The Masked Saint, the movie is in theaters January 8, 2016. Faith & Fitness Magazine invites you to take a closer look into the lives of two key players in this movie: Brett Granstaff, the producer and main character and Pastor Chris Whaley, the person on whom the book and movie are based.
This 3-page article begins with an introduction to the movie, followed by (page 2) an interview with Granstaff and concluding (page 3) with the Whaley interview. See how both connect personal Christian faith with physical fitness and consider how each personally interprets the theme message of this issue, “PAUSE/PLAY”.
[This is page 1 in a three-page article. Be sure to read all three pages.]
Masked Saint revolves around the life of Chris Samuels (Brett Granstaff, “Set Up”, “Vice”), a professional wrestler and family man who realizes he needs something more. His calling to become a pastor prompts him to retire from wrestling and move with his wife (Lara Jean Chorostecki, “Hannibal”, and “Copper”) and daughter (T.J. McGibbon, “Lucky 7”) to a small town. Yet the battles he faced in the ring are minor compared to the challenges he must overcome at his new church. From an overbearing congregant (Patrick McKenna, “The Rick Mercer Report”, and “Red Green Show”) and failing attendance to mounting bills for church repairs, Samuels has his hands full.
Samuels finds an ally in Miss Edna (Diahann Carroll, “White Collar”, “Dynasty”), an elderly woman who gives him sage advice and shares her wisdom in a book of writings. Unbeknownst to him, she is also a wrestling fan and encourages him to use his talents to take action tricking him into reconnecting with his old colleagues including a shady wrestling promoter (Roddy Piper, “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, “WWE Smackdown”). Afterwards, when Samuels stumbles onto a fight on the seedy side of town, his wrestling skills take down the assailant and a masked vigilante is born.
In order to raise some funds, Samuels returns to the ring professionally, and things begin to seemingly improve for the church. His life as a pastor and wrestler soon take up most of his time though – not to mention Samuels’ shrouded crime fighter is now being sought by the police. His talent, as well as his violent secret identity, begins to overshadow his calling as a Pastor and it takes his faith, family and Miss Edna to remind him about grace, goodness and the truth.
[Continue to the next page for the Brett Granstaff interview.]
The Brett Granstaff Interview:
[This is page 2 in a three-page article. Be sure to read all three pages.]
I’ll be the first to say there is nothing fake about wrestling. It hurt --- A lot!
-Bret Granstaff, Producer
Faith & Fitness Magazine: How did you decide to do this movie?
Brett Granstaff: I was supposed to be doing another film, a true story about a boxer. We had everything ready to go but there were a couple of issues and I just didn’t want to get into a situation where things didn’t seem right. My partner in Canada said, “Hey, I have this little faith-based movie. I’d like for you to take a look at it.” So, I bought the book, The Masked Saint, by Chris Whaley and found it to be interesting. I then looked at the initial script and said, “Let’s tell this in a shortened linier kind of way.” I wrote the script, they loved it and we decided to do the film.
It’s interesting, when I heard the story I was like, “Hey wait a minute. He’s a pastor and yet he’s a professional wrestler. How does this happen?” I like to say, “He’s a pastor that doesn’t always turn the other cheek so to speak.” It’s a story about redemption and about second chances. I love the message.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: Why do faith-based films? You can make better money doing others kinds of films.
Brett Granstaff: When I was in school the head of the department said if you want to make money do anything else because you’ll never make it in film. I’ve actually been successful in film making as a producer with my company Ridgerock Entertainment for the studio films. But, I created Ridgerock Faith because I want to do more faith-based movies because I am a person of faith. I personally appreciate faith-based films. It is always something I’ve wanted to do.
I think there is a market for it and I don’t think there is enough good content. My hope is to bring a higher production level to the faith-based films and get more people into the theaters. I hope to set the new bar – that we can do really high level Christian films, with a decent budget and have a really good message.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: Talking about “setting the bar”, I understand you did most if not all of the stunts for this film. That must have required a good bit of training?
Brett Granstaff: Yes, I did! I told them, “If I’m going to do this movie, I want to do my own stunts because I want to learn how to wrestle.” I mean that’s the fun part about movie making, right?! Looking back on that now I’m like, “Oh man, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea after all.” Actually, I really loved it. We brought in this guy, James Preston Rogers, who trained in the WWE training camp. I had eight classes, two hours each. So sixteen hours total to learn to do my stunts. It was a crash course --- literally, pun intended!
The first day James said, “Hey bro, listen normally people take about six months to learn how to fall. You have fifteen minutes.” I said, “Excuse me, what’s that?” He asked, “Do you trust me?” I replied, “Yeah, I don’t really have a choice.” He said, “So I’m going to pick you up and I want you to close your eyes.”
So he picked me up, told me to breath out and slammed me as hard as he could on the canvas. I was like, “Ohhhhhhhh…..” He said, “Bro, you gotta breath.” I was like, “Thaaaanks.” So, I’ll be the first to say there is nothing fake about wrestling. It hurt --- A lot!
Faith & Fitness Magazine: So in all that physical activity did God give you an epiphany of some sort?
Brett Granstaff: I don’t think necessarily in the wrestling but in the film in general we were definitely blessed. I think God loves watching out for us. That fact that we finished on time and on budget was just amazing. We filmed in Sault Ste. Marie (pronounced “Soo Saint Marie”) in Northern Ontario and they had their first snow in early September and we were filming yet in late November. I was just waiting for a big massive snowstorm and it never hit. We were blessed.
But also with the stunts and physicality for everyone we didn’t have a single injury. It is a good action film. We were truly blessed that we made it through with no injuries. We really prepared. Everyone had been doing extra training and extra workouts.
I always workout. My trainer was with me. He plays Detective Harper in the movie. I’ve been working out with him for more than 13 years. I’m generally just always working out and keep a good regimen. For the movie we kicked it up a notch. We started doing two-a-days. During the filming my schedule was from 7 in the morning and then finish about 7 at night, then after dinner I’d hit the gym about 11:30 at night. To keep from getting injured with that kind of schedule I think the Lord was watching out for us.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: Share about your regular workout lifestyle and identify your three favorite exercises?
Brett Granstaff: I’m a martial artist. So, I combine that two to three days per week with workouts four days per week. I workout with my friend Mykel [Jenkins] in his garage. He converted it into a gym. I call it the dungeon. It’s like mid-evil torture when you go in there. We mix it up every day. Sunday is our pull-up/sit-up day with different variations. Then on Monday, Wednesday and Friday it’s a combination of everything. I’m a sprinter and my lower body is strong. So, I throw in a chest workout every time for a little better symmetry.
My three favorite workouts would be: Pull-ups, you can’t cheat a pull-up. I love TRX and anything that challenges the core. Then bodyweight exercises like planks and pushups.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: You look pretty ripped for the movie. Tough diet?
Brett Granstaff: Yes, I’ll have a pre-workout drink. Then every two hours I’d have 3 ounces of my proteins and my greens. Something like chicken and broccoli or white fish and asparagus. I’d add an apple for a snack. I’d finish out with a protein shake. If I was particularly ravished I’d have a handful of almonds. It was like clockwork everyday.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What makes faith personal to you and how does it impact your life?
Brett Granstaff: I moved twenty times while growing up so I don’t have a home church. I was raised Southern Baptist.
A funny story about this film that relates to me personally: I like to say that my character, Pastor Chris, always ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Maybe it’s actually the right place at the right time, depending on if you think God puts you right where you need to be. That hits home with me. Before, I used to give someone having a hard time some money. Now, I’m much more aware of my surroundings and who I run into and consider that God has me there for a reason to reach out and ask, “Is everything OK?”
This film has reinforced that for me personally. My outlook in life now is that I’m where God wants me to be. I just have to trust in His plan for my day to day living.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: The theme in this issue of the magazine is “Pause, Play, In that order.” Do you see that play out as you act?
Brett Granstaff: I mostly produce. For me you can never judge a character both in terms of when I act and how I live my life. When I’m getting into character I take a moment, pause, and ask, “What does this character have that I can take away with me? What is close to me – that is part of me, in which I can use myself? What parts of the character are completely NOT like me?” For these, I need to do a ‘what-if’ scenario.
That is what we talk about as an actor. You always want to be in the moment – always present. To do that you have to pause, let everything go, take that moment --- that beet and ask what can I take from this character and use personally. If I can’t find something for myself then I have to imagine, let everything go and just BE.
In anything I do in business and life, I ask, “What is my first reaction?” Then I pause, clear everything out and then take a look at it again with fresh eyes. I want to reflect and make a ‘true’ decision.
[Continue to the next page for the Pastor Chris Whaley interview.]
The Pastor Chris Whaley Interview:
[This is page 3 in a three-page article. Be sure to read all three pages.]
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What’s it like having a major motion picture to be in release in the U.S. all about you?
Pastor Chris Whaley: It is truly humbling. To think that a book I wrote was made into a movie is absolutely amazing! I believe that God is able to do more than we could ever ask for. I also think it is a plus for the underdog. When I finished my manuscript, I couldn’t get anyone to talk to me. I was truly an underdog and God did another David and Goliath thing. I owe God everything.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: How did you get into wrestling? Describe the sport and share how physically fit you had to be to wrestle.
Pastor Chris Whaley: I was very sick growing up. I was in and out of the hospital from the first grade through the seventh grade. In the fourth grade I had polio (my legs turned inward). I also had viral encephalitis. I was in the hospital for three months. I had a wonderful doctor who refused to let me give up. He eventually got me into lifting weights and swimming. Then, when I was in the seventh grade they found out that I had 192 allergies. I took allergy medicine until I graduated from college.
I really got into the weights and was in the best shape of my life in 1978 when I saw an ad “Wanted: Professional Wrestlers.” I answered the ad and was trained by The Great Malenko.
Wrestling is very physically demanding. I worked even when I was hurt because there was always someone behind you that wanted your space. All of the injuries took their toll over the years. Some of them I will eventually pay for in later years (because of all of the concussions). I was a smaller guy. I was 5’ 10” and 225 lbs. Most of the guys I worked against were bigger. I had to be in great shape in order to deal with the size difference.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: How does physical fitness play a role in your life today? What are your favorite ways to keep active and get physical exercise these days?
Pastor Chris Whaley: Because of all my injuries, I am limited more than I used to be. However, I still enjoy working out. These days I walk fast three miles a day. I do cycling. I lift weights (nothing like I used to do). I have also started doing DDP Yoga. Diamond Dallas Page was a great wrestler who also endured a lot of injuries. He developed this program and is helping a lot of people. My biggest weakness is my diet. I’m on the go all the time and really have to work at eating right.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What does personal Christian ministry mean to you? What advice would you give to people that want to pursue being a stronger presence for Christ?
Pastor Chris Whaley: Personal Christian Ministry to me means attempting to reach those who normally would not fit in a “Church environment. “ Dr. T.B. Maston once asked me, “Chris, if Jesus physically was here in Ft. Worth (this was when I was in seminary), where do you think you would find Him?” Before I could answer, he said, “You wouldn’t find Him at Travis Ave Baptist (the largest church in the area), or any of the other churches around here. You would find Him down on Hemphill Street (where the junkies and prostitutes were). You would find Him wherever there were people who were hurting and needing a new direction in life.” I never forgot that. Most people want other people in their churches who look like them. Most churches seem to be attempting to find church members from other churches instead of those who need to hear the Gospel.
I serve in Pastoral Care on Staff at First Baptist Church of Orlando. It involves hospitals, nursing homes, funerals and hurting people. We have an unbelievable church that is trying to be the feet and hands of Jesus. Go to your church and attempt to start ministries to reach those who no one is trying to reach.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: In this issue of Faith & Fitness Magazine we’re helping readers consider the PAUSE before the PLAY – the rest before the action – listening before speaking, reflection before performance. In what ways has God taught you the value of pausing before playing? In what ways do you pursue solitary communion with God?
Pastor Chris Whaley: At the end of the second chapter of Job you see his friends (who blew it big time later in the story) seeing Job and his grief. The Bible says they sat on the ground and did not say a word for seven days. I call that “The Ministry of Presence.” It means just being there when people are hurting and need you. Most people will never remember the things you say, however, they will remember your face and that you were there for them.
My best time is at 5:30 a.m. every morning. That is my time with the Lord. I usually read a chapter of Proverbs every day and also read through the Bible. It is a great time of quiet and being before the Lord.
Faith & Fitness Magazine: What do you feel are the most significant opportunities that pastors are missing these days? What advice would you offer someone who wants to reengineer his or her approach to outreach and social interaction?
Pastor Chris Whaley: I think separating the services is something pastors will regret one day. We have the traditional services, mainly attended by the older crowd and the contemporary service made up primarily of younger people. We shouldn’t be separating ages. Younger people need the wisdom of the older people and older people need the excitement of the younger people. Whatever you win them with is what you win them to.
I would strive to make all the services blended services.