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How Faith Motivates Actor Kristoffer Polaha: ‘I Would Rather Remind People of Jesus When I’m Acting’

Photo courtesy of World Vision

How Faith Motivates Actor Kristoffer Polaha: ‘I Would Rather Remind People of Jesus When I’m Acting’

By Cooper Dowd, Senior Staff Writer

While many know actor Kristoffer Polaha for his roles in popular movies like WHERE HOPE GROWS, a string of Hallmark movies, and his new role in the upcoming JURASSIC WORLD DOMINION, he recently started a new live show called the Polaha Chautauqua.

Polaha said that he started the Instagram Live videos at the start of the pandemic to offer people a form of community.

“It was in response to isolation basically,” he told Movieguide®. “It was at the very beginning of the pandemic, in the quarantine. I think we were a week into it. Everybody was afraid. The world was terrified. You turn on the news, and it was fear mongering… I was curious, what was being manipulated and what was actually really happening and I just wanted to take a pulse.

“I went on Instagram Live, I didn’t know what to expect, and about 90 people joined me,” he continued. “It was people from all over the world.”

Polaha said that while he thinks that his resume as an actor drew people in, they soon realized that his show was not about him.

“I was not at all interested in being an actor for this hour,” he explained. “I was really genuinely interested in hearing people’s stories. I wanted it to be an escape. So once a week, it was almost like a party online and people could come in, they could sing, they could read poetry, they could share an inspirational quote. It just became a community and a little bit of a safe haven for people.”

Polaha, who is open about his Christian faith, said that he wanted the segment to welcome believers and nonbelievers to discuss various topics like race, religion, and current events.

The name, Chautauqua, is an Iroquois word that means ‘two moccasins tied together.’ But Polaha notes that the word’s meaning changed over the course of American history.

“The Chautauqua was a place to go and talk and a place to meet. It was almost like a truce and a safe place, to trade, to share ideas, to cross pollinate cultures, and to actually meet significant others,” he said. “I love the meaning. I loved sort of what it represented. It’s just become this place of about 200 people that join me live every week, and we talk about everything. We’ve talked about race. We’ve talked about sexual abuse. We’ve talked about the Christian narrative and kingdom living and what it means to have a life that’s bearing the fruits of the Holy Spirit and I’m doing it in a way that is not exclusive to just Christians.

“I’m a Christian and I believe in the Christian narrative, but a lot of my listeners and viewers may not,” he added. “I’m talking about it in a way that is saying, ‘Look at look, this is my POV. This is how I see the world. And when things happen to me, this is how I get through those things. And this is what it means to be in relationship with God. It’s something that is completely Holy Spirit driven.”

Whether for an audience of 200 or a role in a blockbuster movie, Polaha said that his faith motivates his decisions.

“Some scripts I’ll read and they’re just too dark, they make your soul sick a little bit,” he said. “But then there might be a script that’s dark but it’s directed by somebody who’s just an amazing artist. If I have a chance to work with that person I’m like, ‘Yeah, let’s go for it because I want to become better as an actor.’

“[God] designed me to be an actor and to be a storyteller,” he added. “Sometimes that means acting in a film with a Christian message for Christians, and sometimes that means being a light in really dark places, almost like a missionary, where you’re gonna be this one character in a movie that’s otherwise kind of dark. But people are like, ‘Why is that character so joyful? Like, what was it about that character? And then what was it about the actor that played him? And what’s going on there? And how do you draw people?'”

Polaha said that his view of acting changed in the past few years after he realized how he could use his gift as an actor to reach people with the hope of Jesus Christ.

“I wanted to be the next Marlon Brando,” he said. “[But] it dawned on me, I was like, forget that. Why stop there? I was like, ‘I would rather remind people of Jesus when I’m acting.’ I would rather people think, ‘Who does he remind me of? Why am I so drawn to that performance? If I’m gonna remind somebody of somebody might as well remind them of Jesus.”

Fans can find one of the best examples of uplifting acting in WHERE HOPE GROWS, which is currently available on Pure Flix. A portion of Movieguide®’s review of the movie reads:

WHERE HOPE GROWS is a Christian drama about a failed baseball player whose faith is restored when he makes friends with a boy with Downs Syndrome. Calvin Campbell’s life has been stagnant ever since he froze at bat in the Major Leagues. Every day, Calvin drinks and pays little attention to his daughter. When Calvin goes to the supermarket and meets a clerk there called Produce, with Down Syndrome, he makes a friend. Produce makes friends with everyone and radiates joy. Calvin and Produce develop a friendship that restores Calvin’s faith and hope.

WHERE HOPE GROWS has a Christian worldview, but also has some dark elements. Calvin drinks heavily, almost to the point of death and pays little attention to his daughter. However, Produce radiates joy and ultimately leads Calvin and his daughter to church. WHERE HOPE GROWS could have been edited better, but it’s well made, with some fine acting from Kristoffer Polaha as Calvin. The heart of the movie comes from David DeSanctis, who does a great job playing Produce. WHERE HOPE GROWS is an inspiring movie for teenagers and adults.

Stream WHERE HOPE GROWS now on Pure Flix!