CFDb Interviews Rich Swingle – Actor/Voice
= > Has acting always been your passion?
My first role was Mr. Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe when I was in fourth grade. I absolutely loved the experience! But later that year I was cast as a space alien visiting the earth to see the Christ Child for a Christmas play our church produced. Because all my lines were spoken from my space capsule I figured I didn’t have to memorize them, since I could read them from my dashboard. I used my dad’s flying helmet as a part of my alien costume, and I forgot to put the gel in the visor that kept it from steaming up. So it steamed up, which may have added to the alien look, but I couldn’t see my lines! Little Ricky learned to improvise! I got through it, but I think it was pretty traumatic.
I remember being quite shy until well into high school, when our church youth group, led by the wonderful Ron and Deb Mulkey, started doing sketches for church services. One day I dressed as Muammar Gaddafi, and we kidnapped our pastor and ransomed him for cans to feed the homeless. Those days freed me to be more confident on stage, but I wouldn’t consider it for a career because it was too scary not to have a steady paycheck. I attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary thinking that since I felt a call to ministry it must be through a pastorate. But God made it clear to me that I was to minister through the performing arts. Now I’ve only done work connected in some way to the performing arts since the mid-90’s. My wife, Joyce, and I were driving to a performance once and it dawned on me I haven’t had a nine-to-five since ’95! That’s God’s grace and my joy.
= > How has God influenced your acting choices?
I submit everything to the Lord and spiritual mentors. Because most of my work comes through my one-man plays (http://RichDrama.com) in churches and Christian colleges, I’m quite careful with the work I take. My morning prayers and Bible reading are critical to staying centered on Jesus Christ.
= > Can you share with us about a unique acting experience you’ve had?
The one that pops to mind is when I was filming The Screenwriters, still in post-production. I play Hollywood director Forrest “Woodsy” Woods, and I tell the seasoned movie star (played by the seasoned movie star Jenn Gotzon), “Let’s shake a leg Elaine!” We were filming until past 3am, and on one of the takes I said, “Let’s shake a leg, Layne.” We all busted up, and we couldn’t keep from laughing for take after take! One time I burst through the door to see Jeff Rose with his back turned away, shoulders bouncing up and down as he tried to restrain his laughter. It’s going to be some of the best out-takes footage around.
But on a serious note I have to share a unique story from stage as well. I was performing my one-man play Beyond the Chariots (http://RichDrama.com/BeyondTheChariots) in China during the Beijing Olympics. We had translation slides in Simplified Chinese, but we had also heard that North Koreans might be in the audience, and some were. We rejoiced that someone on a plane had offered to translate the whole play into Korean, so they were able to follow the play as well. Two police officers walked in during the performance, but our host explained well enough and they let it proceed. I usually have more than 200 appearances each year, so I don’t get stage fright much anymore, but on the second night in that Chinese town I had major stage fright! Thankfully, the police neither made cameo appearances nor brought a surprise ending to my plot!
= >Please tell us about your recent role in “Indescribable”.
I play Frederick Lehman, who was a pastor and hymn writer. He’s working on a song about the love of God, and he has writers’ block. His young son Blynn wants to help so he goes on a journey of discovering the depth of God’s love for him and his family. The best thing about playing Lehman was that my real-life wife, Joyce, played Mrs. Lehman. Another interesting connection was that Lehman went on to found the Nazarene press. Joyce is an ordained pastor in the Church of the Nazarene, so we were a spouse and pastor playing a pastor and spouse.
We’re thrilled that Indescribable has been named a semi-finalist and will be screened at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival in February 2013!
= > What has been your favorite role thus far and why?
My favorite role is Jesus, but I haven’t played him in film. I play him in four of my one-man plays (The Revelation, The Acts, Journey to the Garden, Big Fish Little Worm). We’re called upon to represent him to those around us every day, but to step into his sandals and show him to be fierce and funny, human and Divine, is a privilege and a unique act of worship.
In film I’ve loved them all. Each one has been unique and fun in its own way. Since it’s the Christmas season, I’ve been thinking a lot about Claud in A Christmas Snow. It was quite fun to play a French chef in an Italian restaurant in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had actually been snowed into Tulsa on a previous trip, so I knew that part wasn’t fiction. I also got the casting notice on Christmas Eve, which made being cast in my first film unforgettable. By the way, the stuff I was stirring, take after take, was Caesar dressing, which actually made me a bit queasy by the end of the second day.
= > How can others learn more about you and your work?
I have a list of my one-man plays and workshops I offer at www.RichDrama.com. I’ve been asked to put together a team of performing artists to perform in Sochi, Russia, during the 2014 Olympics, and I’m finalizing a documentary about our work in Puerto Rico, Transylvania and London during the two weeks of the 2012 Olympics, which will hopefully be listed here soon.
If you’d like an announcement about that I encourage you to connect at www.RichDrama.com/Updates.
You can hear Joyce’s sermons by clicking here (http://blog.richdrama.com/search/label/Joyce%20Swingle%27s%20sermons).
I even put that seminary training to use from time to time. To hear some of my sermons, click here: (http://blog.richdrama.com/search/label/Rich%20Swingle%27s%20sermons).
I pray the Lord’s blessings on you, and that you will come to discover the unique gifts and talents the Lord has placed in you.
Thank you for supporting Christian filmmakers!