Hilary Swank 'blessed' to star in faith film 'Ordinary Angels': 'We can find purpose in serving others'

Hilary Swank
Hilary Swank | Rich Polk/Getty Images for IMDb

NEW YORK — For Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank, starring in “Ordinary Angels,” the true story about a woman who rallied her local community to save a young girl’s life, allowed her to use her platform to spread a message of hope and service at a time when it's desperately needed.

“I've been so blessed with the opportunity to play in real life characters in stories that definitely are stranger than fiction — if you read the script, you would say, ‘That didn’t happen, that couldn’t happen, let’s tone it down a little bit.’ But it did happen,” Swank told The Christian Post at the red carpet premiere of “Ordinary Angels.” 

“It's just such a reminder that kindness can be found anywhere, but we all have to make sure that we’re slowing down for a second and looking at our fellow humans wherever we go and just acting with a little more kindness. We can find purpose in serving others.”

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The 49-year-old actress plays Sharon Stevens in “Ordinary Angels,” from Kingdom Story Company and Lionsgate, a hairdresser struggling with alcoholism and estrangement from her son. But after discovering the story of Michelle, a little girl in need of a liver transplant in the local newspaper, Sharon pours her energy into raising funds for the surgery. 

Though Sharon soon raises thousands for the family, her efforts aren’t exactly appreciated by Michelle’s father, Ed (Alan Ritchson), a gruff roofer who recently lost his wife. Undeterred, Michelle rallies her community, with the support of a local church, to ensure Michelle receives life-saving treatment, all while working to overcome her own struggles. 

Swank, who became a mother last year, said she was attracted to the true story because of the sensitive way it tackled themes of addiction while highlighting the human capacity for empathy and support.

“If you're waiting for an organ transplant, or you want to be a donor or you're struggling with addiction, know you're not alone,” she said. “As a mom, there are some nights that are sleepless and you're so exhausted, and I just think of all the other mothers or fathers or caregivers out there who are also comforting their baby at night — we're not alone in anything. 

“Everyone's been through something before, and I think that's one of the things beautiful things about movies, they depict all different types of people and all different types of struggles,” she added. “I just hope that people recognize that and ask for help. It's hard to do, but that’s such an important aspect of the movie.”

“Ordinary Angels” is the latest project from Jon and Andy Erwin, the brothers behind the wildly successful faith-based films “Jesus Revolution” and “I Can Only Imagine,” and is directed by Jon Gun (“Case for Christ"). 

Andy Erwin told CP that Kingdom Story company is committed to truthfully telling uplifting stories to both move away from the “cheesy Christian movie” stereotype and highlight God’s faithfulness despite the brokenness of humanity.

“What makes a cheesy Christian film is the fact that, as Christians, sometimes we're scared to embrace struggle and tension, and all those things of being flawed individuals, to get to that place of hope or that place of redemption,” Erwin said.

“What we try to do with all of our movies is embrace the struggle; in this case, Sharon is a hot mess of a person, but she’s also an ‘ordinary angel’ in Ed’s life who finds her purpose in saving a little girl. I think it gives hope to the ordinary, everyday person that is flawed and struggling their way through life to find their calling and their purpose.”

Sharon and Ed’s story, which highlights the importance of Christian service, Erwin added, was the “perfect follow-up” to the revival film “Jesus Revolution.”

“It’s a rush of hope,” he said. “It just had such a beautiful take on the power of just making a difference in one person's life and being an ordinary angel. How can I make a difference in my community? How can I be the hands and feet of Jesus?”

Addressing the star power of Swank and Ritchson — who stars in “Reacher,” one of the most popular shows on Amazon Prime — Erwin said it’s evidence of Hollywood's awakening to the underserved faith community.

“I think it's really a moment in time where there's been a group of individuals that have all been trying to work behind the scenes to tell stories of faith. But collectively, whether it's through ‘The Chosen’ or ‘Sound of Freedom,’ or what we did with ‘Jesus Revolution,’ all of a sudden, it's been legitimized,” he said. 

“We're so grateful to have a partner in Lionsgate that has really invested so many resources into this community to tell stories that are mainstream relatable. So to have a two-time Oscar winner like Hillary Swank, to have Alan Ritchson, who's one of the hottest actors on the planet right now, both telling a story of faith and doing it unapologetically — that's what we've worked for, and it’s being heard by the industry. As we support these films in the theaters, there's an opportunity for the movies to get bigger and bigger.”

Though released in theaters today, “Ordinary Angels” has been screened across U.S. churches for the last several months — and Erwin said the response, especially from pastors, has been “incredible.” 

“People are so excited to see the church be the hero of the story again,” he said. “In society, so much of the time, the church becomes the butt of the joke, the punch line. We’re reminding the outside world that the church is a safe place where you can get help, and that’s a message churches really, really embrace. When we show it to audiences, it brings them to tears, and it brings them to their feet; they're cheering at the end. It’s exactly what we need right now.”

"Ordinary Angels" is now playing in theaters. The film also stars Nancy Travis, Tamala Jones, Amy Acker, Drew Powell, Skywalker Hughes and Emily Mitchell. 

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at:

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