paralyzed from his shoulders down, and each day he is not depressed, or desperate; he’s telling me with his eyes that he is not afraid. I see God every day inside of him. Because this not Romulo. Now he is learning to wait, and he is calm. It is something more powerful than us. I am never going to take credit, this is the Lord Jesus Christ using us for His purpose. We are His instruments. When the idea came with this spinal cord injury recovery center, I told Romulo, “We can’t be selfish.” If we have the opportunity to help others, then why not? In our programs at the center we are integrating the family. In this center that will open in spring, we will be providing physical therapy but at the same time we are integrating the family to our programs. We are creating valuable support because we know this is about family. Paralysis is a family issue. Yes, the person is living with the spinal cord injury, but we have to take care of the caregiver as well. There will be family group support for all the members – spouse, parents, sibling – they will have a place at the 44 Risen Magazine
RM: The center sounds amazing. A number of people have good intentions but fail when it comes to execution, so how did Stay in Step transition from a dream to a reality? RC: Let me step back to 2011. I was the first active duty service member to travel overseas to receive nerve regeneration stem-cell surgery in Lisbon, Portugal. It’s called Olfactory Mucosa Autografts surgery and was done by Dr. Carlos Lima, who passed away in 2012. I was able to brief this sixteenman panel that the Surgeon General of the Army put together for me to state my case and tell them why I wanted to have the surgery. So I came back from the surgery, and the key to the surgery is the intense rehabilitation you have to do after the surgery. I had to rehab five days a week, two to three hours a day. About two months after going for rehab, Gaby came to me one night in our room and we were talking and she said, “ You know what Romulo? We can do this. We can set up our own center here in Tampa.” I thought it was a crazy idea and I told her she was nuts. I told her it was too much to take on but she was adamant about it. We talked to a couple of people that we thought were key to its success and they backed us. We came up with the name, Stay in Step, which is a military term when you are marching. Once we made the announcement, the past year has been a lot of growth and learning as we are integrating our vision for this rehabilitation center with a recreational room and kid’s room [set to open this spring]. The kid’s room is important because when we were in the hospital we had an 18-month-old son who didn’t have anywhere to go, or anywhere to play. He was always stuck in my room, and we had a big bathroom in the room so he would play there with all of his toys. Gaby knew this and wanted to integrate the kid’s room into this rehabilitation center. This isn’t just my injury, this is a family injury; this affects everybody. So we are going to provide excellent activity-based, exercise-based physical therapy and we are going to integrate everybody. It’s been more than six years since my injury and we are better off now – spiritually, physically, and mentally. RM: What advice would you give to someone who seems to be in an impossible situation, where they are having difficulty seeing the good or bigger picture? What have you found keeps you encouraged through the overwhelming times? RC: To stay strong and stay committed – committed to yourself, committed to your family and committed faithfully. Because if you are mentally weak and you can’t handle this, the body is going to follow. You have to stay mentally strong and keep working on getting better because if you are not healthy, then your family and relationships will not be healthy. The biggest thing we have is God, the next thing we have is commitment to each other, and you need to have a strong commitment to yourself because I need to be healthy to be a good father, husband, and brother. There is always someone out there to help and you are not alone in this process.
For more information go to www.StayInStep.org
From Basketball Player and Model to Mentor
Writer: Kelli Gillespie Photography: Rob Springer
any kids enter the world of sports and decide they want to be a professional player. It’s a dream that the largest percentage never come close to attaining. But Willie Briscoe was different. His entry came about as a means to keep him out of trouble. Not only did he have no desire to play basketball, he didn’t even know the game. But as a young boy, a teacher saw his potential which could offer Briscoe a path for an education and profession. At 6’6”, he went on to excel in high school and later played in college, but a change in heart made him leave the sport, not returning for ten years. But what happened during that decade of non-play? As a model double for such NBA players as Michael Jordon, David Robinson and others, Briscoe launched into a different career. Risen sat down with this talented guy to talk about his take on the game, family, faith and his current foundation that focuses on mentoring disadvantaged youth.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: How did your love for sports, and especially basketball, develop? Willie Briscoe: In sixth grade I was running around, and I wasn’t a bad kid, but I was running around with kids that were bad. We got in trouble one day after school and the other two guys I was with got suspended. But the teacher said he saw something in me and that he had a different plan for me. He saw that I was tall and gangly and he said that he was going to start a basketball team. He said, “ You’re poor...”, I was on free/reduced lunch and welfare and everything. And he said, “ You’re going to go grow and basketball is going to be the way you pay your way through college.” Instead of getting in trouble, I got put on a basketball team. He was a Polish teacher that I called Mr. S. That’s where my love for basketball started. I didn’t know how to shoot; I didn’t know rules of the basketball court; I didn’t know any of that. I was laughed at pr obably my first two years of playing, but I kept growing. Then I went to a prestigious basketball high school where A.C. Green [3-time NBA Champion] and Richard Washington [NBA Player] went. Guys a lot older than you and I, but A.C. Green really left a basketball and spiritual legacy at the high school. Benson [Polytechnic in Portland, Oregon] is the high school that I went to. I got cut as a freshman. The coach said, “If you get cut, come and talk to me and I’ll tell you why so you can work on it and try to make it next year.” I went and talked to him. He looked at me, he looked at my feet – I had big feet – and was kind of tall and he says, “I didn’t mean to cut you.” We had twenty
five players on the freshman team and I was on the fifth string. I was still horrible as a basketball player. The Lakers won the national championship that year and at the end of the school year, A.C. Green and Magic Johnson came back to talk to our high school team. Magic challenged us and said, “Make goals.” So I made a goal to start varsity my sophomore year after being a fifth-string freshman. All summer long I just busted it – shooting and playing into the night light in Portland, Oregon. [When the weather got colder, I had] a little sheltered place where I just worked on my game and three games into my sophomore year, I was starting as a sophomore on varsity. I continued to grow and so did my love for basketball, but I wasn’t a Christian, so I had a love/hate relationship. I played because I was tall, I played because I was good, but I didn’t really have real passion for playing. I had a successful high school career, but didn’t have good grades, so I was what they called a “Prop 48 Student” and I decided to go the junior college route. I played two years of junior college ball in Salem, Oregon and won a championship. The first thought that came in my mind was, “I’m so glad I don’t have practice tomorrow.” It just so happened that I left basketball for ten years. RM: So you lead your junior college to a championship in 1989, you are feeling burned out on the sport, but why take 10 years off? And what did you do with yourself during that decade gap? risenmagazine.com 47
Willie Briscoe in a PowerAde Advertisement
Michael Jordan and Willie Briscoe
land and I came back down and played. I had a really successful two years at Point Loma at age thirty. A lot of pain, but we had a lot of success.
One of the many advertisements using Willie Briscoe as an athletic model
WB: Between the ten years apart, I made money being an athletic model for Nike, for Powerade. I guess the highlight is that I was Michael Jordan’s double for Nike. Did that, made a lot of money, had a lot of fun. I was still recruited for those ten years and at age thirty came back to play at Point Loma Nazarene University [in San Diego, California]. A professor at Point Loma saw a poster that I had autographed for someone of me and Michael Jordan playing basketball. The coach at Point Loma contacted me. I took one look at the campus and said, “ Yeah.” I was in Port48 Risen Magazine
RM: I’m curious about your goal setting. Was your personality always the type that if you set a goal, you would try to achieve it? Like as a sophomore starting for the varsity team, or was that more isolated to sports? WB: No, I think unfortunately I am motivated by negative reinforcement. I was raised by a single black mom with four kids in the 60s and 70s. Negative reinforcement, being told I couldn’t do something or I wasn’t able to succeed at something, drove me to really work ten times harder than the guy next to me. Starting this ministry, Hope Leadership Foundation (HLF), has been that same challenge. I started it with my last $1,500 in my account. There have been a lot of challenges that would have caused me to give up, but it’s worth it. It’s worth pushing through. But yes, that’s probably, to a fault, my personality to be ignited by “against the odds” or negative reinforcement. Growing up without a father, not having many voices around me other than the voice in my head, which would be God. RM: You had mentioned earlier in your basketball career, in your first stint, that you weren’t a believer. How did you come to know the Lord and make that a real part of your life? WB: When I was away from basketball for almost ten years, at age twentyeight, right after I got saved, I began to have a burdened heart and a strong desire to play basketball. I had completely left the athletic modeling world
and all of a sudden I get a call to do a job. I kept getting the same call; it was a direct booking. They wanted me, so I finally took the job... and it was to be David Robinson’s double. So I’m fasting and praying and the Lord begins to tell me that I’m going to play basketball again. I’m living in Orange County, and I go up to Los Angeles to UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion to shoot a Gillette Foam commercial. Tim Duncan’s rookie year, or sophomore year, and David Robinson and we’re shooting a “rookie versus the veteran” commercial. I’m David Robinson. I come out of my RV and David Robinson comes out of his RV and we’re dressed head to toe alike. Here’s the only guy that I knew as a Christian basketball player and the Lord says to me, “ You’re going to play basketball again.” Finally playing basketball, and having a heart for playing basketball, matched up because I had a purpose of playing to glorify God as opposed to glorifying myself. It would only be within weeks that I would get the call from Point Loma because someone saw the poster up on the wall. It blows me away to this day to think about. I was double for several NBA players – Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, David Robinson, and several Portland Trail Blazers. But I had left the field all together and my phone just kept blowing up to take this one last job. And God confirmed that I was going to be playing basketball again.
and I lied and said, “I’m going back to college and so I can’t talk to you about playing professionally.” When in reality, I had no desire to go back to college. But the idea of playing eighty-two basketball games a year, and playing when I didn’t have my priorities right, and I wasn’t playing for the Lord – it seemed like a nightmare to me. I wanted to play, I liked playing and I liked being good at basketball, but I didn’t have the passion at that season of my life. I wish I would’ve had Christ because I might’ve had a different passion and played for a different reason, then I might have pursued playing professionally. RM: Once you became a Christian, how did you see yourself change because you had a relationship with Christ? WB: That was interesting. The baseball player Heath Bell and I talk about this. I used to play angry, like I said, with negative reinforcement. I used to pick out guys in the city that people said were better than me and I would just envision myself working twice as hard in the weight room, and on the court, or whatever. For twenty plus years I played angry and I played with something to prove. When I came back at age thirty to basketball, I was searching for a motivation that would get me to that height. I had a hard time finding it. I wasn’t mad at anybody anymore. Which doesn’t mean that you don’t compete hard and you’re not tough, but it took me awhile to figure that out. It took a lot of prayer and a lot finding how to play for the Lord. That was the biggest transition because it used to be me against the world and now it wasn’t against the world anymore. What is going to be my target? What is going to be my focal point? I used to be fueled by negative emotions and now it’s like, how do you go out and be dominant and love? But I was able to understand that God wants us to do our best, which is something I would try to instill in kids – whatever you’re doing, God wants us to do our best. He wants us to try our hardest and put our best effort on the floor every time in practice and games. That was able to motivate me. But it did take a shift in thinking, a big shift in thinking.
avid Robinson was autographing basketballs with Scriptures. He was so busy, so then the kids would run to me and then I would pull out my Bible and share the actual verse and read it to them and tell them what it meant.
RM: Did you ever get a chance to talk with any of those Christian NBA players outside of working with them? Was there any encouragement or conversation, or was the way they led their lives impressionable enough? WB: Just the way David led his life. I remember on the set that couple of days, David Robinson was autographing basketballs with Scriptures. He was so busy, so then the kids would run to me and then I would pull out my Bible and share the actual verse and read it to them and tell them what it meant. Plus growing up on the same city block and going to the same high school as A.C. Green, you knew what he stood for. It was a legacy that he left. The only person I really had a lot of time to talk about faith in basketball with was probably Meadowlark Lemon [Basketball Hall-of-Famer]; long car drives or just sitting at meals and being able to soak up a man who’s been around the world a few times and shared the Gospel with a lot of people. RM: When you were doing the commercial and print work, I imagine that would be a pretty enticing field. Were there times where you would get caught up in thinking you were like the professional athletes? WB: Right after college I got invited to the Portland Trail Blazers training camp but I didn’t want to play basketball for awhile. I was in the camp and playing at a high level with Hall-of-Famer’s like Clyde Drexler and Danny Ainge. But I was so twisted in my thinking, not being a Christian yet and management was asking me who my agent was and who represented me
RM: Speaking of kids, did you always know that once you finally stepped off the court for the final time that you would start a foundation? WB: I used to be very sad about not having a clear, natural calling if it wasn’t athletics. Some people are gifted at music. I did a lot of jobs, even during that ten years out, I did a lot of jobs and I excelled and did well in all of them. I didn’t know that ten years of doing those types of jobs in the nonprofit world, and my athletic background, would come together to form Hope Leadership Foundation. I used to look at it as a negative that I didn’t have a clear burning desire to be a doctor. But then all of my life experiences came together in creating the ministry of Hope Leadership Foundation – I was a drug and alcohol counselor for a few years, I worked with kids in the youth prison systems, I worked in prevention – which is kind of like what we do at HLF, we try to prevent kids from going down that road. I worked risenmagazine.com 49
Willie Briscoe with kids for Hope Leadership Foundation Camps and Academy
in all these different areas and I did well in them, but I didn’t want to be a “lifer” in any one of those jobs. It all came together when God began to give me the vision of Hope Leadership Foundation. RM: Hope Leadership has different aspects to it, like mentorship, events, after school activities, and sports. How did it develop to where it is now? WB: The two aspects of HLF are outreach, and the Academy. Outreach is how we introduce ourselves to the community and it’s how we do our largest evangelistic aspects. Our outreaches can be from 50 kids to more than 3,500 kids. It could be anything from a basketball or baseball camp, to a backpack drive, or free football physicals for kids. We’ve done a lot of different things and what we want is to be a blessing in the community. It’s also to provide a place for single parents to drop their kids off, especially in summer and spring breaks. It’s a larger net that helps us grab a hold of kids and also direct them towards the Academy. The Academy is our bread and butter. It took us four years to get that off the ground. There was a lot of pain and a lot of heartache, but that’s where we’re actually really getting the ability to put our hands around a kid and have several hours a week to impact them. We help them in tutoring for their education and giving them a mindset that’s outside of the square block that they live in – giving them hope for their future. Most of these kids will be first generation college graduates that we work with and probably 75 percent come out of fatherless homes, so they don’t have much positive male interaction. All of our kids come out of homes that live below the poverty line. I hate to say it, but most of these kids’ parents either clean someone’s house or they cut someone’s yard for a living. We want them to dream bigger than that, maybe be a business owner one day. But most importantly, 50 Risen Magazine
that they would know the Lord and their calling for their life, and that they wouldn’t have an excuse for not fulfilling their calling in their life. When I first started this ministry, I had to struggle. Then the Lord gave me Malachi 4:6. God says, “I will give you a Prophet Elijah and that Prophet Elijah will turn the hearts of children to their fathers and fathers to their children.” And if you think about the importance of that, those were the last words spoken before 400 years of silence. Those are the last two verses of the Old Testament which shows how important fatherlessness is to God. I grew up in that situation. I know what these kids face. I wanted to provide an atmosphere where those kids would have no excuses. I could do it against a lot of odds and I can provide a road map for some of these kids to be successful in life and be eased by God Almighty. RM: When it comes to your background, are you open with the kids about it? Meaning do they know that you were in a similar situation as them and God has been able to lead you to where you are at today? WB: I share with the kids a lot of my story and that’s a whole other story. My father left when I was probably four or five years old. I reconnected with my father twenty-four hours before I got married, thirty years later. He was in my wedding. And I’m good friends with my father now after years of being apart. RM: Was that because you reached out or did he finally reach out to you? WB: My brother and I pursued finding him. My mother had believed that he was dead. I had processed forgiveness. I had processed never being able to reconcile. I had processed that along with the Lord as a new Christian from age twenty-eight to my early thirties. Then my brother’s wife found him and located him a few months before I was getting married. We flew him and
his current wife down and he and his wife were both in our wedding. I just saw him a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been in contact with him for the last ten years and we’re friends. We spend time together as often as possible. I didn’t think I was going to share this, but my father is suffering right now from stomach cancer and I had to see him about a year and a half ago. I thought I had processed growing up without a father, healing or forgiveness or whatever. He was losing weight and they thought that he would die if he didn’t start eating and wouldn’t start recovering. They asked me if I could get him to eat. I said, “Dad, you need to eat.” He said, “I’ll eat if you do me a favor.” I said, “Well, what’s the favor?” I agreed to it. I said, “ Yeah, I’ll do that for you.” He lives in Northern California, the next forty-eight hours he ate, he scarfed down food, he drank water and he got his weight up. At the end of the forty-eight hours, a few hours before I was supposed to get on the plane, he said, “I’ve done my part, now you need to do your part.” My father wanted me to shave him. He wanted to take a picture with me and he wanted me to shave him. For some reason, I had to go down to the water and pray about it for awhile. I had resistance to that closeness, that intimacy. Here’s the man who never taught me how to shave and here he was asking me to shave him and help him with the way that he looks. I shaved him and then we took a picture together. I’m glad to
say he’s home now, but he still has some medical issues. We’ve come a long, long way. There are layers of healing and I’m able to share that with these guys. A lot of these kids, their dad is across the border and some of them have never seen their dad. Mexico is fifteen minutes south of here. There’s a lot of resentment. I had an amazing mom who raised four kids. She is my hero. That’s a huge blessing. I’ve been able to reconcile with my father, which doesn’t always happen. That’s a big part of this ministry moving forward is what we will do. We will work on the process of reconciliation with these kids after we have them in a safe environment where there’s enough support for them to deal with rejection in a healthy way.
y priority is my relationship with Jesus, my wife, and then my children, and then my vocation and ministry.
RM: You’re married with three kids and the family life that you’re able to provide for them looks very different than the one that you received. What do you feel are the most important components in a healthy, well-adjusted family? WB: When I first started the ministry, a pastor asked me if I knew what God’s priorities were. We went through first and second Timothy [in the Bible] about being a ministry leader and I was like, “Oh sure, I know it.” And I failed in all of those priorities. My priority is my relationship with Jesus, my wife, and then my children, and then my vocation and ministry. I risenmagazine.com 51
Dept: Outreach put ministry at the top for about eighteen months and we were doing really well – resources were flowing, we were growing and such. Then it’s like the Lord just turned off the water faucet. The brakes went on the ministry and I’m going, “What did I do?” And the Lord just showed me that I had gotten my priorities out of alignment with His priorities. From that time, I committed to my wife verbally that I will prioritize my relationship with God, her and my children first. I’ll be home for dinner. Ninety percent of the time I will not check out mentally and emotionally. The ministry is God’s. And since then, I’ve done one hundred percent better. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m better than what I was doing. I think Billy Graham said, “If I lead thousands of people to the Lord and I fail at ministering or leading my own children, then I’m a failure.” It is absolutely the best and number one job that I have; to love my wife and to love my children. And it means that I have to say “no” to people and I have to say “no” to these cute little kid faces sometimes. That’s hard, but I entrust that God will see them, because nobody can be my children’s father, nobody can be my wife’s husband. Only I can be that. But these guys can have other mentors. I can trust the Lord to do other things in their life, but I choose not to be an absentee father. I’m at all of my kids’ events. If it’s on the calendar, then I’m there. I definitely prioritize my marriage and my wife.
The Lord really began to show me the importance of the work that He wants to do in the kid’s life and how broad of a spectrum it covers across several other ministries. In a few years these kids are going to be going on missions trips. Like we’ve talked about other parts of the world, they’re going to start in Mexico and they’re going to be going to Africa and other places. By the time they’re in high school they’ll be doing missions trips and I’m excited to see their work. RM: Most of your work is done in the United States and it’s so needed, but Africa has weighed heavily on your heart, so why this continent and what have you seen in your trips there? WB: The same problem that plagues inner cities in America, plagues Africa – and that is fatherlessness. The breakdown of the family structure is the same challenge; a lack of positive influence at home and in the community. I have gone to Sudan two or three times and we’ve already been talking about expanding HLF to the continent of Africa. I have a huge burden for Africa. I envision HLF impacting Africa, starting off as soccer camps and basketball clinics and things like that. Then using the same model that we’ve birthed here in San Diego, we’ll have education, job training, and all the different pieces. We’re patterned after a program in Portland that I was a part of called Self Enhancement Incorporated, SEI. SEI is about twenty-five years old. It started originally for basketball players of single parent families – just boys and trying to bring about a positive role model. It’s now a $15 million a-year inner-city program turning out top students and top athletes, graduating about ninety percent of their students in the inner-city. The only difference is that they are not outwardly faith-based, and HLF is outwardly faith-based. I meet with the president up there twice a year. There’s no reason to reinvent a lot of things. We use a lot of what they do, except for Scripture, we place Scripture and biblical curriculum into the program, like God’s Girls and Good News Club and Awanas. We believe that we can change kids’ hearts here in San Diego, other urban communities, and ultimately in Africa.
t’s watching a bunch of little miracles happen on a daily basis and imagining what the hope is for these kids in the future.
RM: What are the biggest changes that you see in the kids once they’ve been involved with Hope Leadership? WB: Interacting with the kids and recognizing that they’re approaching life with prayer, they’re learning the Word of God, they’re practicing principles like the Fruit of the Spirit. I can tie in behavior positively, or negatively, to the Word of God. To see them get it, to see them not simply just memorize Scripture, but to live it out is the biggest change and to watch their lives start to be changed by the Word of God because they’re reading the Word of God. They ask for a copy of the Bible so they can read it at home. When our kids see prayers being answered. That is making a difference in their life. It’s watching a bunch of little miracles happen on a daily basis and imagining what the hope is for these kids in the future. I was processing like I do at the end of every year, needing the Lord to speak to me about the upcoming year. It’s simply this: by changing the hearts of these children, that is how you change the world. We’re grabbing kids in third grade before they’re thinking about abortion, before they’re runaways, picked up for child trafficking, before they’re thinking about teen sex, before they’re thinking about doing drugs… we’re preempting them with the Word of God, impacting almost all of those other ministries so hopefully in the future their [failure]numbers will be lower. There will be fewer kids that are coming into a teen pregnancy clinic, or less kids that are thinking about suicide. 52 Risen Magazine
54 Risen Magazine
From Country Stars to TV and Film Meet Songwriter
Tammy Hyler Writer: Shelley Barski Photography: Survivor Photography
ou may not know Tammy Hyler, but you’ve definitely heard her songs. With a discography that includes soundtracks to Runaway Bride, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, New in Town and Desperate Housewives, her songs have universal acclaim. Today, Hyler is one of Nashville’s most sought after songwriters. With a collaboration list that includes Martina McBride, Shania Twain, Billy Ray Cyrus and Taylor Swift, Hyler has her finger on the pulse of the country music industry. Amidst the success of her many hit songs; Hyler is still just a fun-loving, down-to-earth country girl who has a passion for creating a good song. We had a chance to sit down with Hyler and chat about her days touring with Collin Raye, balancing family and work life and her first movie endeavor, Like a Country Song.
Interviewed exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: Let’s start off and talk a little bit about your family and upbringing. Was your household as creative as you’ve turned out to be? Tammy Hyler: I grew up in Mesa, Arizona, with my sister, dad and mom. My mom was an ER nurse and then a stay-at-home mom. My dad was a cowboy dentist from Iowa. He’s the sweetest man in the world. The reason I say cowboy is he raised my sister and I to hunt and fish and camp and all the things that tomboy girls could do. I had an idyllic upbringing. My dad was the good ‘ole farm stock kind of guy. My mom was the one who introduced me to the arts and Broadway and showed me musicals. My mom wasn’t creative, but she had an appreciation for the arts. She brought the creative fire into my soul. RM: How did your love for the entertainment and music industries develop? TH: Definitely through my mom. She brought my sister and me up into a well-rounded artistic world. She introduced the whole family to that. She always told me go for that dream burning in my heart even if it’s not considered a real job. I picked up the guitar at a young age and thought it would be romantic to learn to sing and play guitar in the 8th grade. Then I did theater and plays. My mom was front row of everything I was in, and would always stand up and make everyone give a standing ovation. It was almost embarrassing! She would yell out in the audience saying, “That’s my daughter!” I am now doing the same thing with my daughter; getting her into musicals and the arts. She isn’t the most outgoing, but she definitely appreciates the arts. She is a big movie buff. We have a standing Friday movie night. We got involved in Community Theater too and have done shows together like Bye Bye Birdie, Beauty and the Beast and White Christmas. It was just a blast to work with her – to be a mom and daughter on stage. I think with her growing up around me in the music business, it’s pretty normal for a kid to
shy away from it, but we found common ground. RM: Early in your career you were playing country music at night and working in the movie industry during the day and with DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg no less. Can you share a few good stories with us from that time? TH: I moved to LA at 18 to go to fashion school and learned quickly that my heart wasn’t in it. I ended up at a reception desk at a creative arts agency when it first started. I feel so fortunate to have been in that era of Michael Ovitz and Ron Meyer [founders of Creative Artists Agency (CAA)] and to be a part of that incredible time! When they needed help on an agent’s desk, we filled in when the agents were out. That was my first taste of the TV and movie industry from the inside. I got to see how the script got written and packaged with a director and producer and saw how that whole process started. Ron Meyer recommended me to be an assistant to Jeff Katzenberg. Then he took over Touchstone pictures, and we became the first films for adults under Disney. I can say that through those two jobs, there isn’t a major movie star I haven’t met. I met people like Jane Fonda, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Jackson and Robert Redford. And during this time, I had a thing burning in my heart and was moonlighting with my band. Country just exploded during this time! 1984-1987 was an amazing time. Garth Brooks came on the scene and country just became huge. Guys would buy horses and have “ride and tie” nights and “roping” nights. We played at some of the hottest places in town. A couple of my friends got record deals. I will say this, when I was working with Sting and Sheryl Crow, Sting told me that songwriting was the most important thing to do—and when Sting is telling you something you listen! So I wrote songs and I think I sent one to Ron Meyer and Jeffery Katzenberg. They were super nice and probably lied through their teeth sayrisenmagazine.com 55
Tammy Hyler’s daughter Hallie
(l-r) John Rich, Tammy Hyler and Mel Tillis
want to try and honor God through my music. Not necessarily write a Christian song, but honor Him in some way whether it’s getting someone through pain, or giving them a completely joyful song
sing backstage and I’ve never heard someone sing so beautifully live. We started a conversation that then lasted six-and-a-half years! He asked me to go to the ACMs [Academy of Country Music Awards Show] and we ended up dating. Around this time, I decided to make the move to Nashville to pursue songwriting. I would meet Collin on the road and that got really tiring! That relationship was incredible though because I got to see everything that goes on in the music industry from the first broken down bus to the first radio interview. I was pretty much by his side from the very beginning to the platinum bus we got to design ourselves. I think he had 16 number one hits. It was an incredible six years. We would go through thousands of songs on the bus or with Paul Worley [record producer]. I learned what made a hit song, and what shaped his album. I learned the process of cutting a record and mixing, from start to finish. We went to the CMAs [Country Music Awards] and the ACMs [Academy of Country Music] and toured the country. I don’t think you really know America until you get on a tour bus and stop at almost every city between coasts.
ing how good it was. I’ve never made an album, just a four-song demo—I made about four or five of those. During the band days, my bass player had a garage studio so we recorded there. Now that I’ve had hits, it almost feels like a missing part of my career. My friends and family are always asking me when I’m going to do it, so maybe one day!
RM: Your songs have been part of so many soundtracks from Runaway Bride to Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and even television shows like Desperate Housewives. How does it feel when you hear the songs you wrote on popular shows and movies? TH: It’s crazy! I’ll watch Runaway Bride on TV and I honestly forget I wrote it! And Desperate Housewives, what a ride that was! I also have a song in the movie New in Town called Life is Good that I co-wrote. I love that movie and die laughing when Renee Zellweger meets the family in Wisconsin. I get so lost in the storyline and then I think, wait a minute, that’s my song! It’s fun when my daughter turns up the radio or we’ll walk into a store and she’ll be like, ‘That’s your song!”
RM: What was the catalyst to leave your job in Los Angeles working with A-list actors and move to Nashville? TH: It began with a cowboy breaking my heart. So a girlfriend took me out to see George Strait in Hot Country Nights. George will always make a girl feel better. I was convinced I would meet him because we had backstage passes, but he had the flu that night. Reba [McEntire] was backstage though and when she saw me, she said, “I want hair like hers!” Which meant my hair was probably bigger than hers! [Laughter]. I took that as the biggest compliment. Collin Raye took George’s place that night. I heard him 56 Risen Magazine
RM: I imagine the competition in the songwriting world is fierce. How do you get a big name like Shania Twain or Martina McBride to choose you to work with or pick your song? TH: It’s luck—like the stars lining up at the right time—you know, all
the clichés but it’s true. For I Love you, I knew we had a special little song. Paul Worley was Martina’s producer and I would call him once in a great while with something I really liked. I came down to the studio and Martina happened to be there. I handed my song to Paul and he put it in the cassette deck right there. It was her husband, John McBride that said, “That’s a hit!” And she said, “I don’t know if it’s me.” They took it home over the weekend and their girls started singing it around the house. It was a done deal by Monday. With songwriting, you never get a cut the same way twice. Sometimes your pluggers will get it to the artist at the right time, other times not. I owe one to John McBride for helping make that happen! RM: It doesn’t get bigger than Taylor Swift right now. So what was it like working with her in the early stages of her career? TH: I keep in touch with her dad and mom and they just gush about her—she has good parents. She was 15 when she signed at Sony, which was where I was writing. She was the new kid in town. I can’t tell you enough good things about her. When I sat with her, she had a melody and half lyrics written, and would just sit with you and ask, “What do you think?” She was (l-r) Rachael Thibadeau, Martina McBride and Tammy Hyler that good then! You’re really an editor when you’re writing with Taylor. It literally blew me away. It was no surprise to me when she wrote most of [her album] Speak Now by herself. She’s crossed over to pop so incredibly gracefully that no one has ever really done before. She said to me, “Tammy, I’m going to be a big star. I’m going to have dresses and a rhinestone Taylor guitar that they endorse for me.” And she did. I’ve never seen a kid more focused and more streamlined on what she wants. She has the formula for a hook and she keeps growing as an artist. I got to be momma hen and tell her to remember every moment. I told her, “ You are going to travel the world and you’re going to wish you had remembered and savored every moment.” She really cares about her fans. She stays behind and signs every autograph and she’ll remember everything about you even five years later. She reminds me a lot of Garth Brooks in that way. I would advise new country stars to always follow what Garth and Taylor do. They really cool vibe. The lyrics started flowing…We can be penniless, glamor less, did it right. but we don’t want to be loveless.” You know, in that three-hour writing session, Taylor and I wrote a song together—it was a personal song about a it is such a privilege that I’m being a vessel and the words are just coming friend in her high school that got killed by a drunk driver on prom night. It down from Heaven. It’s where I feel most like I’m living my true purpose in was one of her favorites, but it didn’t make it to the record because it was so this world—to make music and create songs that might mean something to personal and sad. Maybe it will come out at some point. The next record she someone and not only to me. Maybe someone else will get through a bad day wrote by herself and now she is writing with the guys who wrote for NSYNC. with that song and just relate to it. She’s really the writer and it’s the perfect collaboration. RM: What is a common misconception about working in the music industry RM: Describe the process of collaborating on a song. What is one of your that you learned on the job? favorite collaborations? TH: That once you’re a hit songwriter, you’re driving a Mercedes and have TH: One of my favorite collaborations was with Sara Evans. It’s one of my a house and money to burn! We all have huge ups and downs. You have one favorite songs I’ve ever written. I wrote the title in my notebook—a simple really great year and you don’t for another five years. If you averaged the saltitle called, Loveless. I was sitting with Shaye Smith [writing partner], and ary, it’s probably like being a personal assistant somewhere! People think, oh Sara and [her brother] Matt Evans and I brought it up in that writing ses- they must be rich! There are definite peaks and valleys. I do joke about my sion. Right away Shaye had said, “Wow I don’t want to be loveless.” And I said, cabin by the lake and tell people I have my Martina McBride log house, my “That’s the direction!” It almost felt like Hey Jude [by the Beatles]. It was a Collin Raye porch, and my George Strait barn!
ou used to be able to get a sit down meeting with the producer and catch up and they would listen to your song and be honest.
is. I told God, “Okay I get it!” I was acutely aware that’s what I was supposed to be doing. You end up in Nashville and you’re writing, and your songs go to #1 or they don’t. You literally have to have faith. It’s a daily, or hourly, conversation about how you’re going to get through. We start our songwriting group sessions with prayer. We pray, “Give us the words and give us the music.” I want to try and honor God through my music. Not necessarily write a Christian song, but honor Him in some way whether it’s getting someone through pain, or giving them a completely joyful song like I Love You. I want to please God with what I’m doing and do it for a purpose.
(l-r) Joel Smallbone, Tammy Hyler and Boo Boo Stewart
he message of the movie, of family and forgiveness, that’s just the icing on the cake. I work hard and save up, especially now. Our music economy crashed years before the recession hit. I still love buying actual CDs and reading the liner notes. They are so poetic. I’ve gotten some great song ideas from liner notes! Nashville has been a real collaborative community for songwriters, but the only thing I hate about this age with Mp3s and computers is that the old fashioned pitch meeting is a thing of the past. Now it’s all just emailed. You used to be able to get a sit down meeting with the producer and catch up and they would listen to your song and be honest. Either they’ll say, “No I’m not hearing it,” or, “Oh my gosh! Let me put this song on hold and call Tim McGraw right now!” RM: How has your faith impacted your career? TH: Faith has been huge. Especially in a business like this, you have to have a lot of tough perseverance. I know God put this burning in my heart to make music, play, sing and write since I was born. I had to first realize that dream in my soul. When I was in LA and stepped in a studio to sing background parts, I broke down crying because I knew I was home—I knew I was supposed to be there. If that’s not a God moment, I don’t know what 58 Risen Magazine
RM: Speaking of faith you recently were a producer and wrote several of the songs, for the faith-based movie Like A Country Song starring Billy Ray Cyrus. You’ve been friends with Billy Ray for a while so what was it like working together in this capacity? TH: Oh my goodness, what an amazing artist. I can’t say enough good things about Billy Ray. I’ve worked with him four or five times over the last 15 years. I remember Collin Raye had the #2 song Every Second and Billy’s Achy Breaky Heart was #1 and he wouldn’t move off. I’ve seen Billy Ray at all kinds of different shows. When I was thinking about this movie, I thought Billy would be the perfect person to play one of the main characters, Bo Reeson. We reconnected, had a meeting and he said it was that meeting that made him want to do the movie. He was really moved by the whole story of the family and story of forgiveness of the characters Jake and Mia. It was a small indie movie, and he wasn’t sure, and didn’t know the director, but when he met with me, he felt comfortable and signed. He is such a great actor. He is beautifully subtle and has so much emotion in his performance. It’s an amazing side we’ve never seen from Billy Ray. There are so many levels of wisdom from that guy that you wouldn’t guess. We sang the title track, Like a Country Song, together at the CMA Music Festival this past summer. I wasn’t expecting a duet. Billy asked me to do it the night before and then we sang in front of 16,000 people. It was crazy, but I loved it. RM: You are very close with your teenage daughter Hallie. How do you balance family and career? TH: She is my priority. She is number one. It’s tough and my soul burns to do the best job at everything I do – I’m kinda weird that way. That’s the age-old question, how do you do both? You’ve got to work as much as you can between 8:30AM and 2:30PM. Then I’m completely hers afterwards. I would bring her to volleyball practice and work on the movie. I am the poster child for producing a movie and going to volleyball practice. It’s doable, but you’re on all the time. We started filming when she was out of school so she came on set and was the greatest assistant and “extra” extraordinaire. She wants to act and I want to help her any way I can. I would drag her to CMT’s Gone Country and she’s gotten to meet some cool country stars. Sara Evans is a volleyball mom too and her son is the same age as Hallie. Back when they were little, we used to put the kids in the car seat while we wrote songs. It’s tough, but you can do both.
Collin Raye with Tammy Hyler
Tammy Hyler with her daughter Hallie
RM: If you could do your career all over again, would you do it differently? TH: I don’t think so. I love what I’ve done. I’ve been so blessed to do what I do to write country and pop, and produce music, and movies. There’s one crossroad in my career. When I was working for Jeffery Katzenberg, he said, “Whatever you want to do here, you can grow here.” But then I branched out and moved to Nashville. I wonder what it would be like if I had stayed and worked on movies. But now it’s come full circle this year with working on Like a Country Song and I’m looking forward to the future. I feel like a prayer was answered. It’s cool when you know you can do both. Making a movie is a lot like songwriting. You take a script and want to write a great hook and have people think, “Wow that speaks to me.” You want to take that script into the studio and start filming. It was like another whole part of my purpose. I felt so good knowing I was putting a film together—there are a million fires to put out, but it was gratifying. Then the message of the movie, of family and forgiveness, that’s just icing on the cake. I hope more people will get something out of it. I’m really proud of it. It’s just very moving. RM: What advice would you give to someone trying to break into the industry as a songwriter? TH: Read a lot of books, a lot of poetry, watch a lot of movies, and listen to what’s on the radio. The radio is your biggest map. Let’s face it, your craft is writing a song. You’re going to bring your own style and flare, but at the end of the day it’s a business, and if you want to make money at this craft, you’re going to have to listen to the radio and try to target that sound. But be just one step, one hair, ahead of that. If you’re going to write exactly what’s on the radio, it’s going to be old by the time it’s ready. Don’t make it too different, or you’ll write yourself out of a cut, just a little fresher. I love what’s going on right now on the radio. Country guys are out there living the country lifestyle, tailgating, fishing, and such and then they’ll listen to hip-hop and hear those beats and it’ll become a country song. They are bringing a new sound to this industry – this hip-hop infused country. You
Tammy Hyler with Billy Ray Cyrus have to have an appreciation for it. I’m sure people 15 years before us thought we were doing pop. Music is always going to evolve and change, and that’s a good thing. We’re still going to have the old sound, but I’m a fan of what’s coming out now. It’s like what Taylor has done—you have to grow. If you don’t grow, you’re not living. risenmagazine.com 59
From the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards to the Golden Globes and the coveted Oscars, your favorite celebrities hit the red carpet in hopes of bringing home a little more hardware for their mantles… and of course Risen was there for all the excitement.
Unbroken director Angelina Jolie
Rob Howard receiving the Critics’ Choice Louis XIII Genius Award
Boyhood stars Ellar Coltrane and Patricia Arquette with writer/director Richard Linklater
Ron Howard with Risen Editor-in-Chief Kelli Gillespie and Risen Copy Editor Patti Gillespie 60 Risen Magazine
Dept:The Red Carpet
Selmaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Oprah Winfrey with John Legend
Still Alice Best Actress Julianne Moore
Into the Woods Best Supporting Actress Nominee Meryl Streep
Wild Best Actress Nominee Reese Witherspoon
Selma stars Common and David Oyelowo who played Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Cake Best Actress Nominee Jennifer Aniston with Risen Copy Editor Patti Gillespie risenmagazine.com 61
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