‘Jesus Revolution’: Priceville couple serve as extras in upcoming faith-based film
By Catherine Godbey
For the Enquirer
Clad in their typical garb — a colorful crocheted floral vest and peasant-style dress for her and bellbottoms and a peace sign necklace for him — Janet and Eddie Parker walked onto the set of the movie “Jesus Revolution.”
“They had wardrobe, but every time we went, we were already dressed in what we usually wear and they just ushered us through, past wardrobe,” Eddie Parker said.
For four days last March, the Parkers, of Priceville, mingled with the film’s other extras, participated in scenes and watched the lead actors Kelsey Grammer and Jonathan Roumie.
“It was a blast. We met the nicest people. I was exhausted, but it was a good tired. And for it to be such a good story about faith made it even better,” Janet Parker said.
Based on a true story, the movie, which hits theaters Feb. 24, depicts the “Jesus Revolution,” a spiritual awakening that took place in the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It retells the moment when free spirit Greg Laurie connected with hippie street evangelist Lonnie Frisbee, played by Roumie, and the more conventional pastor Chuck Smith, played by Grammer, in Costa Mesa, California, in 1968.
The revolution, described as one of the biggest revivals in the past 50 years, fused the energy of the 1960s youth empowerment movement with Christianity.
In a trailer for the movie, Grammer said, “I hope people feel tearful and joyful, all at the same time, and maybe inspired to rediscover their own faith.”
“There’s comedy, there’s tenderness, there’s complexity,” Roumie said.
The film is co-directed by Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle.
“It’s been seven years to the screen for this movie and every other movie we made along the way — ‘Woodlawn,’ ‘I Can Only Imagine,’ ‘I Still Believe,’ ‘American Underdog.’ It’s all been leading to this,” Erwin said in the trailer.
The Parkers, who spend a lot of time in Gulf Shores when not in the wooden cabin they built in Priceville, found out about the film after Eddie set a Google alert for movies being shot on the Gulf Coast.
“I got notice that they were shooting ‘Jesus Revolution’ around Mobile and that they needed hippies. I figured we might fit what they were looking for,” Eddie Parker said. “I sent our pictures in and 30 minutes later we received an email saying, ‘We’ll take you.’”
Both Eddie, 70, and Janet, 78, were familiar with the Jesus Movement.
“I was 18 when the Jesus movement was going on. I remember a lot about it and seeing it on TV. But I didn’t know about how it started with these two preachers — a square older preacher and a hippie — and how they just accepted each other. It’s a really interesting story,” Eddie said.
During the shoot, the Parkers sat in on a tent revival scene with 1,000 extras and a church scene at St. Paul’s Episcopal in Daphne with 20 to 30 extras.
“If you look real quick at the right moment in the trailer you can see me in the church scene,” Eddie said. “My favorite part of the experience was watching the work the crew did behind the scenes.”
As for Janet, who has the words “Binge Jesus” tattooed on the inside of her left wrist, her favorite moment was meeting Roumie, who starred as Jesus in the Bible-based series “The Chosen.”
“’Binge Jesus’ is from ‘The Chosen.’ They came up with T shirts with that phrase,” Janet said. “I saw Jonathan Roumie standing by himself and I held up my art. He said, ‘Is that real?’ I said, ‘Yes,’ and ran up to him. I told him, ‘I want you to know the show has changed my life. I read my Bible every day now.’ He touched my arm and said, ‘Praise God.’ It was a very special moment for me.”
The Parkers describe themselves as “Christian hippies.”
“As a child, I grew up in the church, but I hated it. I didn’t connect with it. In 1980-81, I was going through a terrible, abusive marriage. I went walking in the park around our house and said, ‘I don’t really believe in you, but I’m going to make a choice to believe.’ Everything started changing after that,” Janet said.
Like Janet, Eddie grew up in the church, but felt disconnected from the services. When he met Janet after her abusive relationship had ended, she was attending a non-traditional church in Nashville that made him feel comfortable. He reentered the church.
“There were all these musicians and people were dressed casually. I realized it wasn’t so bad. I’m so thankful she got me back in the church,” Eddie said.
The Parkers plan on watching the “Jesus Revolution” film on Feb. 24 while down in Gulf Shores.