For the first time, the faith-based film industry is exploring the difficult issues of sexual abuse, depression, and murder through the upcoming film, Wildflower.
The psychological thriller stars Shari Rigby (October Baby, The Young and the Restless), Nathalia Ramos (Switched at Birth, House of Anubis), and Cody Longo (Piranha 3D, Not Today) and explores the mind of a young art student as she pieces together clues in the mystery of a missing girl. In the search for truth, her mind begins to unlock memories of her own painful past, which have been blocked for many years.
Written and directed by Nicholas DiBella, Wildflower was shot around Rochester, New York, and released on DVD and Blu-Ray April 5th, and will be featured on the Lifetime movie network in June. Wildflower reminds viewers in a powerful way that hope can be found even in the darkest, loneliest moments.
In an exclusive interview with The Gospel Herald, Shari Rigby opened up about why she believes God wants His people to open up about their struggles, her passion for mentoring women, and how her life is a perfect example of how God turns brokenness into beauty.
GH: Why did you get involved with Wildflower? Tell us about your character and what drew you to her role?
SR: This script was completely different than anything I had ever read before as far as the faith-based theme - it's this psychological thriller, and we haven't seen that done yet in the faith-based world. When I got the script, I started reading through it, and I realized I couldn't wait to get to the next page. It was so full of suspense, just what this young girl was going through. I was also able to relate to the mom and the brokenness of how much we go through, especially as single parents. So, I just started connecting all of the dots, and I thought, "This is going to be a really great piece." We get to deal with depression and this young girl who is going back and has repressed memories, and at the same time, we go on this psycho-thriller ride. I was really excited to have a new element that I got to experience.
GH: What central message of Wildflower and what do you hope audiences will take away from this film?
SR: I think that the central message of Wildflower is that there is always hope, there is always an opportunity to come back together as a unit, especially when you see the daughter, Nicole, and Chloe come back together again and really work on rebuilding this relationship. I think that also, it's a theme to understand that there are a lot of people that go through these types of situations, and this is something that we don't speak about too often. I think it's really going to highlight some things that - especially in the Christian community - we need to talk about, like depression and repressed memories. Ultimately, though, leading to hope and forgiveness. I think that's the message of Wildflower; even though she comes from a dark place, she finds hope and redemption and eventually comes through on the other side.
GH: How do you think viewers of this film who have survived trauma will receive this film?
SR: (Trauma) happens so often in childhood; I think that people are going to see something that they keep thinking about, or that they're dealing with as well. A lot of times, the trauma can be an experience for them that they just don't want to bring up or deal with, or maybe they're ashamed of it in some way. I think this is going to be really relatable to the people that are sitting in the audience; they can watch it with the perspective of - especially if they've gone through something like this - that they can come out on the other side realizing there is hope afterward. I hope they can see help and guidance on that.
GH: You have developed several discipleship ministries and faith-based mentoring programs for all ages of women like "The Women In My World." What inspired you to work with women?
SR: I love that question because I'm constantly asking the Lord, "What is it that you want me to do with life?" Many years ago, there was a calling in my life to love on women, and I kept on thinking, "Okay, well, loving on women - what does that mean?" And God just kept honing it in on broken women, and I kept thinking, "No God, this is not my calling, this is not where I want to go." But truly, that was it. And so, every avenue and every door that the Lord has opened for me has been able to speak into other women's lives, and to be able to share my past and help them walk through a redemption and a restoration process, but ultimately leading them to a point of how the Father literally takes us and uses everything for His kingdom. And that's something that I really wanted to walk through with women.
So, the mentoring through "Women In My World" - when I went to Hollywood almost seven years ago now, I went thinking I was going to be this huge starlet, that was my dream and my passion. But very quickly, I learned that Hollywood was a very broken and lonely place, and lots of women my age were coming to Hollywood with big dreams, some knowing the Lord and some not, and being broken very quickly in who they were and their identity. As I sat in an acting class in Hollywood, I would look around to see broken women. Before I knew it, I started a prayer group in my home; I said, "Let's get together, let's just pray together and praise God for what He's doing." Before I knew it I went from 2 -25, and a houseful of women, and now it's branched off to where I have women in Atlanta, and Nashville, and in India that I get to love on and walk through what their desires are, not only in the entertainment world but also in the world of ministry, understanding how we can use all of our talents God has given us. That's been a huge passion for me.
"Women In My World" is about activating women, inspiring and influencing them to really continue to dream. I love it. There's nothing better than mentoring; there's nothing better than to see a woman that's gone through so much in her life, or maybe a woman that's just desiring to have a fellowship, and we're able to walk into that and see what our calling is. God just opens the door to so many things. I encourage women - I think that we've come to a place in life where we can speak to the masses, but we've forgotten to become intimate again. I know it's hard, but we really do want to go back to the intimacy between women and growing the next generation.
GH: What support/inspiration did you experience during your work on October Baby?
SR: October Baby was such an incredible movie. It really was - I remember hearing a pastor speak not too long ago, and he said, "The moment in life when you say yes to something, and you have a choice, and it can be what unlocks the door to your God-given platform where He is going to take you with your story."
That was a pivotal moment in my life, because when I got the script, it wasn't what I wanted, I kept thinking, "I want more, more time on screen." But as I sat there and read it, God opened it up for me to see that that had been a story written on my life over 20 years and that He was bringing it all together in this movie script. There were these very pivotal points in this movie that related to my life, right down to the end scene where my husband opens his arms to me as forgiveness moment - that had happened in my life. It was a real moment for me to experience what my life journey was looking like up to that point.
As I got to the set of October Baby, when I said "yes" to the script, I had no idea what God was going to do with it. But, when I was praying right before I went to the set, He had shown me this little girl in Heaven. She was so beautiful, and I was a post-abortive woman, and here I was, about to go on this set kind of without identity already, and He showed me at the same time the sea of women's faces and said, "This is really for them."
When I get to that set, and I walked into every scene, God just really showed up, and it was so incredible because I got to look at Rachel Hendricks and see this beautiful little girl that would have been mine, and I felt so much guilt and shame and then as I walked into the next scene - that was the scene of forgiveness. It was incredible because God was like, "I want to show you who I am as your Abba." When I walked into that room, I had no expectations, but He met me there - I sat on the lap of my Father that day. What He did in that amount of time was just a complete restoration of who I was, and preparation for where He was about to take me. That was the incredible thing. And I got to do what my passion was through a movie and watch people come to see what the Lord had done. What could be better as somebody that is a storyteller? It's right there now on a screen. It was really cool. Forever life-changing. It was the "Yes" of a pivotal moment.
GH: It was clearly a very personal work you - in what ways did it prepare you for writing your book Beautifully Flawed?
SR: October Baby was such a personal experience for me, and it really started opening this floodgate of who I was, and really to identify my story. I realize - October Baby happened, and two years following, I was actually on a press junket speaking pregnancy and maternity care homes for two years. So, what I realized, was that October Baby was that pivotal point of saying "Yes," and my story resonated deeper with so many in the world. It was an opportunity to actually share my story through Beautifully Flawed and to share with people that it is really through our imperfection that we find our radiance, which God uses all things for His kingdom, and it was the moment that I could share what he's done in my life. Ultimately, I think when you read (Beautifully Flawed), you really go on this journey of never giving up and absolutely finding hope and seeing that God walks alongside of us. It really inspired me to share more, and I wanted women to pick up this book and say, "Look at this broken past, look at all the things that have happened in this woman's life, but look at what she has been able to do, look what God has done with her life." When He says he turns all of the ashes into garlands in lives - He absolutely does. I want women to pick that up and read that book and see what Christ has done for my life. I thought it was really important to be able to share that message.