Starring Chad Allen, Robert Gant, Judith Light and Stephen Lang, SAVE ME is a beautiful tale of love, life, and finding the freedom to be yourself and feel proud of who you are despite society-created obstacles that are thrown in front of your path.
The story begins with Mark (played by Allen), a gay man who is traveling down a dark road of self-destruction and his only escape from the demons within is to feed them with hard drugs and sex, which equals neverending sorrow. From the first tragic scene leading to a strange journey of self-discovery in a Christian recovery group where leaders, Gayle (Light) and her husband Ted (Lang)’s main goal is to help gay men transition into the world of heterosexuality, Allen’s performance is breathtaking. Working with intense material that is highly challenging for even the most accomplished actor, Allen takes on the lead with such a powerful, raw truth behind it that it made me literally feel as if I were standing in his character Mark’s shoes.
As I waited to talk to the former teen heartthrob who starred in numerous series such as Airwolf, Hunter, The Wonder Years, Star Trek The Next Generation, In the Heat of the Night, Highway to Heaven, Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman, etc… etc…who is now a heartthrob adult actor in film and on stage, I definitely wanted to know more.
My main question was this: To play an internally tormented man who transitions into a healthier person so damn well, did Allan have a similar story, making the character relatable?
The answer is, yes…once upon a time. Today, he is sweet, good-natured, humble and one of the nicest people I ever encountered. Chad Allen is a recovering alcoholic and a brave man who in 2001 came out and told the world that he is gay. But let me assure you, he is definitely not someone who needs to be saved. In fact, after five minutes of chatting with him, I was hooked. I wanted what Allen’s got and I felt like asking him to save me!
That is when I realized that only someone who slammed headfirst without brakes into their spiritual bottom and had a reawakening could ever have the guts and insight to not only act in but produce such a surprisingly unbiased film. SAVE ME is about a broken man, forced by his family to enter a very loving (despite their beliefs) Christian group who attempt to do what they feel is the right thing and help men reform from homosexuality, which will ultimately save them.
Chad, I first want to say that your film was fantastic! It was a movie with a message that was told in such a non-judgmental and positive way.
Thank you for saying that. We actually spent five years writing it.
Wow! You worked on this project for five years?
Yeah, I originally found the script….I was working with this theatre company in New York and we were doing a fundraiser where we accepted scripts. SAVE ME dropped into my lap. It was originally a broad comedy.
Fox had been producing it, and it had fallen out and was in turnaround. That’s when myself, and Judith [Light] and the director, Robert [Cary] kind of thought, ‘Hey, let’s make this film together but let’s tell the truth instead of do an over-the-top comedy that we’ve seen before.
Let’s build a bridge between the more middle of the road Christian community who want to have a conversation about homosexuality and God. So, that was our goal. And yep, it took five years to find the right writers and to get the money in the can.
It’s been circulating film festivals for a few years, and going through distribution conversation before it finally got into theatres, which is where we are at now. It’s my first experience producing and it’s been quite a journey. Let me tell you, it’s a process! I had no idea how hard making a movie actually was.
I bet. And you guys have a project with a subject matter that can be perceived as controversial because the main topics include homosexuality, drug addiction and religion.
Yes, we wanted to highlight that there is this old stale idea even within mainstream Christianity that God and Gay cannot mix — that homosexuality is opposed to a relationship with God and we know differently. In fact, so many more enlightened people growing in their faith know that can’t be true anymore — through their experience, through witnessing what God has revealed in the world, you know. They are saying to themselves, ‘Hey, something is wrong here. And they want to talk about it but the Christian leaders don’t know how to talk about it. They haven’t approached the subject yet because it scares them.
We didn’t want to make Christians look stupid or Godless because we knew these were good people who believed this was the right thing to do. Basically, we wanted to have a conversation about love.
That was one of many things so admirable about this particular film. You didn’t portray Christian groups as single-minded, overly critical, crazy folks who are doing terrible things to individuals who stray from what they perceive as “normal.”
Yeah, because we wanted to show a Christian group not viewed as “scary” to audiences, we had to really scale back about some things that we know to be true. Some of what goes on in a few of these groups are insane. You know…exorcisms, electroshock therapy, all in the name of God. We didn’t want to show that because that would be polarizing. Our goal was to reach that middle of the road audience willing to have that conversation. We didn’t want Gayle [played by Light] and her group to be extreme.
How would you describe your character, Mark?
Honestly, the character is a lot like me — a kid who reached a breaking point with what he grew up with and began lashing out kind of desperately to fulfill the emptiness in his soul. Still, he reaches a point where he’s forced to go into his center and he actually finds a relationship with a God concept and it causes him to grow. And in fact, he grows so well and so thoroughly that he’s able to recognize love and step out of the confines of his box that would have been built for him at that home.
I’m glad you brought that up. The beginning scenes with the sex and the drugs…
Um…The place I got to in my life was basically…by myself, desperately alone, running around with a handgun because I was so paranoid of what was hiding in the shadows. That desperate, desperate loneliness. And so, I wanted to capture that dirtiness and ugliness of the place Mark was in spiritually, physically and emotionally. That is why it was important to get it right and while some criticized us for the beginning…for having too much sex…too much…too much….
They said, ‘You shouldn’t have a film starting with sex if you want Christian groups to see it. Well, I say, ‘You know what, if you can’t handle that and come see the darkness, you aren’t ready to have this conversation.’
It was too important to all of us to a. put it right out front that this is what we are talking about…gay sex, and b. this is the depth and darkness that this character is in.
Personally, this movie was so important to me because I think there’s an undercurrent for myself and my own experience and also in the film about the way that we often internalize our relationship with God. I think for so many of us, especially for gay boys, our relationship with our father gets transmitted into our relationship with God. And so, a disapproving father equals a disapproving God. And you become desperate to make your father like you for who you are. It takes time, healing and work to dismantle that.
In the end, inside all of us, I believe that there is the voice and the knowledge of God –whatever that means to you. And our goal is to find it and live that. And the beautiful thing about being a gay person is that means we have to stand up against what societal norms are and say, ‘I get that I can be rejected by my parents, by society, by all of it. But I’m going to live my truth. And that’s kind of the gift we get in life and give to everybody else in the world.’
When you came out in public and stated that you were gay, was it hard to speak your truth?
Oh, my God, yeah. Terrifying. Especially because I was acting since I was five-years-old. I loved it. I always loved it. It’s what I wanted to do with my life. It’s what my dreams were about. And to have everyone tell you, ‘Oh, but if you do talk about who you are you’ll never work again. You could lose your dreams. It’s a scary thing. Ultimately, what they say is unfair and not correct. When I finally did it, great things happened. That’s been my experience.
Right. And if you listened to people who said you’d never work again and didn’t reveal your true self, you would have died from it.
YES! It’s so true. And I think you do die from it, even if you don’t literally die. There’s a soul death that can accompany that. And I look around and I’m grateful for the things which set me apart that didn’t allow me to fall in line with the norm because it’s so easy for your soul to fall and have that soul death.
At the end of SAVE ME, the Christian group, more specifically…Gayle…she didn’t change. But she evolved in her own way.
Yeah, we didn’t want to make a movie where, in the end, she [Gayle] was like, ‘You were right, we were wrong.’ La, la, la. That’s not the result we hope for or expect. But what we do hope to come out of this conversation, because there are so many Christians who are sort of gathering their recourses and garnering their energy to oppose the happiness of individuals like myself, we hope to inject into the conversation, ‘Hey, could you just make room for the possibility that God’s working in our lives, too, no matter what you personally think about my relationship?
And we can leave the rest up to God.
SAVE ME hits select theatres on September 19, 2008.
Thanks so much Chad Allen and the entire production of SAVE ME for making such an enlightening and hopeful film.