Glitz, glam, and religion
Hollywood may have a well-deserved reputation for being a spiritual wasteland, but faith is hardly absent from Tinseltown. The following 12 Hollywood powerhouses are at the top of their game in movies or TV and are unabashed about proclaiming their Christian beliefs. And they’re far from the exception. We chose them from dozens of candidates, in consultation with insiders and observers who are part of the Christian-Hollywood scene. Those who made the Beliefnet Power Dozen are here because they have the clout to choose their career direction, while keeping their faith and even injecting it into their work in subtle or not-so-subtle ways.
Hollywood’s golden boy of the moment, writer and actor Tyler Perry, seems to have a new movie or TV show coming out daily. Though well known for years among urban African Americans, Perry burst onto the Hollywood scene in 2005 with “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” which took in more than $50 million after being made on a $5.5 million budget. Since then, he’s come out with the films “Madea’s Family Reunion” (2006) and “Daddy’s Little Girls” (2007). His second movie release of the year, “Why Did I Get Married?” arrives this month. He’s also conquered the small screen, producing the sitcom “Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” for which TBS reportedly gave him a whopping 100-episode commitment. Citing filmmakers who keep their faith “in the closet,” Tyler told Beliefnet last year, “I’m not afraid to have a character say, ‘I am a Christian,’ or ‘I believe in God,’ because I think they represent real people on this earth.”
You know her as the harried wife and mother–and Ray Romano’s comic foil–in the popular sitcom “Everybody Loves Raymond,” a role for which she was awarded two Emmys. Off-screen, she’s not shy about making her faith or her opinions heard. Born a Catholic, she embraced evangelical Protestantism as an adult, and now attends a Presbyterian church and advocates on behalf of an anti-abortion group called Feminists for Life. Since “Raymond” ended, she has emceed a Christian comedy tour featured in the DVD “Thou Shalt Laugh,” and told Beliefnet last year that she had “an opportunity to get back to reading and studying and praying more, which I didn’t have much time for” while doing the show. That period of calm didn’t last long, however: She returned to TV this fall, starring opposite Kelsey Grammer in the new sitcom “Back to You.”
Photo Courtesy of Mike Meck
Not one to wear his faith on his sleeve, Denzel Washington surprised many by lending his voice to “The Bible Experience,” an audio Bible featuring some of the country’s top African-American stars. (Washington and his wife Pauletta narrate The Song of Songs.) The two-time Oscar winner is in the upper echelon of Hollywood actors, receiving a $20 million paycheck per movie. But his superstar status rises far above mere moviemaking. A 2006 Barna study found that Washington is better known and better loved than any living American religious figure. The son of a Pentecostal minister, he has reportedly donated $2.5 million to his church, the West Angeles Church of God in Christ. It was in the parking lot of that church that Washington landed the “Bible Experience” gig. Casting director Robi Reed told the L.A. Times that when she saw her fellow churchgoer and started describing the project, he interrupted her to say, “I have to do it.”