“Love is real, love is abundant.”
Jenn Gotzon-Chaser, actress, said that this is the message of the new film “Sunrise in Heaven.” The film, which is available on DVD April 9, is based in part on the true story Steven and Jan Hurst. They were both teenagers who met and married despite every obstacle.
Terri, played by Gotzon Chandler, is a well-known actress for her roles in “Frost/Nixon”, and “God’s Not Dead 2”. The film flashes back and forth between the current day where Steve struggles for his life in a hospital bed and their past when they struggled against her father to get married.
Faith Family America spoke to Gotzon Chandler to find out why she decided to pursue acting, what attracted her to “Sunrise in Heaven” and what she loves about the movie.
How did you get started in acting?
When I was fifteen, Dolly Parton and I took me to see “Straight Talk”. There was an electricity of passion at the conclusion of that film. It was as if God had embraced me and given me a vision. It was like God said, “This what I want you do.” That was to entertain, inspire, and make movies that would change people’s lives. That was my beginning.
I was rejected from the play I was auditioning for at my high school. I was told that I was a terrible, terrible and terrible actress and that I wouldn’t be able to make a career out of it. I went home, cried, and prayed as my mom taught me. I said, “God, if that is your will, show it to me.”
He did. I studied at a conservatory for film and TV acting in New York City. Then I was a character actress at Disney World, and then that moved me out west to the San Francisco area where I got cast in my first major studio film, “The Hulk,” and my first independent feature as a lead actress, “Julie & Jack.” This led me to Los Angeles, where I played Tricia Nixon’s role in Ron Howard’s film “Frost/Nixon.”
God gave me a vision when I was 15 years old. In 2010, God gave life to that vision and I was cast as the lead role in “Doonby” with John Schneider. I was able to launch my career telling stories that can inspire and impact people’s lives, such as “Sunrise in Heaven.”
What drives you to make movies about God?
You may find yourself laughing and crying at the same time, whether you’re at home or in a movie theater. There are pearls that will drop into your eyes and reach your soul in the space between. That is what inspires me—being a part of those stories that give people hope to be able to live a better life or purpose. To help people understand why God loves them, or to give them faith to be able start a new day. It is a great way to bring life into your soul by showing movies that reflect God’s wisdom. That’s why I believe God has chosen me to follow the path he has.
What attracted to you to “Sunrise in Heaven” role?
It is a true tale. Jan Hurst’s story. When I met Jan Hurst and learned more about her family, I fell in love. She is a woman who loves life and has faith. I wanted to be able depict and honor her heritage. Terri was a true blessing and a gift to me for playing her daughter.
What is your favorite scene from the movie?
Because it’s so good, there are too many. One of my favorite scenes in this film is the moment Michele decides that she will pray. It shows that we can have an impact on others by the way our lives and actions are. My storyline in the film really helps bring that faith message—the message of perseverance and endurance in pain and hardship. Michele’s faith is restored in God at the end of the movie and she requests to be able pray. It is a great moment for all of us to see that our faith and hope in God has been restored.
Could you relate to the movie?
Terri is very much like me as a person. I trust God through trial and tribulation. I don’t turn back. I turned to Him, and I prayed and asked Jesus to help me. Terri’s kindness and concern for her family is what enabled me to connect with them. That’s how my life should be. That’s my prayer and my hope—to constantly trust in God in the midst of trial.
What do YOU see as the main message of the film’s story?
Sunrise in Heaven focuses on the power of faith and love. It allows audiences to relate to the honest story of these characters and how they deal with the difficulties life brings. It also highlights the importance of the people who are with them on this journey.
Who should see it?
Everyone should see this movie! Anyone who wants to enjoy good entertainment at home should watch this film. You can laugh, be touched and have fun. It’s especially helpful for those who are struggling with their faith or questioning God. It’s not common for us to push God when we are in that space. But if someone is in that space and stumbles upon this movie, I believe it will help them to regain their faith and remind them that God is a loving, unconditional God. He walks alongside us through the thick and thin.
What do you hope people will take away from the film’s message?
I wish they would realize that love is real, and that it is abundant. Just like Jan and Steve as children, love sneaks up on us. That kind of love is lasting and can last until the end. This love commitment was a beautiful covenant before God. She stood by her husband until the last—even in the midst of tragedy that love will never fail.