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Exclusive: 'Miracles from Heaven' Producer DeVon Franklin Discusses Marriage, Sex, Race, And His Upcoming film

( [email protected] ) Feb 10, 2016 12:26 PM EST
In an exclusive interview with The Gospel Herald, Sony executive DeVon Franklin discussed marriage, sex, faith-based films, and race in Hollywood.
DeVon and Meagan attend the 24th annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast hosted by The Hollywood Reporter at Milk Studios on December 9, 2015 in Los Angeles. Getty Images

DeVon Franklin truly embodies the term "Renaissance man," possessing the kind of rare talent and determination that has allowed him to succeed in the worlds of ministry, entertainment, and business.

A former senior VP of production at Sony's Columbia Pictures, Franklin is today a producer and chairman of Franklin Entertainment, the company behind the highly-anticipated faith-based film, "Miracles from Heaven", at just 37 years old. 

"This movie is so life-affirming, family-affirming and faith-affirming," he said of the upcoming film during an exclusive interview with The Gospel Herald. "It's truly one of the most powerful films I've been involved in. We released the trailer right before Thanksgiving, and to date, it has over 180 million streams. People are seeing it and instantly connecting to the power of it."

Franklin also recently released his latest book, The Wait: A Powerful Practice for Finding the Love of Your Life and the Life You Love, co-written with his wife, actress Meagan Good, who he married in 2012. Less than a week after its release, the book is already a national best-seller, thanks to the Hollywood couple's insights on love, sex, marriage, and dating -- all based on their Christian faith.

"To our surprise -- not God's surprise -- we thought we were going to do well, but it's been flying off shelves all across the country and people on social media are sending in pictures with the book and testimonies," he revealed. "We're so blessed that it's touching so many lives."

But despite his tremendous achievements, Franklin, who is also a pastor, is quick to acknowledge the source of his success.

"It's all God. I'm only here because he placed me here," he told the GH. "This is nothing but faith. It's nothing but God. The things that I've been able to do, I'm only able to do them because of His power working through me. I just want to be faithful, intentional, and obedient to what He would have me do. Those are the things that keep me humble. This could all be gone tomorrow, today, if I don't continue to put Him first and seek Him and what He would have me to do with all of the things that He's given me.

During an interview with The Gospel Herald, Franklin spoke about his views on a number of diverse topics, including love, sex, marriage, faith-based films, and race in Hollywood -- and how he keeps God at the center of it all.

GH: You and your wife recently released your first book together, The Wait, which details your love story and shares advice for other dating and married couples. Why did you decide to release this book together and how did that process change or strengthen your relationship?

DF: It was really a God thing. We started dating in 2009, and we got married in 2012. As we were doing various interviews about the different projects we were involved in, people were very curious about our relationship and how we got together. As we started sharing that, one of the things that we just independently and organically shared was the fact that we were waiting until marriage and that we had waited until marriage. Many people thought, "Wow, you're in Hollywood and you're waiting? How does that work?" So, there was a lot of interest around that. But beyond that, when we would travel the country and tell our story there were so many people that were hungry and asking questions like, "How can I date in a way that brings me peace? How can I find love?" Because we got so many people wanting more information, we felt like writing a book might be a way to help this generation find love in the way God intended and find peace, happiness and health.

GH: Why did you choose to wait until marriage and how did it affect your relationship? Would you advise other unmarried couples to do the same?

DF: I chose this path quite frankly because I wanted to fulfill God's will; I wanted to be obedient. I believe that God wants us to wait until marriage. There are a number of Scriptures that reference that. I grew up in the church and was taught, "Hey, you need to wait until marriage." But, oftentimes, you get in relationships and you don't.

The thing that made it difficult for me, even more so than just being a congregant Christian, was that I was also preaching. Even though my day job is in Hollywood and I've been in Hollywood for 20 years, the thing that I've always done is preached. As I preached in my early 20's, I was telling people to live one way but I was doing something different. That was beginning to tear me apart personally, because I was living two lives. I was telling people one thing and doing something personally different. In my early 20's, when I graduated college, I was in a relationship and I prayed to God -- I said, "God, if you You get me out of this relationship, I will become celibate until marriage." Through a course of events, He did, and that, in my early 20's, was when I began to practice the wait. It was very hard, definitely not easy for me at all. As I endured in the sacrifice of practicing it, it gave me a lot of discipline and clarity and focus. I had no idea that years later, when I met Megan and we began to date, she was also practicing the wait. So, it was a real, true blessing, and what happened was that as we began to date, we began to see each other for who we really were and didn't have the cloudiness and blurriness of sex. We felt like God was bringing us together, we felt like it was a relationship that was leading to marriage, and we wanted our foundation to be strong and clear and powerful.

Through waiting, it enriched our relationship and gave us a better understanding of who we were and of God. Now, being married and writing a book together, it's made us even closer because our relationship and our marriage now is being used to help so many people, and it's happening in a way that's authentic to our message and how we've been living.

GH: You've discussed how, prior to your marriage, you didn't' believe your career and love life could coexist, and I think that's a really common struggle in today's day and age. What changed for you and what advice would you offer others?

DF: I don't know if it's a man thing or what, but being in my 20's in Hollywood and climbing the corporate ladder and being so ambitious, I didn't see how love fit. As I grew older, people would look at me and say, "You're crazy, what are you waiting for?" I would say, "Look, there's a place I want to be and I'm not there yet and I don't want to involve a woman in my life until I feel like I'm at a certain place where I'm accomplished, where I feel like I've "arrived."

When I started dating Meagan, I didn't feel like I had arrived. But God was saying, "No, here is love, because what you don't understand, DeVon, is the way I've designed you. You think you can be whole without love, you think you can be successful without love. But as a man, you can't. Love is an integral part of what I want to do with you and where I want to take you."

So, when we started dating in those first months, I was resistant. I was thinking, "No, Lord!" I had just released my first book, "Produced by Faith," and I didn't know what was going to happen with that, and I was trying to still move up the corporate ladder at Columbia Pictures and trying to do all these things. God said, "Here's love." The more that I began to accept her and accept our relationship and accept love, my whole life changed. As I got deeper in love with her and more open to the idea of committing to love, it brought such a peace and stability that it actually helped propel my career. As I was going into the office and working, I was working with more enthusiasm and greater focus, and I wanted to get home to her, so it gave me clarity to do the things that really mattered. I'm so grateful that God brought love to me when He did, because if it was up to me, I may not even be married now. And I can tell you that that the four years we've been together, life has been so much better than when I was single.

I like to share that with anybody that I can, especially men, to say, "You don't realize that your destiny is tied up in being open to love, because the right woman in your life -- or for women, the right man in your life -- can help propel you in ways that you may not think are possible. I think it's really important to be love whenever God brings it.

GH: You're one of the individuals behind the upcoming film, Miracles from Heaven. What drew you to this amazing story?

DF: This is the first movie I've done since leaving Sony Pictures; the first faith-based picture I did was Heaven is for Real, and the movie was so successful and people were so excited about that film. We saw such a thirst and desire that we wondered, "Is there another story that can be used as a follow-up to Heaven is for Real"? And I found this book, Miracles from Heaven, which is the story of Christy Beam and her fighting for the healing of her daughter, Annabelle Beam. Annabelle was a young child when she got this disease out of nowhere, called pseudo-obstruction mobility disorder, that basically affected her ability to digest solid food. They suffered for such a long time, and Christy prayed and was seeking God and fighting for the healing of her daughter. Through a miraculous experience, Annabelle got healed. This story was so powerful and so potent, the moment that I read it I knew this would be an incredible follow-up to Heaven is for Real. 

GH: I'm noticing a theme -- what attracts you to Heaven-focused movies?

DF: I've asked myself that [laughs] I think when you get a revelation of Heaven and of what is to come, it gives you a bigger and broader and more intimate understanding of God. I think that understanding then translates to more peace in our day-to-day living. Sometimes, day-to-day living can take the hope out of us; we may be stuck in a job we don't like, we may be stressed, we may think we don't make enough money. All of these things are daily struggles that we all deal with, and an awareness of heaven and an awareness of God helps us understand that don't have to be so stressed in the moment because there is a greater plan for our lives, there is a God who loves us and has prepared a place for us, and if He's done that, it must mean he's operating right now in our lives. Those are some of the things that I think attract me to Heaven. I also think it's why Heaven continues to be --in books, television and movies -- an idea that people really gravitate towards, because it brings hope and peace and inspiration,

GH: What do you hope audiences take away from Miracles from Heaven?

DF: They're going to take away an empty box of Kleenex. If you read the book, I can promise you that the movie will be very satisfying. When people walk out of the theater, they're going to feel like God is real, that faith works, that miracles are everywhere. They're going to hug their families, they're going to pray, they're going to thank God and leave the theater with hope that even if they don't get a miracle like Annabelle got, if they open their eyes and look, miracles are all around them, the miracles of love, the miracles of kindness, the miracles of peace, the miracles of joy. If we would just take a moment focus, we'll see that God is letting us know that we're not alone. These are things that I believe people will walk out the theater with.

GH: In the past, you've discussed Hollywood's race problem, particularly in light of the lack of diversity seen in the Academy Awards. In your opinion, what can be done to help solve these issues? What steps can Christians, and the Church at large take to help absolve the racial issues currently seen in the U.S.?

DF: The Christian community and the church can really begin to get more involved in the conversation. Sometimes, I feel that when it comes to issues of race, the church gets a little quiet, and I think that's not the way we should do it. We are all God's children and if one of us is being affected in Hollywood, then all of us are being affected. My hope is that the church becomes more vocal and it becomes an advocate for change in Hollywood, and that Christians begin to make their voice heard as well. One thing about me, being an African-American Christian in Hollywood, I'm a minority in many ways. While being a minority can certainly create value, I have faced a number of challenges in the business, racial issues, as well as spiritual issues. Having a support system has personally helped me overcome them .

As it relates to Hollywood at large, I think it is a systemic issue that has to be approached from every single angle. What I mean by that is that it has to be approached from the studio level, the network level, the talent representation level, the management level, and specifically there has to be a strategy to recruit, retain and train executives, agents, managers, people of color in the business, because what we're noticing -- even with the faith-based audience -- there are a lot of people out there that are diverse, a lot of people of faith that don't yet represent the power structure of Hollywood. I believe that it takes time, it takes money, and it takes commitment to getting people in organizations that have a different point of view, that represent the wide-going movie audience and television viewing audience and put in place a strategy to keep those individuals within the organizations and help nurture and grow them within the organizations so they can ultimately have a seat at the table to help be a voice of change. Until Hollywood at large takes this one, unfortunately, I think we're going to continue to be in this conversation.