The highly anticipated film “I Still Believe” hits theaters Friday and while Christian singer Jeremy Camp is grateful that his love story is being shown on screen, it also forces him to relive the most difficult moment in his life.
"It's the hardest part of my life, where I actually experienced some very difficult grief and pain," Camp told The Christian Post. "So every time I watch it, I do break down because I'm reminded of that pain."
“I Still Believe” chronicles the story of how the award-winning Christian singer fell in love with and married Melissa Lynn Henning-Camp, who died in 2001, less than a year after they were wed.
Named after Camp’s popular song, “I Still Believe” was produced under the Erwin Brothers’ newly-formed studio Kingdom, in association with Lionsgate. The film stars country singer Shania Twain, who plays the role of Camp's mother opposite actor Gary Sinise, who portrays Camp's father. Actress Britt Robertson portrays Camp's late wife, Melissa, and the role of Camp is performed by New Zealander KJ Apa, who's best known for his role in the hit TV series “Riverdale.”
Camp is now remarried to his wife Adrienne of 16 years and they have three kids together. His new wife has been his biggest supporter throughout the years and has supported him in telling Melissa’s story.
The following is an edited transcript of The Christian Post's interview with Camp, where he shares his experience while making the movie and the aftermath.
Christian Post: How was it for you watching back this part of your life in “I Still Believe”?
Camp: Honestly, I'm going to be real transparent with you; a lot of people say, "Wow, a movie on your life, isn't that exciting?" Absolutely, I'm blown away that God allowed me to do this but it's hard — watching the film and being a part of it. It's the hardest part of my life, where I actually experienced some very difficult grief and pain. So I think the reality is, so every time I watch it, I do break down because I'm reminded of that pain.
One thing, though, that I've learned in all this is that I tell people, this is what it feels like. It's like when you get a wound you get hurt and at first, it's bleeding, it's an open sore and everything about it just hurts. Then there's a point where it becomes a scar and you’re not feeling every day but you can look at the scar and be reminded of the pain. I think that's what this does; I don't have an open wound anymore, I don't, but I'm reminded of the hard time it was.
One beautiful thing that happened during the filming, we were filming and it was a really difficult scene and I had to walk away because I broke down. I just started weeping, my wife followed me and I just cried on her shoulder for a while. I got back into the filming and I'm sitting there, and I'm watching my family and they're in front of me. It's my wife, my three kids. I'm like, "Wow, God, look what you've done." I have my family now and I'm able to go and minister around the world, your goodness and your faithfulness.
So I think for me, the fact that I know this is going to open more doors to minister the Gospel and to share, that's what the most exciting thing is. I've done this for so many years that I don't need a notch in my belt. It's more you just got to impact the Kingdom or what's the point?
CP: "I Still Believe" was voted the top romantic movie of 2020 by mainstream outlet Seventeen Magazine. What do you think all the mainstream reception of the film will mean?
Camp: The film presents Jesus that He's the hope and the reason why we were able to get through what we went through. I think that's what's so beautiful. Hey, draw men by saying it's the number one romantic movie and give them Jesus.
Of course, you want Christians to be encouraged with the film and I want believers to go watch it. But honestly, I want the people who don't know Jesus to watch this because I want them to understand that the only reason why I was able to get through my trial and we were able to get through that trial because He was by our side every moment.
Everybody in this generation really is searching for hope. There are so many things and battles and divisions and all this and people are grasping for hope in some way. And for us to present this [movie] as a 'this is difficult, this is the trial, this is pain and hurt and loss, but there's hope,' I think that's so huge and pointing that hope to Jesus.
CP: How was it working with KJ as he played you?
Camp: Working with him was amazing because he did his research and he really cared about portraying me correctly and accurately. I think that was so amazing because I feel like he did. He got to know me, he asked me questions like, "How did you ask this question?" or "How did you react in this situation?" He really cared. I think his heart was really in it. He didn't just take a role to take a role. He took on the role and put his heart into it. Of course, the singing part and playing part, he definitely doesn't really sound like me or anything. But here's what I love about it — you can tell that he put his heart into you because you can feel the passion in what he's saying. I think that's why it's so beautiful because you can still feel the passion of his singing.
CP: Did any of the actors come to you and tell you how your story impacted them?
Camp: I think Britt kind of heard my story but nobody really knew the depth of it. As they were reading the script and hearing me share my story, I think all of them were like, "That was impactful, and what he went through, that's got to be difficult, and we're so honored to be able to portray this story." So I had everybody just come up and say, "We're honored to be able to do this." So that means a lot for sure.
CP: Before her death, Melissa said her experience would be worth it all if it could reach one person. What do you think Melissa's legacy will be now that there's a film about her story?
Camp: I still think it's the same thing. I think that she's just going to go, "If one life, then it's all worth it." I think the legacy's going to be an [example of] someone who denied themselves, picked up their cross daily and followed Jesus.
CP: The level of love you shared with Melissa is rare and not seen much in this day and age. It really defines love spoken of in the Bible. Can you talk about that?
Camp: I think that the hardest thing in this generation is that people, if it's broken, they just move on. If it's too hard, they give up because we live in a generation where it's like "do everything that you can do to make yourself happy."
That's completely the opposite of what Christ said. Christ constantly talked about denying yourself, constantly talked about loving your enemies, praying for those who persecuted. It's not about you. It's loving your neighbor as yourself; that actually just means that you care about yourself but you're like I'm going to love someone, like their necessity is that they need to be loved like your body needs food, your body needs water. It's a necessity, love people like that. Hopefully, this will show that you don't give up if Jesus didn't give up on the cross.
CP: What has been the reaction of Melissa's family?
Camp: I'm so excited because they love it and that's so encouraging. They truly are excited about it; they felt like it portrayed Melissa well. Of course, it's not easy, the whole thing is not easy for any of us so I don't take it lightly. It's a very hard thing because I, in a sense, got to move on and my heart goes out to them. They get an opportunity to show their sister, their daughter and portray how she was and I'm excited for that.
CP: So where do you go from here Jeremy? What's next?
Camp: Where I go from here? I feel, "God, let me make a deeper impact." What I mean by that is, I don't want it to just be like "wow, all these doors are going to open, the masses are going to watch it." It doesn't matter if there's no depth to the ministry. I think that I'm just at the point where I'm like "OK, Lord, I want to use this next season to walk in a place where I'm not looking at the big things." Not that I don't have vision, not that I don't want big things. It's not what I mean, but I want depth over size. I think that's just where we are at, me my wife. I don't need a notch on my belt, it's not that. I want a greater impact, a deeper impact and that's what's next. Whatever that looks like, I don't actually know but that's what we're moving towards.
“I Still Believes” is joining box office hits such as “Black Panther” and “American Sniper” in IMAX theaters starting on March 11, ahead of its nationwide release on March 13.