James Denton And AJ Michalka Video Interview On ‘Grace Unplugged,’ Christians In Hollywood, ‘Desperate Housewives’
James Denton and AJ Michalka star as talented father and daughter Christian singers in the new film Grace Unplugged. Their onscreen relationship came effortlessly, as they share genuine bonds over their faith and in the film. “I think just coming in as really like-minded people with the story and having the same passion for the script really helps kick off a friendship,” Michalka told uInterview exclusively.
Grace Unplugged features Michalka as a gifted young Christian singer/songwriter who moves to L.A. to make it big. Denton stars as her overprotective rock star father. “As an artist, my sister and I were so used to writing original material but with this film, all the songs were written either by Matt Redman or Hillsong (United). And to kind of bring those songs to life as a voice is just an honor because I think their song writing is impeccable,” says Michalka.
The movie portrays the struggle many parent-child relationships can face during the teenage years. “The script has very realistic interchanges that I think all parents will relate to if they’ve had a teenager,” says Denton. “Where everything you do to try to do the best thing for them and keep them close just pushes them further away. So it’s very applicable and I think very real.”
AJM: It's funny, we were just talking about that. I really feel that our relationship, just as a father and daughter on screen, was really natural. The first time I met James in rehearsal, I kind of felt like, 'Oh my gosh, we were meant to play family,' which was really cool. And you can't say that about every project. I think just coming in as really like-minded people with the story and having the same passion for the script really helps kick off a friendship. But I also felt like he already has this very fatherly quality, just being that he's raised two kids, who I met on site, who are fantastic. And I really truly felt like I could easily call myself like a daughter of his. I just felt like it was a really natural connection, which is cool. JD: Yeah, from the very beginning, we really hit it off. Part of that is the writing. It's extremely well written. The script has very realistic interchanges between them, that I think all parents will relate to if they've had a teenager. Where everything you do to try to do the best thing for them and keep them close just pushes them further away. So it's very applicable and I think very real.
AJM: There's been a lot of lessons I've learned. I really feel like, to prepare yourself, just going on set is such a big thing. To me, it's not just about going to church, or going to bible study, but really preparing yourself daily before you get on set. My biggest thing is I have my little soldier who goes with me on my little set visits. He's in my trailer and I gear him up and he's got his shield and sword and he's ready for battle. I just feel like that's how you are going in to everyday life. JD: [Laughs] I thought you meant you had a soldier, like you had a Marine following you around. AJM: Yeah, I have a Marine that comes around with me and I gear him up. But my little soldier of Christ, he's so cute, he's this tall. I get him ready and to me, that's my metaphor for getting ready for set and entering Hollywood, or entering anywhere, really. But this film, in particular, was so easy because you were constantly with people who were reminding you about grace, about that particular character trait. And I love the people involved. Brad Silverman, who directed us, was just an amazing man of God and an incredible family guy and I just kind of saw that and was influenced every day by him, which is really neat.
JD: Spirituality is a funny, very tricky thing. I had a conversation on the phone yesterday with a friend of mine from the South, who's very religious. We got into how could I justify being on Desperate Housewives and I'm a Christian. I said, 'You know, I think everybody has their own vision of what they feel like is acceptable or unacceptable' and, in the big picture, I told her, I said, 'If I hadn't done Desperate Housewives, they wouldn't have wanted me to do this movie.' This movie has such a great message. It will reach so many more people than I ever could have reached had I stayed out of the business, so it's a really tricky, personal thing. I know we've both said no to jobs based on our belief system, what we feel like we should and should not be portraying but I feel it's different from everybody. AJM: I agree.
AJM: I actually didn't write any of the music involved in the film. It's so funny because, as an artist, my sister and I were so used to writing original material but with this film in particular, all the songs were written either by Matt Redman or Hillsong (United). And to kind of bring those songs to life as a voice is just an honor because I think their song writing is impeccable. I've got to say, I felt really close to these songs like I penned them myself. Brad Silverman, the director, felt like it was my job and his to figure out what the four songs in the film were going to be and he was really cool about letting me be hands-on in what we picked. I think we chose the right songs that really define the movie. JD: For me, I grew up in Nashville, so I've been playing guitar since I was ten, off and on, quit for a long time. I'm very average, I'm just a strummer but that's really, luckily, all we needed for this, was just to play some rhythm. And I got to sing behind her. It was fun. I never get to do that on film. It's fun to do it on film because then they can fix it in the studio (laughs), to make you sound better. AJM: And we can say we have a duet together on the soundtrack. JD: Exactly. I'm on the soundtrack. And I never thought I'd be on a soundtrack, I can promise you that, and I'll never be on another one. But I'm on this one with her. AJM: Except for the sequel. JD: It was really fun.