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Actor Zachary Levi says working on Kurt Warner film 'American Underdog' 'bolstered' his faith

Zachary Levi
Zachary Levi stars in “American Underdog.” |

Actor Zachary Levi has reflected on how God's fingerprints were “all over” his latest film, “American Underdog,” in a remarkable way and how getting to know Kurt and Brenda Warner “bolstered” his Christian faith. 

The 41-year-old actor, best known for his role in the superhero film “Shazam,” stars as Christian football star Kurt Warner in the latest release from the Erwin brothers. “American Underdog” tells the remarkable true story of Warner, who went from stocking shelves at a supermarket to leading the then-St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl title and becoming a Super Bowl-winning MVP. 

In an interview with The Christian Post, the actor shared how God undeniably orchestrated the film’s timing.

“Almost every job I’ve gotten up to this point is something that found me in some way, which really is God,” he recalled. “We’re trying to figure out what would be the next cool job for me to do. And then all of a sudden, God is like … ‘Do this one now, because I think this something that’s going to be really good for you.’”

Levi continued: “I wasn’t going to be able to make this movie at all. The pandemic happened; all of a sudden, my schedule freed up. [The Erwins] were like, ‘Yo, now that you’re free, we’ve always envisioned you as maybe being this role. Would you consider doing it?’ I read the script. It was amazing. And then it all happened. And now here we are, and it all feels very fated. It feels like God’s fingerprints were all over it.”

He added: “And that’s where you feel the peace; that’s really the coolest part about it, when you feel that peace. Then you know you’re in the pocket; you’re right where you’re supposed to be. And that’s what it feels like right now.”

“American Underdog,” produced by Kevin Downes, Mark Ciardi (“The Rookie,” “Miracle” and “Secretariat”), Warner and his wife, Brenda, is the first faith-based film ever to get a Christmas Day release. It’s based on Warner’s memoir, All Things Possible: My Story of Faith, Football and the First Miracle Season, and personal testimonies from the athlete.

Released by Lionsgate, the film follows Warner as he struggles to make it as an athlete and his dreams of becoming an NFL player were repeatedly derailed. With the support of Brenda (Anna Pacquin) and the encouragement of his family, coaches and teammates, Warner perseveres, finds his self-worth and realizes his dreams. 

When Kurt Warner first met his wife, she was a single mother who exhibited courage, resilience and faith in the face of extreme challenges. Pacquin described Brenda as “kind and witty and smart” — a “special human.”

Levi elaborated that Brenda Warner’s faith and influence changed the trajectory of her husband’s life.

“Prior to [Brenda], his faith was more liturgical and religious,” Levi said. “It didn’t have as much spiritual depth to it. And then, all of a sudden, it became more of a relationship, as it talks about in the film. I think him understanding that his worth and identity do not lay in whatever his idea of being an NFL quarterback would be, but rather, there are more important things to prioritize, like this wonderful woman and her wonderful kids and all of their relationships together.”

“I think that in that moment, there was obviously a very real spiritual shift in his own life, where … he let go of trying to control this outcome of being a quarterback, and instead was allowing himself to kind of pour more into this real value. Then, all of the sudden ... it starts to unlock itself, these blessings start to manifest.”

Levi stressed that getting to know the Warners and learning about their remarkable faith “bolstered” his own. He described Warner as a “hero” who lives what he believes. 

“I think [my faith] was just bolstered,” the actor shared. “It was bolstering to know that these people have maintained who they are, maintained their identity, maintained integrity. Their faith has even changed and evolved and grown as it’s supposed to do, as they’ve matured and gotten older and or understood more things.”

“They’ve committed to one another and continue to commit to one another, and their relationship and their marriage and to their kids and get being the best parents they can be. They’re super groovy people. It’s cool that I got to assimilate a lot of that in this game, being able to play Kurt.”

On the surface, “American Underdog” is a rags-to-riches tale. But Levi wants audiences to understand the “fight and drive” both Warners exhibited to succeed. Their story, Levi emphasized, is living proof that when “we reprioritize and are genuinely valuing what is truly valuable, then … the desires of our hearts become more available to us.” 

Passionate about his faith, Levi expressed excitement at using his platform to share biblical truths.

“We can all preach love and wisdom and truth to each other,” he said. “We don’t need to do it from a pulpit.”

Pacquin agreed that the Warners’ story is evidence that it’s possible to overcome adversity through faith and perseverance, adding: “I think that’s really inspiring and really beautiful.”

“[Kurt] didn’t have an easy life,” Pacquin said. “So for people who are not living an easy life, maybe [this story] will give [them] some hope.”

“American Underdog” hits theaters on Christmas Day. The feature was written by David Aaron Cohen (“Friday Night Lights”), Jon Gunn (“I Still Believe”) as well as Jon Erwin (“I Can Only Imagine”). 

Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: leah.klett@christianpost.com

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