We were blessed to have Juli Tapken play the leading role of Rachel in Providence. She truly brought to life Rachel’s struggles as a single woman dealing with work, dating, and her relationship with her mother. She’s transparent and real and her compassionate and sensitive spirit that shows up on screen is equally evident behind the scenes when the cameras aren’t rolling.
When did you first discover a love for acting?
As early as I can remember, I loved entertaining my family and making them smile and laugh. As the youngest of four children in a somewhat tumultuous home situation at times, there was never a shortage of moments that needed lightening. I remember acting out stories and books with my older sister Angel, as a means to escape at times, cope at others, or just to bring a giggle of hope that would seem to bless the house. So I guess I just kept that up throughout my childhood. Then God began to open doors that would train me to find creative ways to let His story be told. I am blessed to have been trained by His spirit alone, through skit ministry to children and opportunities at church to hone my tools and to discover His truth so fully that I am able to, through His Spirit when I act, simplify it and bring it to a place of relevance for every “character type” out there. I trust that through this particular gift, He is sowing seeds in me and through this vessel that will bring in a tremendous harvest for His glory. So I guess my “love for acting” stems from my love for Him. He is the creator, I am the brush, and acting is the paint that speaks to a world in need of truth. The Lord Himself used stories to impart truth, and I am so honored that He lets me work that way too.
Tell us a little about your musical theater background.
My first role I ever had was in Psalty’s Christmas Calamity at the First United Methodist Church in Braman, Oklahoma. I had a solo, “Away in a Manger”, as well as some small chorus acting moments. That was The first time I had ever experienced what an impact music and story, coupled with Truth and willingness on my part to put it out there, had on an audience. I could see the Spirit move in them as the Truth of God’s willingness to humble Himself in the form of a helpless baby, to become the atonement once for all, hit their hearts. I fell in love with that audience and wanted them to feel exactly what I was feeling. And still do to this day. I was seven years old. In junior high and high school I performed in community theater, Oklahoma Kids, county fairs, nursing homes, churches and mission trips to Venezuela. Any opportunity to connect with live people and make them feel the joy that is within and the hope for their situation, I wanted a part in it. After being out of college for a time and working with my father to learn how to paint, so I had a means to support this passion, my husband of one year, knew that we weren’t fulfilling everything God had for us in our original pond of Ponca City, Oklahoma. So we loaded up the car without jobs or a place to live and headed to Branson Missouri. To see if I had what it takes to perform there. Fifteen years later, I am blessed to have worked in the stage productions of Two from Galilee, at the Promise theater my first year, And Smoke on the Mountain for the rest ( with a brief hiatus when we got our son).
What led to the transition from theater to film?
My husband was trolling Facebook one day in late November of 2012. There was an audition notice that “randomly” came across his feed for a movie being shot here in the Ozarks. He thought I should submit for it. Now, at this time I was very happy with life as we knew it. I was on stage, our son was in school, I had loads of opportunities at church and had no updated resume, head shots, or anything very impressive to submit, so I sort of blew it off. We were in rehearsal for the Christmas program at church, and I felt that I had enough on my plate. But Jeff kept after me until I took a quick bathroom selfie and changed the dates on my twelve year old resume. He sent that in and I was contacted by Sara Kessinger, the producer of Surrender, to come and audition for the role of Candace’s mom. I did. They liked it and cast me. Funny God connection, about four months prior to the notice, we were working at painting in our church’s youth room. There was a guy there setting up all the new media for them. He mentioned he was a writer/director, I mentioned I was an actress. That man was Danny Rogers, the writer and director of Surrender. So God was moving me toward film before I ever even knew it was an option or a desire for me.I find it humorously ironic that the first film He brought me to was titled Surrender, as that is exactly what I had to do, to let go of My dream for my life and let Him develop His dream for this life. It’s been a whirlwind ride ever since!
What faith-based films have you been a part of?
God has truly blessed me with the most amazing roles in these incredible films over the past couple of years:
Surrender (2014) Principal role of Candice’s Mom. A small youth group gets held hostage in their church, but who is truly the hostage? With Michael Joiner and Stephen Brian Sutherland. Written and Directed by Danny Rogers. Released on DVD.
Colors of Emily (2014) Principal role of Dr Grace Johansen. An emotionally fragile art critic encounters a gifted, albeit blind, young artist, but which one is truly blind? With Jenn Gotzon and Brittany Mann. Directed by Chip Rosetti. Written and produced by Michael Arnold. In post production.
Providence (2015) Lead role of Adult Rachel. Two souls woven through time,only to find it’s Gods perfect timing that will tie them together for life. With Rich Swingle and Juli Tapken. Written and Directed by Sharon Wilharm. Post production, Premieres November 8, 2015.
Mission Improbable (2015) Lead role of Susan. A woman struggling with addiction and abuse finds solace and salvation at Victory Bible Mission in Crossville, Tennessee. With Collin Brown, Mike Tinker, and Juli Tapken. Directed by Mathew Perdie. Written and produced by Donald James Parker. In post production. Set to premiere late 2015.
The Reins Maker (2015) Strong Supporting role of Jane Foster. A young girl struggles through early adversity to follow her dream of racing horses, but discovers a much bigger dream, and the reasons behind her struggle. With Samatha Katelynn, George Lakos, Jim Chandler, and Juli Tapken. Written and produced by Michael Arnold. Currently in production.
What has been your favorite role so far?
My favorite role is wife to Jeff and mother to Lain. To play myself as I am, with all of my fears and all of my frailties. To allow God to use me daily, in my word choices, and behavior patterns. To own the parts that aren’t so lovely or fit for public consumption, but to let Him work in and direct me through it. To be real with those around me, and represent my Savior in a way that makes others say, “I want to live like that.” To Let God use every single part of every emotion, every hidden sin, every triumph, and every tear to show them how very very much He loves us in spite of ourselves, and continues to will to use us in spite of our failures. To be myself is the most challenging, most frightening, most rewarding role I have ever had. Hopefully, we have a long run, and everyday I get the opportunity to perfect it as I affect whatever audience He brings before me today.
What do you find most challenging as a film actress?
Lighting and framing!! On stage I have all the room I want and need, and the spotlight follows. On film you have a very tight frame and light pool. I’ve had to learn that every small eye movement translates volumes. So to pull back emotionally, and stay in the light.
What do you find most satisfying as an actress?
To represent! I am expressly blessed to portray the oft times “unseen”. Those single mama’s, those lost and searching, those disillusioned by life’s circumstances, those who struggle and those who triumph. I am allowed to tell their story, and to shed a light on their plight. To be the voice for the voiceless, and be the voice that speaks His Truth. I can’t imagine anything being more satisfying than that.
What are your goals or dreams for the future?
My one goal for the future is to one day finally go Home to the arms of my Father, to look upon the face of my Savior and to hear the words, “Well done my good and faithful daughter. Enter into the joy of your reward!”
I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see what, if anything else! What, if anything else He has planned. What, if anything else, we can learn. What, if anything else we can give. Tomorrow is but a promise. Today is the day of salvation!
Thanks so much for these very insightful questions, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and my mission. God is so Good!!