Hollywood star Nick Searcy praises Blackwell during 'Redemption' filming

by Charles Gerian

Blackwell residents were abuzz Saturday morning as film crews set up at Bob’s Grill on the corner of Main Street and Padon Avenue. That’s where the proof-of-concept short film “Redemption, Oklahoma” was being filmed, with the hopes of spawning a TV series and lucrative media franchise that would benefit Blackwell and Kay County.

On Sunday, the film crew was in Nardin wrapping up their scenes with actor Nick Searcy, who plays the lead role of Pastor Jack. The sun was high and the temperature was well over 100 degrees at the little country church in Nardin.

The congregation listened to Pastor Jack leading a fiery and passionate sermon about the concept of faith and redemption before the church erupted in songs of praise.

Film crews scrambled back and forth, carting water and supplies for the cast and extras in the building.

Some were from a production company in Wichita, Kansas, and some were from Northern Oklahoma College. Some were from as far as Austin, Texas.

All came together in the sleepy town of Nardin to bring a story to life.

None were more hopeful for the show’s success than Searcy.

Dabbing the sweat from his brow and cooling down in the Methodist Church just a block down the street from the set, Searcy was dressed in a full suit and taking a drink of cold water.

He might have just preached the word of God as an embattled pastor clawing his way out of a drunken spiral in a sweltering hot church, but the actor was cool and collected as he took the time to talk about “Redemption,” his stay in Blackwell and his career.

To say Searcy is prolific would be somewhat of an understatement.

The 63-year-old North Carolina-born actor’s resume includes roles as the villainous General Hoyt in Guillermo del Toro’s Oscar-winning 2017 drama “The Shape of Water,” Father Montgomery in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” U.S. Marshal Art Mullen in FX’s drama “Justified,” sympathetic principal Deke Simmons in “11.22.63” and the abusive Frank Bennett in “Fried Green Tomatoes.”

Recently, the actor was in Oklahoma filming “Reagan,” a film about former President Ronald Reagan’s life, starring Dennis Quaid and John Voight.

“We find Pastor Jack as this hopeless, destitute drunk, and the scene we just filmed in the church is his ‘coming back’ to the man he once was,” Searcy said. “He’s a decent man that just had a lot happen to him in life.”

“I come from a religious background,” Searcy said about the background for his preparation as an actor for the role in the film. “I grew up going to gospel sings and revivals. I was around that my whole life. It’s always been a part of me.”

Searcy said he’s at the point in his career that he wants to start doing roles that “mean something” rather than just being “a job.”

When asked what his experience has been like in Blackwell and Kay County, Searcy laughed, saying, “Really hot.”

“I have a home in Los Angeles and a home in Tennessee,” Searcy said. “It’s always a relief to get out into the middle of the country where people are nice and happy.

“The people have been really good here. The crew has been terrific. The Super 8 Motel, the Sleep Inn, have been very gracious and accommodating to the cast and crew, and being around Blackwell and the area has been great. We ate at Prairie Smoke BBQ on Main Street, which was terrific, and I got to see a lot of Ponca City the other day. There is a lot of really rich history here, and it’s been a joy to work on this project here.”

On the subject of doing a faith-based series, Searcy noted the changing attitude of audiences and Hollywood.

Readers will no doubt be familiar with typical faith-based pictures, which are modestly budgeted family-friendly films with minimal stakes or weight.

“What has happened in Hollywood is that major studios now have divisions for ‘faith-based’ cinema, and when they call something that, it sort of unintentionally sends a message that ‘this is for Christians, no one else has to watch it,’” Searcy said.

“So, a major factor we all talked about was to create something that isn’t identified as ‘faith-based,’ but something that is not only good entertainment but is also grounded in values that we as Christians hold. It’s something that won’t drive away Christians or the general audience. It’s something compelling and dramatic. Something that isn’t perceived as ‘predictable.’ You want to have tension there. You want to have that air of not knowing how it’s exactly going to play out.”

Recently, films like WB’s “The Conjuring” horror franchise have found a new way to incorporate religious elements as a genuine ingredient, making the power of God a tangible force with the power of faith taken sincerely in the battle against evil. Taking this approach is “The Nun,” the “Annabelle” trilogy, and the core three “Conjuring” films, which have all grossed $2 billion, collectively.

Likewise, director Martin Scorsese’s 2016 religious drama “Silence” was nominated for an Oscar and received praise for its handling of religious themes.

“A lot of Hollywood, it seems, doesn’t share the values of people out here in the middle of the country, and I think that’s sort of given rise to independent productions who are doing things as well as or better than Hollywood, while still maintaining strong values,” Searcy said.

“I have high hopes for ‘Redemption.’ It’s exciting at my age to be not only doing something as a lead character but also doing something that I firmly believe in.”

Searcy said he and the Hollywood establishment haven’t exactly seen eye to eye in recent years after his documentaries “Capitol Punishment” about the January 6 riot and “America, America, God Shed His Grace on Thee” about the Bible and the U.S. Constitution turned heads.

“I think, more and more, Hollywood has lost the monopoly they’ve had on the entertainment business,” he said.

“They’ve alienated so much of the American people. There’s a huge void there to create entertainment for the part of the country that Hollywood no longer seems to care for. There used to be this sort of unified culture in our nation. We’d all watch ‘Friends,’ ‘MASH’ and ‘Johnny Carson,’ and that sort of culture just isn’t there anymore. People listen to podcasts. They watch shows on streaming networks. So, in some ways, our culture – our nation – has split. And in some ways that’s bad, but in other ways, that’s a good thing. It’s an opportunity.”

Searcy recently starred in The Daily Wire’s “Terror on the Prairie,” a film financed by the conservative news website operated by Ben Shapiro.

The film starred former Disney star Gina Carano as well as Grabriel-Kane DayLewis (son of Oscar powerhouse Daniel Day-Lewis). It marked the second in-house creative feature by The Daily Wire after “Shut In” debuted in 2021, directed by D.J. Caruso (“Disturbia,” “Eagle Eye”).

The film found itself among one of the most popular video-on-demand titles in June next to A24 action film “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once,” the original Tony Scott-directed “Top Gun” and Netflix’s Chris Hemsworth and Miles Teller paranoid thriller “Spiderhead.”

Searcy said he hopes “Redemption” finds success, and he has no doubt about its potential as a force behind putting Blackwell and Kay County on the proverbial map.

After the filming wrapped, the cast and crew from Arizona-based production company GCM wished to thank several local individuals and businesses in the area,: including Mayor T.J. Greenfield, City Manager Jerry Wieland, the Blackwell Area Chamber of Commerce, Joyce Courtney, the Blackwell Industrial Authority, Charlene Flanery, Daryl Grossardt, Bob’s Grill, John and Pam Purdy, Friends of Nardin, LV Crow, Todd and Jo Goodman, Larry Limbaugh, Mitzi Graham, Stacy Diaz, Melissa Hudson, Jay Hudson, the Top of Oklahoma Museum, Jackie Steffen, the Nardin Church, Lila Julian, Cicarella’s Pizza, Rollin’ Redneck Chef, Tyson Convers, Rick Convers, Cindy Convers, Ronald Convers, Justin Hurr and family, Pastor Bill Bell, Emily Jantz, Stride Bank, Northern Oklahoma College, Chad Anderson, Brad Matson, Braum’s, Prairie Smoke BBQ, Philip Scott, Emmanuel Church in Vinita, OK, Pastor Tim Lunk, Dona Lunk, Christopher Kidd, Catherine Burch, Steve Stough, Creative 4 Studios and Chris DeMuth.