*In John 14 verses 12 to 14, a resurrected Jesus spoke with his disciples encouraging them whoever believes in Him would do the works He has done and even greater; that whatever a person asks He will do it according to His name.
“The Girl Who Believes in Miracles” exemplifies this particular teaching of Christ as the premise for the movie, the faith-based film managed a remarkable theatrical release in the face of our nation grappling with a pandemic. The film stars Oscar® winner Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite, Do You Believe) Austyn Johnson (The Greatest Showman and The Post), Paul-Mikél Williams (Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous, Westworld), Kevin Sorbo (Let There Be Light, God’s Not Dead), and Emmy® winner Peter Coyote (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, A Walk to Remember).
The story centers around Sara Hopkins played by Austyn Johnson, who upon hearing a sermon at her church decides to exercise her faith by praying.
Slight spoiler alert: On a day that Sara accompanies her brother and his girlfriend to the local lake she finds a seemingly dead bird and prays for over it, miraculously the creature returns to life. Word quickly spreads in Sara’s small hometown concerning her supernatural gift, resulting in astonishment of some of the town’s residents and ridicule from others.
Yet, other people seek out Sara to pray for them and their infirmities. Sara’s best friend, Mark Miller, played by Paul-Mikél Williams, is a young boy confined to a wheelchair who was told that he would never walk again. He asks Sara to pray for him and miracles begin to occur in his life.
The manifestation of the phenomena stirred screenwriter George Michael Mercier to tell this story based on his experiences when his granddaughter was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Mercier, a devout Christian, repeatedly prayed and relied on his faith to believe in healing for his granddaughter Madison.
The inspiring tale has resonated with audiences and to date, the film has grossed $2,484,225 which is impressive bearing in mind the seating restrictions in theaters due to coronavirus and the film only playing in 941 theaters versus the 1,012 when it initially debuted. Despite the evident challenges, God’s providential hand has guided the success of the movie. In fact, first time producer of the film is 98-year old Larry Jaffe, who was born in the era of silent movies and also served in the U.S. Marine Corps in WWII. Jaffe intends to use the profits from the movie to “fund a major initiative to help the poor through a program he created, Integrated Approach to Improve Health and Education in Disadvantaged Neighborhoods, which he wants to implement for his needy and deserving neighbors in East Gainesville.”
The behind the scenes stories and the film itself are a wonderful display of what faith and prayer can achieve. EURweb.com spoke with rising actor Paul-Mikél Williams and discussed the movie, why it is so important at this time in our country, and how having faith influences his life.
EUR: Why did you want to be a part of this project?
Williams: I got a call for this back in 2017 into Lisa London’s casting office, and I went through the motions. [I] did an audition, and she said thanks for coming in [I] waited to see what would happen with it. I was excited about this role because I wondered when I would get a faith-based film like this because Hollywood doesn’t revolve around things based on religion or faith. Once I auditioned for this movie, I decided to go all out. I knew how much I wanted it.
What had happened after the original call was [I] got an e-mail saying that we were getting a director session which is a callback. I was very excited, and once I went in, I got a few redirects, so I did a few times over. The atmosphere in the room, Rich Correll, who’s the director, and Lisa London were friendly, and I’d say maybe two or three months later is when I got the call that I would be a part of it.
EUR: How does faith impact your personal life and your career?
Williams: That’s a great question. First off, faith has affected my personal life by a substantial amount before I was even born; from when I was in the womb, faith has always had a key part of my life. I was born by C- section, and the doctor said that my lungs weren’t fully operating right and I wasn’t going to make it. The only thing that [my mother, her family, and friends] could do about the situation was praying that I would make it through. They said that they rescanned [me] and went to my Mom and said, ‘Ok, this has never happened before, but he’s perfectly normal like nothing ever happened.’
From that time, I don’t want to say religious, but [my] relationship with faith and hope has grown massively. Faith has got me through many things in this business, and I still pray before each of my auditions. I pray for the Lord to guide me on my path to what’s right and what isn’t right, and show me if this is mine and show me if it isn’t. Faith plays a role in my life, like number one.
EUR: What do you like best about your character, and do you share any similarities with him?
Williams: I love Mark because of his connection to Sara, the main character, played by my good friend Austyn Johnson. I love the connection and relationship they have because it’s established early that they’ve been friends for a long time. Mark, his faith has diminished over time because of all these earthly things. Doctors said that he’s not going to walk again. Then as you get further into the story, his faith starts building to the point where he asks Sara if she can pray for him. That’s one of the turning points in the movie that I love because it’s their relationship that conveys the movie’s premise and the moral of the film.
EUR: Sara has to stand up for herself because people doubt the power of her faith and the supernatural outcomes. Have you ever stood up for something you believed in, and was it challenging?
Williams: Of course, as a black person living in America, I’ve stood for many things, and it’s been difficult to overcome. One of those things being when I first started getting into acting, I was going to a regular school, and teachers weren’t exactly keen on letting me talk about all of the acting stuff that was going on. There were many things that I was getting in trouble for that I basically shouldn’t have been getting in trouble for, like excusatory things. So my Mom put me in home school, and from there, I’ve been in home school since sixth grade, and it’s been a challenge to overcome. Other things such as systemic racism have been something that I’ve had to have faith in and overcome over the years, not just as a child.
EUR: We’re experiencing a great deal in our country, especially dealing with recent civil rights protests and a pandemic. Based on your experience with this film, what can you say to the viewing audience about maintaining one’s faith while facing these issues?
Williams: There are many things that I feel can answer this question. One of them being the Lord and having faith in God. I want to say that I’m so proud of this accomplishment of this movie, thank you to Rich Correll who pitched this and the man who produced it, Larry Jeffrey; he’s 98-years old, and he’s been dreaming to tell a faith-based story, a Christian story about how one child believes. She had belief and faith and hope, and that’s what created miracles. The thing is, a lot of people are talking about how she’s doing these miracles it’s kind of like a false sense of security, and it’s going to make other people think that people can create miracles. But in reality, the movie is called The Girl Who Believes in Miracles, and it’s not called The Girl Who Creates Miracles because it’s about how much faith she has, and it’s because of that faith that creates miracles.
As my story of how the doctor said I wouldn’t be able to breathe, it’s not only to nonbelievers and skeptics but also to the believers of today that are going through hard times and questioning their belief. It’s your job to have faith and change the game; rather than going with what the world is currently thinking, you have to go with what the Bible says and what God’s word says because that’s the final truth.
EUR: In addition to the time of your birth, have you ever prayed and experienced a miracle in your life?
Williams: Yes, one-hundred percent, I wouldn’t be in the business without my faith. I had gone maybe two or so years without booking anything, and I was at the point of quitting. I was sent a co-lead role for the movie The 15:17 to Paris but I wanted to quit. Not only was the movie also faith-based, but no matter how much I wanted to quit, my Mom just kept saying, ‘We need to pray on this thing.’ I was like ‘No, I don’t want to pray on it,” and she said, ‘If you pray on this one time, if you don’t book this job, then we’ll quit, we’ll just stop where we are, and you’ll go back to being a regular preteen.’ I prayed for a long period of time, I’d say maybe three to four hours that day because I was looking for an answer. I had always struggled with my faith because sometimes it doesn’t feel like God’s listening to you, and it took me a long time to realize this, just because he’s not talking doesn’t mean he’s not listening. Once I went in for that audition two days later, I booked it without even getting a callback. The same thing with this project, I’ve wrestled with wanting to quit for a while just because the business [is] competitive. But going back to always praying and keeping my faith in knowing the Lord was going to do something. Sometimes after prayer, there’s always a sign that the Lord gives pointing you in the right direction, and it may not be obvious, but he’s showing you in some shape, form, or fashion.
EUR: Hollywood is a hostile environment for those who follow God. How do you continue to grow and maintain your faith while working in the industry?
Williams: I go to Bible study every Wednesday night at 6 o’clock; it keeps me in tune with what the Lord is trying to and with the Lord’s word. It also goes with experience and knowing that He’s done it before and he’ll do it again.
EUR: Do you intend to do more faith-based movies in the future?
Williams: If I ever get a call to do anything faith-related, I am saying yes because I’m always down for telling the Lord’s word and showing other people the miracles and wonders of the Holy Trinity.
EUR: One question frequently brought up in many faith-based films is ‘Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?’ Based on your experiences and the story of this film, why do you think He allows those challenges to arise?
Williams: This ties into one of my favorite books of the Bible, which is Job. The Book of Job was about how the Lord allowed bad things to happen to a good person. The one thing that stuck with me in that book was the Lord wanted to see how much faith Job had, and the thing about Job was he never lost his faith no matter what happened, no matter if his entire family passed away. A quote that always stuck with me was ‘God never lets you go through anything that you can’t handle.’ I feel the things that we go through are not because of judgment; it’s just a fact that it’s the Lord’s showing His grace and mercy.
EUR: Sara, the main character, encounters a challenge in the film, the people around her witness what she is going through, and increased the faith of her family and friends. Do you think that’s also a possibility that God makes you go through trials to strengthen another person’s faith?
Williams: Yes, this movie shows Sara Hopkins’s belief fuels miracles to happen, the other characters’ beliefs start growing as we see in the movie. They finally realize that the key wasn’t in the earth or some scientific explanation of how things could happen, it was in the Lord.
EUR: You seek to become involved in transitional homes for the homeless. Can you explain what attracted you to this particular ministry?
Williams: My platform has always been helpful to me and to others that are near me. This movie gave me that strength that I needed to expand my horizons further into helping other people outside of my family; starting shelters and homes for the homeless lines up with the goals of Larry Jaffe, who produced this [film].
His main goal is to help people and show them that it’s possible to get out of their situation and love one another rather than love just yourself. I feel that God created everybody in His image, and He created us all equally. There’s no reason to think you’re above anybody else because of your position. You should help others who are below you in society because you’re equal no matter what.
This article has been edited for clarity and brevity purposes.
“The Girl Who Believes in Miracles” is now showing in theaters. Visit thegirlwhobelievesinmiracles.com for available locations.