Corbin Bernsen may not seem like perfect casting of the face of the faith-based film industry. He climbed to fame with “L.A. Law,” a show about 1980’s excess, and “Major League,” a popular but crude sports comedy. But when Bernsen’s father died, it awoke a spiritual side he had not explored professionally. The first incarnation of this was a film Bernsen directed called “Rust,” which explored family.
Loss attracted the star to his latest project, “My Daddy Is in Heaven.” He plays the patriarchal figure in a family coping with death. He must help his adult daughter regain her faith after a fatal ATV accident killed her husband and father of their young child. Bernsen says the story’s blunt nature is a new direction for faith-based films. Connect spoke to Bernsen about the rise of faith-based films, melding faith and career, and what audiences can take away from “My Daddy Is in Heaven,” out on DVD and digitally on March 13.
Why is there such a demand for faith-based films?
We live in a screwed-up world. We want something to believe in. It started with the Kirk Cameron movie, “Fireproof.” That really opened floodgates and everyone started to think there was big money to be made here. I was inspired by the appetite of people to explore faith and something greater than what we know.
Did the death of your father lead you toward faith-based films like “My Daddy Is in Heaven?”
Absolutely. During my father’s passing, I made the movie called “Rust,” which was the story about reconnecting with fathers. At the time, I didn’t even realize “father” had a greater implication: God. My father was an interesting guy. He was born into a Jewish family and became a Christian Scientist. Toward his later years, he really began reaching back to reconnect with Christ and I could see that. I think to some degree, I’ve continued the journey he was on.
A lot of our readers plan events for youth. How do you recommend connecting with them over faith?
If you want to connect with children today—with what they are exposed to—what is really important is the truth. It’s not that if you believe in God, everything is going to be OK. You are going to have to dig a little bit deeper. You have to be real with kids. I have sons. I told my kids that I grew up in the 60s—I was around [drugs], I did it. I also tell them I regret today what I did because I would be further along than what I am if I was clean.
Has moving toward faith-based films had a negative impact on your career?
Not really. I do what I feel is true. My relationship with God is very personal and private with me. I don’t hide. I do have an atheist friend—a very intelligent guy—who asked me what I was doing getting into faith-based films. I stopped him and said, “You have incredible two sons. Do you remember how you felt when they were born? Do you remember looking in to their little eyes and when they lifted their little fingers, and you thought this is miraculous? That’s how I look at God.”
We’re not talking about Morgan Freeman with a beard; we’re not talking about George Burns. We’re not talking about some guy with two arms, two legs, 10 fingers, 10 toes and a big white beard. We’re talking about love—that’s God to me. I put in terms of something he understands, rather something you see in a movie.
What do you expect people will take away from “My Daddy is in Heaven?”
This is not a story where daddy comes back or they are going to visit daddy. I think that real-worldness is a little bit of a shift in faith-based filmmaking. It’s not sweet and tidy; but just as strong. This is first step in this direction. I just put together a movie I directed and wrote that goes a step further. I’m questioning how far I can go with language and situation, but it is still a story of redemption.