Shane Harper established himself as an artist with a quadruple threat—singer, actor, dancer, and songwriter. He began working as a professional dancer in the entertainment industry when he was just 13, appearing as a principal dancer in High School Musical 2, and in Nickelodeon's show, "Dance on Sunset".
Shane transitioned easily into acting, and is recurring on the hit Disney Channel show, "Good Luck Charlie", for all 4 seasons. He guest starred on "Wizards of Waverly Place", and "So Random". He also guest starred in a 4 episode arc for the scripted MTV series, "Awkward."
As an actor in film, Shane worked with Rob Reiner, in a supporting role for the movie, FLIPPED. He also had a small featured role in the Bollywood film, MY NAME IS KHAN.
Shane has a principal role in the feature film, GOD'S NOT DEAD and recently, I sat down with him to talk about faith, Hollywood, books music and coffee.
John: Thank you, Shane, for chatting with me today. I do appreciate it.
Shane: Thank you. Yeah.
John: I've got a few questions that I want to ask you and the first one, Shane, is extremely important, and I know a lot of people are actually very anxious trying to figure out exactly what you do because that may influence them. The question is, are you a coffee drinker or are you a Red Bull drinker?
Shane: Oh man, coffee, ten times out of ten. Always.
John: Is it like frou-frou coffee for you?
Shane: No. I love coffee. I love the art of making coffee. I am a coffee nut. Everything from pour over coffee to French press coffee to the whole thing. I just love it. I love buying coffee beans from different places and trying them out. It's kind of a process as well. It's a little bit therapeutic in a way, and I also am officially addicted as well. I can have 3, 4 cups of coffee in a day, and I don't really feel it which makes me kind of nervous and kid of excited and proud at the same time. I have reached ... there's that level of coffee love.
John: Yeah. You have become your own barista is what I hear you saying.
Shane: Exactly. Yes. I'm usually a latte guy unless I'm feeling in a real cappuccino mood. Generally, a good latte will really just make me smile. Generally.
John: Yeah. Very good. Because you answered that way I feel like I'm more of a friend to you now. I love coffee as well.
Shane: Yeah. It's great.
John: Shane I'm wondering maybe if we can transition into something that is a little bit more serious. I'm wondering would you share a little bit about how you came to the realization that Jesus is real and how you started to follow him?
Shane: Yeah. Absolutely. I grew up in church my entire life. Not just grew up, really was heavily involved in my youth group. I wasn't just a Sunday church guy. We were the mid-week church family, too.
John: You were all in.
Shane: We were all in. Yeah. I think there was always a genuine love for Jesus there. I really felt like I knew God from a young age. I don't think much it is was really phony or fake or like I was pretending, but I didn't realize the weight of what Jesus did for me or what the implications of Gospel centered Christianity meant until I was in my early teens.
When you get a certain age you start asking questions, and you start saying, "Well, why do we do this and what's the purpose of that, and where did we get the Bible." Just one day I came, "Where did the Bible come from?" We're reading this as an authoritative book. We're living our lives for this book. Where did we get it?
You grow up in the church community, and you almost kind of just take it as it comes because you're like, "Well, of course this is how it is, and this is how we do things, because we're Christians, and we go to this church."
I think that honestly through a lot of different circumstances and also the beginning of my involvement in the entertainment industry, I started asking different questions. It was the beginning of, "Okay, well, what does my faith look like, and how do I talk to people about it, and what does it mean for me?"
It just became a lot deeper and more settled in my soul. I was restless but kind of settled at the same time. I don't know how to describe it. Through a lot of really great Bible teaching by guys like Timothy Keller, Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll that the Gospel began to sink in more deeply. I remember sitting in my parents' room, and we were listening to a sermon by Mark Driscoll. He started to expand on Martin Luther’s “The Great Exchange.” Where Jesus gives free grace to you, and it's yours.
You didn't do anything to earn it, and I remember at that moment thinking to myself this is so much more real and life changing than I could have ever even realized. Obviously it's along process of going through these walks and these seasons, but I do remember that well and just being like, "Wow. I haven't heard it like that," or I hadn't felt Jesus pressing on my heart like that saying, "Do you realize the weight of this, not only for your life, but in the life of your community, because you live in light of that."
Tim Keller always talks about these floors in your soul. Where truth embraced or realized sinks lower. There's always another floor, and this elevator just drops lower and lower and it happens throughout your whole like and for me, it just started to plummet. It just dropped. I was like, "Wow." It’s really a wonderful thing to talk about because it brings a lot of joy to me to talk about.
John: I think, Shane, you bring up an incredible point here, and I want to expand on it. When you and your family were listening to a Driscoll sermon about Martin Luther talking about the Great Exchange. The truth is Christ on the Cross literally taking away the sins of the world, our sins, and putting them upon himself, and then taking his own righteousness and literally, like a robe going around us, giving us his righteousness, and so we have that Great Exchange between the two. That's so amazing to wrap your mind around and yet that's where we're supposed to be living every day.
John: My next question just kind of goes right along with that. Now your job is very different than a lot of other people's. You work within an industry that a lot of time goes is very contrary to that type of thought or ideal. What is it like being a Christian within Hollywood, and how do you live out your faith in that context?
Shane: It's a really good question. I immediately think of when I hear the question, "What's it like being a Christian in Hollywood?" I immediately think, "Well, being a Christian anywhere in the world more or less means the same thing from a heart perspective of how you're supposed to serve and love your community." Right? The culture that God puts you in, and we know to love Jesus first, and to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to live in a posture of service to those around us.
That's what it means literally to be a Christian in any culture and any community it just literally means to share the heart of Jesus with people and have that posture that Jesus had. He's washing his disciples feet. The King is washing the feet. That kind of picture he paints for us in terms of how to live lives that are really emulating the heart of Jesus is so powerful. I think in terms of ... honestly the human heart has inclinations that are honestly kind of universal. C. S. Lewis would attest to that.
There's kind of this universal thing that everyone's trying to get at, and a lot of times we try to find it within ourselves, some kind of thing we can do ... Or we try to find it outside, something that we can serve, something we can dedicate our lives to. Sometimes when you're working on a set or something, it's like, "Can you grab me a _____? Can you do this for me? Can you do that for me? Well, I need this, and I need that."
Sometimes people naturally go into service mode. You're an actor on this set. How can we service you? It’s not right. That's so contrary to how you're supposed to live with someone saying, "Well, what can I do for you? How can I make your day easier?" That's awesome that there's people that want to do that. It's not like being on Hollywood set's this fanciful thing where people bring you lattes and doing your pampering you because that's honestly a lot of times it's not like that.
John: Really? (Asks with a smile).
Shane: It depends. God has called them to do their work well, and to serve well within that job, and within that community and culture, but for me, when I show up to a set to work, what my relationship with Jesus does for me, it tells me this is not just a job. This is not just a moment to be the most paid attention to person in the room or on the set.
It's not an opportunity to indulge in that kind of natural narcissism that my heart wants to grab onto. I need to be saying “what can I do for those people on that set?” Those are people that you're there to serve. That's the idea. You're on a set, and your coworkers and the writers and lighting and props and the directors, the producers, the DPs, everyone involved is ... That's the community that you're called to serve on that day. Honestly it's funny because talking about it, it makes it sounds like I show up to these sets in all of my serving glory, and I just have this great mindset like, "Oh, I totally got it down in life. This is what I'm doing for the people that I work with."
Honestly just being completely upfront, I forget about it constantly. Weeks will go by. Months can go by, and I'm like, "What am I doing? What does my job mean? What does my job mean today?" God's called me to do this, and to do my job really well, but how has he called me to treat the people around me. I think the Gospel always challenges your values and challenges what you believe to be the most important thing. That's what I mean by like ... People are always like, "Well, Hollywood. It must be so hard."
It's like, it's hard everywhere. To live in a way ... I can't displace myself. Everyone in the world living in their communities and their cultures has a call to live a life of service. It's the same everywhere. To have a heart of Christ is the same everywhere. People are honestly the same everywhere. There's this innate human desire everywhere to find meaning and value in things, and as Christians our meaning and value is rooted and grounded in Jesus and what he's done for us.
I think the call to live a Gospel centered life as Christians is really honestly the same everywhere. Hollywood and the Greater Los Angeles area, because I live in Los Angeles, and Hollywood is just a small part of it. This is my community and culture. I'm a part of this. These are my people. These are the people that I love. I go to a local church that longs to serve the community and be ... the church. I feel blessed to be a part of this.
I think generally when people are ... Wherever people are living and doing their work, wherever God's called them, I think that's kind of a sense that we need to have in terms of where you've been placed. I don't know. I know that I'm really grateful to be here, and I never really thought I'd be living in LA, and being a part of this community. The diversity of culture in Los Angeles is really amazing. Honestly there's like a million different pockets of communities and cultures, and it's such a wonderful opportunity, I think and such an amazing place to grow.
From the set of Disney's 'Good Luck Charlie'
John: In fact, as you were talking about the various pockets in LA, I do remember I went out there one time with some friends of mine that are in a Christian Reggae band, and they took me to Little Ethiopia. I don't even know if that's a real place or not, but we went to this Ethiopian restaurant. It was absolutely amazing. It was another community within this much larger community of what's going on there.
I totally get it. I resonate with it. I think your answer is very true as far as what does it mean to be a Christian in Hollywood. It's loving God with all of your heart and loving your neighbor as yourself.
Shane: Yeah. That would have been a simpler. It's just loving God and being infatuated with who He is and what He's done for you and really wanting to serve your community in a really honest way. Not like serve your community where everyone's watching you.
Serve your community where it really means something to you to emulate the heart of Jesus which is ... I think that's life changing. I think it can be.
John: Real quick question. Yes or no answer. Are you sad that Good Luck Charlie is going off the air? I want a yes or no.
Shane: Yes. Absolutely. Yeah. Absolutely. We did 4 years, 4 seasons of work, a hundred episodes, and it didn't feel like it was supposed to be over when we finished up. I think it's almost like it wasn't supposed to end, but everyone's still kind of really, obviously proud of the work and really happy to have been a part of it. Honestly, I think the environment was so uplifting and wonderful to be a part of. I think that hopefully people will continue to enjoy it for a long time.
Hopefully they can rerun it for a long time. It's not the last time it will ever air on TV, but having the last episode air, and having no new episodes come out feels strange. It does. It feels weird. Yeah. I'm sad it's over. It was really fun.
John: All right. You are stepping into a new category of work. You are participating in a motion picture film called God's Not Dead. It is, I guess, a fair statement would say this is a pro-Christian film, and you play a believer in the film as well. What is it like playing something that there's certainly a heart resonating there between whom Shane Harper is and who the character is in God's Not Dead. Has this been a good transition for you?
Shane: Yeah. It was really enjoyable. It was fun. It was challenging. I think with characters, as an actor, you step into this character, and you kind of zip it up, and put it on. When you're on set, you're that person certainly in the scene. It's cool because when you ... As an actor when I'm playing a character, there's always what will interest me in a project will be either me resonating with the story line, or me resonating with the character specifically. Sometimes it's a little bit of both.
In this case, there is this thing involved in it and it happens to be something really kind of personal because it's faith. It's a faith-based movie. I've had a ton of them come down the pike and when I got the breakdown, I thought, "Well, this seems interesting. I'll check it out." It was exciting to me to see the orientation of the film being kind of driven by this character Josh Wheaton being challenged by his professor, his bossy professor, and him having to work out his faith and what it means to him and how it operates in his mind.
He knows how it works in his heart, but the character has to pull out some apologetics and try and work his way through this. I think that seems really interesting to me, and so it's why I honestly went out for it. I didn't just do it because, "Oh, this is a faith based movie, and I just want to ... This will be cool to be in a movie like this because I'm a Christian you know, or whatever." It's specifically the story line, and the kind of character it was kind of drew me to it. I've always been interested in that since I was a young teenager.
I've always been interested in apologetics. C. S. Lewis has always been a huge influence on me ever since I was young. I grew up on the Chronicles of Narnia. The Great Divorce was the first grown-up book I picked up from Lewis when I was 13 or 14. Books like the Great Divorce and The Problem of Pain and The Weight of Glory and these kinds of things really started to shape how I viewed my faith in life and in practice.
It was something I naturally resonate with. It was fun. It was a lot to do. Have you seen a preview of the movie?
John: I have. Yeah.
Shane: There's these big scenes that Josh has, the character that I play. He kind of does these presentations for his class, these 3 big ones, and I had to memorize all that material, and it was a couple dozen pages of material that I had to memorize. It was all monologue. That was probably the most challenging part about the whole movie was doing those 3 scenes back to back to back 3 days in a row. The first things we ever shot in the movie. It was really rough. It was fun, but it was hard. It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.
John: That's very cool. Any other ... Did you get it first time, every single time, or were there a couple times where you just messed up?
Shane: No, no way. I needed that first huge mess up to make me relax, to calm the nerves. I somehow thought I was going to fly in there and be like superman or something and just do it perfectly every single shot fir 17 hours a day, 3 days in a row, and it was nice. That second of third run totally screwing up the cut. All right. Let's start over. Let's do pickup. It got the nerves out. It was dense with information. It's a college setting. The scene is that he is trying to give arguments for the validity of the existence of God.
It was a lot to work through in my brain. I actually even made notes as my character to actually give me a little bit of help giving the presentation because I was like, in real life, if you're giving a college presentation that's 9 pages long, you're going to have notes as the character. I was up there journaling information and notes and stuff. It was fun. I had to kind of get creative with it, but-
John: Good for you. All right. We're going to change gears. What about music? You are a multi-talented individual. On the soundtrack to God's Not Dead, you do have a song. Do you see yourself coming out with a full length album sometime?
Shane: Yeah. Absolutely. One of my huge passions is music. I grew up playing music. I'm currently working on a record on a full-length record. That's kind of obviously a huge goal of mine to get it out and release as soon as I can. Getting to do a song for the movie, for the film, God's Not Dead was really cool. I'd love to continue doing that. It's fun being a part of the film, and then them coming to you after, in post production saying, "Hey, can you do a song for the movie? Because we know you write music."
It's kind of a cool thing to be able to do. It's an interesting story behind the song because I actually written the chorus of Holds You Up probably 2 months before I ever auditioned for God's Not Dead. Then when they came to me to write a song for it, they said, "Hey, do you have a song that kind of goes with the flow and the vibe of this storyline, the narrative?" I said, "I don't." "Can you write one?" I was like, "Yeah. I guess I can write one."
Then a couple days later I remember, "Oh my gosh. Half of it's already written. I wrote this song that's perfect. I just need to go finish it." We finished it, and it ended up working great for the movie. It's kind of a cool story of it working out.
John: That's awesome. Shane. Man, thank you so much for talking with me today. I really appreciate it.
Shane: Thank you so much. It's been really fun. I enjoyed it. We should do this more often.
John: We should.
Check out the "behind the scenes" videos with Shane on the set of God's Not Dead