By Jacob Sahms
“A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight” (ESV).
As Shari Rigby’s verse for the day, Proverbs 11:1 served as a reminder that her whole life, including her marriage to Matt, her motherhood to Donnie and Levi, her film acting, her book writing, and her mentoring, were all part of the picture God is painting for her. But to remain balanced, Rigby knows that it requires a disciplined life.
“I couldn’t do all of these things without getting up in the morning and spending time with the Lord,” she admitted. “The Lord called me to these different situations, but I’m called to commit to them with excellence. I realize when I’m not being refueled and refreshed, I descend into chaos. The Lord is the one who inspires me and motivates me to keep going.”
While Rigby’s current efforts include her work on a mentoring book called Consider the Lilies, a TV program called The Encounter, and mentoring women through her Hollywood-based organization The Women in My World, she is soon to be seen everywhere as science teacher, wife, mother, and mentor Amy Harrison in the Kendrick Brothers’ film, Overcomer.
Rigby was drawn in by Stephen and Alex Kendricks’ writing of the character she auditioned for, as the wife to Alex’s character, John Harrison, a teacher and coach struggling with his identity in the midst of economic crisis and upheaval. As Harrison’s position changes at the school where he teaches and coaches, he is angry with his own loss of identity, especially as he’s pushed to coach a non-contact sport, cross country. In the scene used in her audition, Rigby’s Amy approaches John after he has been particularly rude to Amy in the midst of his frustration over losing his basketball team and many of his friends.
“Many people would approach that situation in anger, speaking to their spouse as a tyrant,” Rigby proposed. “I approached as a wife who has learned from my husband, having been married for twenty-two years. The greatest lesson [Matt] has taught me is how to say I’m sorry.”
“In the situation in the movie, it’s Amy’s opportunity to speak life. By approaching him that way, she gains the upper hand, not in terms of power but in a Biblical way. My inspiration in that scene was all those years with my husband. I hope people recognize the way that works well in a marriage, and how it provides power to both sides of the couple.”
Rigby’s role in the Kendricks’ script is certainly one of equality, a partner in John’s coaching, teaching, parenting, and navigating the rough spots in life. That’s an opportunity Rigby won’t waste, and one she says that isn’t always available to female actors in Hollywood.
“Sometimes, in faith-based films, there is a lack of strong female characters. They can be pushed aside. But Alex and Stephen didn’t just make Amy present, they made her a partner who has a huge role in John’s life and in mentoring [cross country runner] Hannah. The script really shows John needing Amy as a powerhouse with him in what happens.”
Rigby hopes that her portrayal will inspire people to see themselves in the film, and to see a powerful woman like the role she played in the ultra-marathon film Extraordinary. There she played another wife to a man who was doing his own thing and failing to live up to his part in marriage. It’s a consistent issue Rigby sees in the world, and believes audiences can relate to, finding something different in these films.
“Believer or non-believer, marriage is a struggle,” she said. “There is so much negative out there about what we’re to be as women, bullying us if we don’t fit into what’s said. I want to show women what makes us powerful in a true partnership, as moms, wives, businesswomen.”
Rigby believes that the Kendricks intentionally shaped the female roles powerfully because of the deep respect Stephen and Alex have for their wives. “They want to lift women up,” she explained. “Being around them, you see how much credit they give to their wives.”
Thanks to Rigby’s acting and the Kendricks’ script, audiences will soon see a vision of partnership in marriage that will challenge and inspire others to run their race together.
Overcomer is in theaters on August 23.