Why are so many LDS actors in Hollywood inactive?

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Ilovechrist77
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Why are so many LDS actors in Hollywood inactive?

Post by Ilovechrist77 » 16 Nov 2011, 23:31

I have searched the internet and have found out there are many LDS actors in Hollywood. Unfortunately, most are inactive. I know the internet isn't always reliable and there are many urban legends, but I don't believe all these accounts are false. I know the percentage of Mormon actors are small compared to Hollywood actors that belong to other religious denominations. My favorite actors are Paul Walker, Katherine Heighl, Erin Eckheart, Keri Russell, Mathew Modine, and Eliza Dushku. Amy Adams is also very good. All these actors are inactive. Erin Eckheart even stared in a church video and went to BYU (go figure; by the way, you can find that video online). I even heard from one of my mission companions that Michael Chiklis is also part of our church. He knew the man was his ward.Problem is active Mormon actors in Hollywood aren't normally taken very seriously. They tend to be typecast. Unless there are many active Mormon actors that don't say what religion that don't normally make it known publicly. But then I don't know. It seems like if you want to be an actor and an active member of the church you either are stuck doing church videos, low-budget Mormon-themed movies (a few are good, but most are awful), or if you're a active Mormon and a Hollywood actor you have to be typecast. It even seems like in our church if you're a Hollywood actor and active member of the church and you play in a role that isn't seriously against the standards of the church but still questionable, you tend to be looked down upon. I know our church stresses conformity and repentance when we sin, but we can take things too far. I know sometimes people are pushed into inactivity because too often church members can be too judgmental. What do you guys think?

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Why are so many LDS actors in Hollywood inactive?

Post by hawkgrrrl » 17 Nov 2011, 05:54

You didn't list Ryan Gosling who is becoming quite the A-lister. He is no longer practicing, but he has positive things to say about being raised LDS. Aaron Eckhart was at BYU when I was; he too has many positive things to say about the church, but he is definitely not practicing. I didn't know him at BYU, though. Several of those you listed had families were converted but then fell away after divorce or whatever. I actually did a post on this a while back at Mormon Matters. I suggested several reasons why Hollywood actors should embrace Mormonism. Here is a link: http://www.wheatandtares.org/2008/04/20 ... mormonism/

There are very few who are still active LDS. I can only think of two right now: Jon Heder (Blades of Glory, Napoleon Dynamite) and Rick Schroeder (Silver Spoons, NYPD Blue). Rick Schroeder shared in an interview once that it was very difficult to be successful in Hollywood if you didn't socialize like the others do.

The key reasons I listed in my OP that actors don't become Mormon (despite all the reasons it might be appealing to Hollywood types) were (I'm paraphrasing) anti-authoritarianism, focus on authenticity (vs. being a PR vehicle for the church), the commandments, actors like change and variety (rather than being tied down), and our LDS unwillingness to dig into the dark side of the human soul (actors and artists in general need to be willing to plumb the depths, which is tough when you won't even see R-rated movies). But hey, if Brandon Flowers can kind of work it out, why not?

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Why are so many LDS actors in Hollywood inactive?

Post by Brian Johnston » 17 Nov 2011, 07:45

My first thought was that activity in the Church is low across the board, regardless of being an actor in Hollywood. So right off the bat, there's only going to be minority of actively practicing actors who were practicing LDS at some point in their life.

My second thought echos others' observations about how business in Hollywood runs. There are tons of talented people, and I can't help but assume that a lot of work is landed based on who you know. Who you know = who you socialize with. Socializing in the outside world with people in the arts who enjoy pushing the envelope of culture = not exactly your typical bland, Monday evening, FHE social with board games and punch and watching church videos...

My last thought is along the lines of what Hawkgrrrl said -- active, believing Members are often not the types of people who passionately enjoy deep emotional and intellectual tensions. The standard Church culture is completely the opposite of that. Therefore IMO, Mormonism has not generally produced people who produce great works of art. I'm not saying they don't exist, but actively practicing and believing LDS people are not well represented in that arena. We don't like complex characters with lots of shades of grey, or heroes with deep flaws. We're barely able to share our struggles with each other in Church. We don't like tension. We like clear cut answers and certainty -- KNOWING the Church is true, etc. KNOWING the nature and characteristics of God. We don't like our world to be mysterious, or take pleasure in contradiction. In fact, that's the whole theme of Correlation -- to resolve all conflict, mystery, speculation and ambiguity. Here's the story, and that's all you should know!

That kind of culture does not make great artists, actors, composers, etc.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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Re: Why are so many LDS actors in Hollywood inactive?

Post by Curt Sunshine » 17 Nov 2011, 07:59

"Rick Schroeder shared in an interview once that it was very difficult to be successful in Hollywood if you didn't socialize like the others do."


I think that's the major reason - and, of course, the need to be willing to take roles that don't align with basic Mormon standards. People generally don't like to be around other people if they think those other people don't approve of them - if they think those other people are condescending. Having different standards of socializing doesn't mean condescension exists, but impressions are reality for many people.

Also, it's hard to work regularly at a really high level in Hollywood if casting directors know you won't take a role that has nudity or a sex scene, for example (or where the character drinks or smokes - or swears, in some cases). Generally, you need to have street cred and be highly-desired over others to get away with having personal restrictions. I know not all Mormon actors have those personal restrictions, but I'm sure it's a general stereotype in the minds of casting directors by now. It's also impossible (or, at least, extremely hard) to make a living in film and stage, especially, if you want to attend church regularly on Sunday. It's no harder than being a professional athlete during the season, but there isn't a scheduled "off season" in film and theatre - unless you are a top-level actor who can pick and choose and create your own personalized work schedule.

My oldest son is studying to be an English and Theatre teacher, and he was asked recently by the guest artist in their latest production why he isn't trying to become a professional actor. He was flattered by the question, but his answer basically was two-fold: 1) he wants to be a teacher; 2) he doesn't want to give up his religious life (the activities of regular attendance).

Also, when it comes to Hollywood, Prop 8 didn't help, I'm sure.

In summary, to get steady work, it's almost necessary to make it clear that you aren't a practicing Mormon. (Katherine Heigl, for example, has said that she might return to activity once she stops acting - but that she'll have to give up the alcohol and language in order to do so. I wish she felt she could return to activity before giving up those things, but that's a different issue.)
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mom3
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Re: Why are so many LDS actors in Hollywood inactive?

Post by mom3 » 17 Nov 2011, 09:46

Ditto to everything said before. A couple of things to add from personal knowledge. My mom lived in Hollywood CA and as a child was invited to a movie audition with Bob Hope. Her parents remained there all their lives. We visited them often and attended church and so on. We knew people or saw actors in the wards there regularly. But the industry has changed. The first person that comes to mind is Gordon Jump, yes I know deceased, but there were roles he could play and still enjoy activity.

Two or three cast members of Lawrence Welk were active LDS. Remember Sandy, Gayle and Merrylou. Sandy was LDS as could be. There are others who either joined the church or were active and could still particpate as active members.

In short I think all of our conjectures are accurate. The two worlds no longer cross each other enough. Judgement on both sides paralyzes the ability. Performers then must choose. I think until we follow the Evangelical style and make our own TV channel and generic Christian style movies it's hard to expect LDS actors to become a reality. Right now it is easier to be a Christian Actor than a Mormon Actor.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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DevilsAdvocate
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Re: Why are so many LDS actors in Hollywood inactive?

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 17 Nov 2011, 10:07

My guess is that most Mormon actors are inactive for many of the same basic reasons that the majority of the 14 million members the Church currently counts (something like 60-80%) are not active:

1. They don't want to obey the Word of Wisdom. 2. They don't want to pay tithing. 3. The Church and/or other members make a big deal about their past or present lack of chastity (it seems like celebrities typically have more problems with marriage and difficulty staying married very long than the general population). 4. Maybe they think the meetings are generally boring, unedifying, and/or hard to take time for with their busy schedules. 5. Not everyone raised by LDS parents will necessarily buy into the LDS doctrines so maybe they just don't believe in the Church or don't really know that much about it to begin with.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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Ilovechrist77
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Re: Why are so many LDS actors in Hollywood inactive?

Post by Ilovechrist77 » 17 Nov 2011, 12:43

All good points. I know Jon Heder is a Mormon actor. He's good, but also typecast. Rick Schroeder is fantastic, but I don't see him in enough programs. I know the actress A.J. Cook from Criminal Minds is an active Latter-day Saint who isn't typecast, but isn't as good compared to Heighl, Russell, or Walker. She hasn't been in very many staring roles. I know there's always Donny and Marie Osmond. I'm sure they're great people in real life, but I think they're over-rated. Sorry to rant so much about this, but I guess the reasons why us non-famous Mormons get inactive may not be so different why Mormon actors get inactive. I would say more, but I'll leave that for another post.

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Re: Why are so many LDS actors in Hollywood inactive?

Post by Roy » 17 Nov 2011, 14:41

I think it is also worth mentioning that whatever conspires together to make a person a talented actor (be it personality, birth order, meyers-briggs type etc) might make them less of a good fit in the LDS church.

Doctrinally there is tons of room for "free-thinkers," culturally - not so much.

So maybe as a generalization, They never felt quite at home in the LDS Church anyway.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Why are so many LDS actors in Hollywood inactive?

Post by hawkgrrrl » 17 Nov 2011, 16:07

Roy & Brian - I really agree with you about the problem with intellectuals and artists in general, one reason I don't see us having the "great Mormon novel" yet. Actors specifically are often "SP" types on the Meyers-Briggs, people who believe in living in the moment, being physically active (including hedonistic pursuits), and not being tied to rules. Their mortal enemies are the "SJ" types. The rest of us can tolerate how uptight the SJs are, but to an SP it can feel like having the oxygen sucked out of the room - completely stifling.

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mom3
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Re: Why are so many LDS actors in Hollywood inactive?

Post by mom3 » 17 Nov 2011, 16:21

I think you are right Hawkgrrl. Well said.
"I stayed because it was God and Jesus Christ that I wanted to follow and be like, not individual human beings." Chieko Okazaki Dialogue interview

"I am coming to envision a new persona for the Church as humble followers of Jesus Christ....Joseph and his early followers came forth with lots of triumphalist rhetoric, but I think we need a new voice, one of humility, friendship and service. We should teach people to believe in God because it will soften their hearts and make them more willing to serve." - Richard Bushman

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