Meet Bruce Marchiano, a familiar face in Christian movies. He’s best known for playing Jesus in a number of movies including The Encounter, The Lion of Judah, The Visual Bible: Acts, and The Gospel According to Matthew.
Glory to Jesus! It’s a blessing to be with you!
Thanks! So tell us, when did you first decide you wanted to be an actor?
I was 12 or 13 when I began focusing on an acting career, inspired by a Dustin Hoffman film. I remember sitting in the theater and even at that young age I could see that he was heads and tails above the rest, and I was just totally intrigued. I walked out of that film saying to myself, “This is what I want to do.” I remember I got the sound tracks from all these Broadway musicals and would act them all out in my room, over and over. I got involved in high school productions and just couldn’t get enough of it. I began acting classes… and just carried on advancing toward a real career. Little did I know the Lord was preparing to do films for HIM! Wonderful!
What was your first film/television role?
Haha! I’m always a bit embarrassed by this question because at the time it was such a major event for me but looking back it was so tiny. But I guess a guy has to begin somewhere, haha! It was on a classic TV show, Murder, She Wrote. I had two lines, and you can’t imagine how many hours I spent rehearsing them, haha! The funny thing is we were shooting on the Universal Studios lot. I was walking from the make-up trailer to the set and a tour bus rode by. They all began taking pictures of me, haha! I had lots of laughs over that one.
What impact has your faith had on your acting career?
I could write for pages on this one. Needless to say, it has had a MASSIVE impact. With my Mediterranean heritage, I was consistently cast in bad guy roles. Then shortly after I came to Jesus my career went into a terrible slump, and I remember a friend suggesting I take this/that action. But I looked at him and said, “No, I think the Lord wants me to start playing nice guys.” The next role I was cast in was Jesus – the “nicest guy,” if you will, in universal history, haha! And I’ve never looked back. Today, I don’t think I’m capable of playing a bad guy even if I wanted to (which i don’t!) – the Lord has done such a wonderful work inside me that I wouldn’t be convincing – people would laugh! That is just one small example. On top of that, the kinds of films I’m interested to do has completely been transformed, and the Lord has given me a tremendous sense of responsibility about it because these films influence lives. Yes, I’ve lost agents because of this stance and blah blah blah, but to quote Pastor Chuck Smith, “You’re either part of the problem of part of the solution.” At the end of the day I have to stand before God for what I did with the gifts he gave me, so… Praise Jesus!
What led to you becoming the “Jesus” actor?
It is a long testimony but to give you the quick version – I felt the Lord asking me to join a missions team that was looking for actors for dramas to be done in high schools and all. I was mortified – I mean, here I was a professional actor and the Lord was asking me to do kiddies dramas! I really struggled but eventually gave in and went on the trip. To cut to the chase, it was the leader of that missions team who first heard about the casting of Jesus for The Gospel of Matthew and called me about it. And the rest is history. Because of that missions trip I fought with God about, I’ve enjoyed the most remarkable privilege anyone can imagine – portraying Jesus in films that touch countless lives; bringing Him “to life” for people. So I guess the lesson is, wahtever the Lord says, rush to do it! Because His plan for your life is WAY beyond anything you can imagine for yourself. Glory to Jesus!
What do you do to get into character as Jesus?
For me it is 90% burying myself in God’s Word and burying my face in the carpet in prayer, because if He, by His Spirit, doesn’t “shine through,” then I’m just another actor in a robe/sandals. So I approach it as a mission in full understanding that people will make eternal decisions based on what they see me (as Jesus) do. At the same time, there is a great deal of actor prep, which is basically a process of combing through Jesus’ actions/choices, scene by scene, and asking, “Why would He do that in this situation? Why does He say these specific words?” You see, a man’s heart is revealed through His actions/choices, and it is the heart that must be brought to life. I’m convinced that most people know the Gospel events – what they don’t know is the heart of Jesus. What they don’t know is His nature and Person. What they don’t know is the depth of His love and care. So these are what I focus on and aim for.
What is the biggest challenge with playing such powerful roles?
Off the top of my head I would say keeping it simple and not trying to over-do it. Especially in the role of Jesus, you have to restrain this urge to make every syllable so big and impacting. But it’s God’s Word, so you need to trust that the power is there already. Another challenge is making it real as opposed to “religious.” These are iconic scenes and you’re SO aware that this is God you’re representing – but 2000 years ago on the day it actually happened it was as practical as a “Man” interacting with other men and women. So yes, I would say the huge challenge is keeping it simple and real, and not trying to over-do the work of the Words that are already packed with life-changing power.
Tell us about your latest films being released this year.
I’m thrilled to see the release of For Love’s Sake, which I shot in December last year, and one of the few films that I don’t portray Jesus, haha! it’s a story about a family torn apart by tragedy, kids being thrown into “the system,” a mom struggling with addictions and a father tragically killed… And how the Lord puts it all back together. It’s a true testimony based on the writer/director’s life – he was one of those children. So I’m extremely thrilled to be part of it. I play the role of a therapist who is the one guy who believes that this mother can overcome her problems and regain her family. Together we stand against a sea of opposition. But he knows, “With God all things are possible!” and the rest is history. Exciting!
I just completed shooting another Jesus film to be released in the fall, titled Come Follow Me, and I’m developing a script that places Jesus in the midst of the darkest circumstance you could imagine (stay tuned!). At the same time, many of your readers will know that I’m developing a major Jesus film “for a new generation,” that will be on a scale of the biggest blockbusters. You can learn all about it at www.NewJesusMovie.com. What a BLESSING to be with you! Glory to Jesus!