Turning From the World, Turning to Christ
About the Guest
On today's broadcast, Eduardo Verastegui, star of the award-winning film, Bella, and former singer for the Mexican musical group, Kairo, shares how he left his life of partying and pleasure seeking after finding real fulfillment in a relationship with Christ.
Eduardo Verastegui shares how he left his life of partying after finding real fulfillment in a relationship with Christ.
Eduardo: He introduced me with this young lady who happens to be an English teacher who happens to be a very devout Christian and very wise, and in the beginning I was too proud to let her in, but she persisted in a very loving way until one day I realized that – I realized how superficial I was. And what broke my heart was when I realized not only that I hurt my family, not only that I hurt friends, but what broke my heart was when I realized that I offend God. That was so painful, and this is the part that changed my life.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, October 26th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear today how God changed the heart and the life of movie star Eduardo Verastegui whose new movie "Bella" opens today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us. So have you got tickets already for the movie?
Bob: Now, you've already seen it, but you're still going to the theater.
Dennis: I'm going back, and I'm going to take some friends.
Bob: And …
Dennis: You're talking about "Bella."
Bob: Yes, this is the movie that one the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival a year ago.
Dennis: And that is the highest award the Toronto Film Festival awards. In fact, let me just ask Leo Severino, who is the producer of "Bella," how many films did you whip? I mean, you just beat them?
Leo: Is that a technical term?
Leo: There was something like a few thousand films that were submitted for the festival, in the 3,000 to 5,000 range, generally, and a few hundred, I think, around 300-something films get into the festival and amongst those only one wins the People's Choice Award.
Dennis: We're thrilled to have you on the broadcast, Leo, and also the star of the movie, Eduardo –
Bob: I knew you wouldn't do this right.
Eduardo: Hold on, hold on – Eduardo, 1, 2, 3 …
Eduardo: Perfect, there you go.
Bob: Nice job.
Dennis: And go ahead, Eduardo, tell them how your name really sounds.
Eduardo: Eduardo Verastegui.
Dennis: That's the way it sounds perfect.
Bob: Muy bueno, mi amigo.
Eduardo: Gracias, compadre.
Dennis: Well, Eduardo is the star of "Bella," and it is a great movie and as we mentioned earlier, it is going to be available this month in theaters all across the nation. Eduardo, you grew up in a small town in Mexico. Tell us a little bit about your roots as a young man.
Eduardo: Well, I grew up in a very small town called Jicotencal in the state of Tamaulipas. Tamaulipas is northern Mexico below Texas, and I am the oldest one. I have three youngers sisters, and at the age of 18 that's when I left my town to Mexico City because, you know, my father, he wanted me to be a lawyer. He wanted me to be a politician. So that was his dream, but it wasn't my dream.
So I went …
Bob: What was your dream?
Eduardo: In that time when I was say that maybe my father is right, but then after the first year I realized that this is not what my passion is, this is not what I wanted to do. I wanted to pursue a dream, I wanted to be an actor, I wanted to be a singer. One day my mother told my father, "You know what? Our son doesn't listen to us anymore. My words doesn't touch his heart. My words comes from one ear and," you know …
Bob: "Goes in one ear and out the other."
Eduardo: Thank you very much, that's what I wanted to say. So she said if my words doesn't touch his heart one day my prayers will touch his heart, and she pray, like, hard – really, really hard. Her knees, and she has scars on her knees now, my mother, you know?
Dennis: Eduardo, if we would have known you when you were on television in Mexico making soap operas, is that right?
Dennis: Very famous – how would we have known you at that time? What would have been your lifestyle?
Eduardo: Well, you know what? The funny thing is I always – I grew up loving our Lord, and I was praying every night. What I didn't have was formation. So when you don't have formation saying you justify whatever you're doing, hey, this is just normal. It's my age, you know, everybody is doing this, everybody is doing that.
Dennis: You didn't have any knowledge of the Bible?
Eduardo: Not at all, so, therefore, the way I was behaving was completely contradict what our faith teach us. So, of course, I went to law school for one year in Victoria Tamaulipas. Victoria is the state where I am from, and the first year I realized, "Okay, this is not for me. I'm leaving, I'm going to Mexico to pursue this dream."
So when I arrived in Mexico City I started singing in a boy band for three and a half years traveling all over Latin America. So, imagine, a little kid from Jicotenco Tamaulipas in big states with thousands of people all over Latin America. I was very confused, and I was – my lifestyle, as you asked me, was completely all about fame, money, women, all the pleasures that this career offers you. I was seduced by the entertainment environment to the point that you start losing the values that my family taught me when I was a kid, and everything becomes very relative. You lose perspective of what is good and what is bad, and you start really – the principles that you start following is the principles that comes outside of the media, see on television soap operas.
So after singing in that boy band, I started doing telenovellas, that's what we call them over there. They are soap operas. So if you want to make a living as an actor in Mexico, you don't have so many options like here. You know, here you can do many things. Over there, if you want to make a living as an actor you either do soap operas or soap operas, and you're stuck on that. So that's what I did for almost four years.
Dennis: And what was your soap opera about? I mean, you were on it every day?
Eduardo: Every – over there, you know, they are not like here. Here, I think they last forever, you know, like 20 years, something like that.
Dennis: No, "As the Word Turns" has been going on since creation.
Leo: The words has been turning that long?
Eduardo: Over there it's only like one season, like nine months or a year, you know, so from beginning to A to Z is one year. And so I did like almost five, actually, and …
Dennis: What is the story line?
Eduardo: Now, you have to understand that even though I did them like almost 10 years ago, they repeat them through Univision forever, too. You know, like …
Dennis: Here in America?
Eduardo: Yeah, and one that I did was, for example, a young kids who were facing many problems in their lives, and my character, Manuel, he was a guy who was very rich. He lost his mother, his father died, so he had a very bad influence in his life, so he started doing drugs and everything and the whole message was to show how this man was struggling. He didn't have love, he didn't have family, so therefore he chose the wrong friends. He end up caught up in drugs and everything. He goes to jail.
So first we show the honeymoon period, but then we show the bad consequences, and then at the end he went to rehab, and that's a beautiful message because then you show all the bad stuff. Now, the problem here is that the first three months were you showing what people think is attractive to something that is going to kill you, the problem here is that when people see that, young people are living according to the standards of what they see in the media. So they – we have this tendency, this inclination, to imitate art, to copy what we see.
So a young teenager, he is not going to know, like, well this soap opera is going to end in something positive. They are seeing something that is attractive but it's bad, and they're going to do that because one person in Miami one day approached me and said, "I just want to thank you because" – very ironic he said this – "I started doing drugs because of your show," and that broke my heart because the message of that show was the opposite. And that's when I realized that we need to be very, very careful. Whoever is involved in the media, we need to assume responsibilities, and we need to be very, very careful, because whatever you do, whether you like it or not, is going to affect how people think, how they live, how they behave, how everything.
So we cannot do this only for selfish reasons because I want to be famous or rich or blah blah blah. That was the reasons that convinced me to be in this career for the first 12 years until one day, thank God, opened my eyes and helped me to realize that this has to be for different purpose. You know, it's not about me. It's about me using the talents to inspire people to do something good with their life.
Bob: Take us to that moment. You were in the middle of or had just finished making a movie for here in the States called "Chasing Papi," right?
Eduardo: Yes, sir.
Bob: And what happened that caused the lights to come on for you?
Eduardo: Well, as I said, I started when I was 18, so from the boy band to soap operas. After the soap operas, I moved to Miami. Miami, you know, is like the capital of Latin America. At the same time, it is the capital of Latino music. So I wanted to record my first solo album in Spanish, so I moved there, I lived there for two years, and very comfortable living in Miami, because, you know, everybody speaks Spanish, and I didn't speak a word of English at that time.
So one day I was flying from Miami to Los Angeles to promote that album, and on the plane I met this person who happens to be the VP of casting for 20th Century Fox, and make a long story short, I met with him, and he invited me to do this audition for this film, "Chasing Papi."
So he told me, you know, "This is one of the first times that a major studio like 20th Century Fox is going to invest in a film where 99 percent of the cast are Latinos, blah blah blah, and we're looking for a Mexican actor. And I said to him, with a friend of mine who was translating everything to him, no English. I knew how to count, 1 to 10, and …
Dennis: And this movie was going to be in English.
Eduardo: Yeah, in English. So I say, "I know my English is muy poquito," poor. I knew how to count 1 to 10, a chicken, a few words, the car is red, and, you know, I would love to, I mean, thank you for this opportunity but I need to – "Don't worry, you just memorize the audition, here are the sites, and we'll give you three months prepare."
Then I realize, "Okay, you know what? I'm so grateful for this country that opens the door for me. I came here with no English, I came here with just a dream and, all of a sudden, I just got this job, "Chasing Papi." So I immersed myself in the language, not allow myself for nine months to speak Spanish with anybody, and I started really taking this very serious until I finished the film.
Now, this is the part that changed my life. He introduced me with this young lady who happens to be an English teacher who happens to be a very devout Christian and very smart, very wise, and she is the one that not only taught me English but six months of conversations where she was very patient. And in the beginning I was too proud to let her in, but she persisted in a very loving way until one day I realized that I was using my talents in a very selfish way. I realized how superficial I was. I realized that the reasons why I wanted to be in this career were very superficial. And I hate that man, I hate it, I didn't want to be that man.
And what broke my heart was when I realized not only that I hurt my family, not only that I hurt friends and I hurt myself, but what broke my heart was when I realized that I offend God. That was so painful. It was a moment of grace, because when she left after something that she told me right in my eyes, and she said, "If you really love God, why are you doing what you're doing? If you really love God, why are you treating [inaudible] how are you treating Him? Why you betray him?" Why this and why that? And she said many other things, and she left, and I started crying for months, and the guilt was killing me. I feel horrible. I didn't want to call my family, they wanted to call my friends because nobody – it was something very deep, very special when I realized what [inaudible] said that she said "All these things of the world from the beginning until the end of times, all of them are nothing but a drop of water in the ocean of God's mercy."
And when I realized that God is love and God forgave me, and He changed my heart and cleaned me and He became the center of my life, He became my best friends, He became my Savior, He became my everything, and I just gave my life completely to Him, and I said, "Please forgive me and from now on help me because I'm weak to discern what I should be doing here for You," and I realized for the first time the purpose of life, which is to know and to love and to serve our Lord Jesus Christ, and I want to do it here maybe in the media. At that time I didn't know where He wanted me to be, but that's when I made all this promise where I would never do any – for now until the end of my life, by your grace, with your help, help me not do anything that will offend my Latino community or my faith or, of course, offend you.
Bob: And that kind of a decision for somebody who is in the acting profession …
Eduardo: It's the end.
Bob: Did you think "This is going to be the end of my time as an actor?"
Eduardo: Definitely, because not only I …
Dennis: Well, give him an illustration of the kind of standards you drew. You made a decision about kissing.
Eduardo: Right, well, everything was like – everything started really slow because even though it was like one moment of grace where, okay poom! My life changed, that's it. So now who is going to be guiding me? And, of course, in that time, our Lord. But how am I going to discern which projects I'm going to do and which projects I'm not going to do because certain things that are very obvious, like black and white, but those gray areas, I needed help.
So in the beginning for me was, I started with knowing that Latinos are being stereotyped in a very negative way since the '40s until today – always, you know, the bandido, the prostitute, the criminal, the thief, the liar, and if you are good-looking, then you are the Don Juan, Latin lover, Casanova playboy; in other words, the womanizer liar.
And I realized that very few times Latinos have the opportunity to be a hero, a real hero, not like Superman or Spiderman, but the everyday hero, the man that is willing to sacrifice everything to help his wife, his children, his friends, a man that is honest, that is faithful, that is loyal, a man of integrity, a real woman, not the way how most of the time are being stereotyped as an object only, and my mother is not an object, my three sisters are not an object. They are beautiful, they are the heart of the family, full of wisdom, smart, and I was very frustrated that I didn't see those roles in film or television.
And then that took me to – you know what? I'm going to start practicing chastity. I will never touch a woman until I marry. I will never kiss anybody until I marry. Therefore …
Dennis: Even on the set?
Eduardo: In the beginning it was only, like, my personal life, like I didn't know about the set. So when I made those promises, so what happened after, I received a script, and that offer was, you know, had a sex scene and had a kissing scene and even though it had a good message at the end, it had something that, for me, was "Uh-oh, what about this? I think this is not right," because when you kill somebody on the set, in the story, in the film, you are pretending. You are not killing anybody, right? When you hit somebody, you are not hitting anybody, you are pretending to, right? When you kiss somebody on the set, you are not pretending then.
Bob: That's a real kiss, isn't it?
Eduardo: It's a real kiss, so you cannot play like, "Oh, it wasn't me, it was Ramon, the character." Come on, it's you. What's the difference? You are – and on top of that, you have to convince yourself that you are in love. So already your mind is set up to love this person but on top of that you are going to kiss her and touch her and everything? Come on, this is – it's like they call it "legal adultery." I don't believe there is such a thing as legal adultery, you know? Because this is the only career where you can be with somebody else in a very intimate way, and it's okay. Not only it's okay, they pay you, they give you awards if you're a good actor, and they will applaud you, you know, for cheating on your wife, because that's what you are doing, pretty much.
You can convince – you can justify it, you can say many things but, at the end of the day, you are with somebody else on the set, and that person is the wife of somebody else, that person is the sister of somebody else, or is the daughter of somebody else, and I did something very simple. You know what? I wouldn't do anything that I wouldn't like my daughter or my wife to do, you know? So I'm going to treat everybody as if they were my sisters, my daughters, or my mother or my grandmother. Therefore, you know, I said that I will never kiss anybody until I marry. It is not only my personal life, it goes in my career and in everything that I do.
Dennis: So if you got this multimillion-dollar opportunity tomorrow …
Eduardo: It's not an option if it's going to be something that will compromise my faith.
Bob: One kissing scene?
Dennis: It's just one kiss.
Bob: At the end of the movie, and it's a …
Dennis: It's just one little simple kiss, Eduardo.
Eduardo: No, sir. Well, you know what? This is the thing. We lose values on things that are sacred, that are beautiful, that are meant to something beautiful, and then we are – it's like almost putting like the diamond that you put on a pedestal, and you just play canicas, or you just throw it to, you know, whatever, I don't know …
Leo: Canicas is a marbles game.
Dennis: It's interesting, Eduardo, I mean, of all the places I would expect to hear such a standard, I would think the last place I would expect that to come from would be someone who is an actor circulating in Hollywood.
Eduardo: But you know what you just said – my mother said that. When I told her about what I was going through, she said, "This is amazing, if you have to put a list, name a list of cities or places in the world where you will find our Lord, I'm telling you, Hollywood will be the last one," and that's where it happened. That's where everything happens.
And [speaks Spanish].
Leo: He said he hates every listener that's listening to this program right now.
Eduardo: That is not true.
Leo: He said, "Where sin abounds grace abounds all the more."
Dennis: Yeah, isn't that the truth?
Leo: I think we've jumped kind of to the end game, which is that stands on that particular issue because to us it was a whole spectrum of things, because we realize that with film it's such an incredibly powerful medium, and Hollywood's got it down to a science when it comes to, for example, the color correction, making once scene match the color of another scene, where you spend hours and hours in a studio looking meticulously through one scene that you saw it on Thursday, and the next scene that's supposed to happen the very next moment, you might have shot it on Friday, so the outdoor lighting was a little bit different, you know, the sun was from a different angle or something, so you correct it all digitally, and you literally spend hours and hours and hours on two scenes. And our question was how much time can we spend with the morality of the scene? How much time do we spend to see if that scene, in and of itself, is something that our Lord can be proud of?
Dennis: You know, you said earlier, Eduardo, that you wanted to do something for the Hispanic community that showed a man who was a hero, who wasn't a Don Juan, a ladies man, a liar, a thief, someone who was immoral. I think there is no question, there is a yearning in people's hearts, you know what? To go celebrate morality, goodness, courage, people of character, people who don't cave in, people who, when they make mistakes, get back up, experience grace and forgiveness and continue on.
The thing that I liked about your movie, "Bella," was that it wasn't a sugar-coated story. It was – it had its dark moments. I mean, it had its sober moments. It was a tragedy, it was tough, it was harsh, but you brought the viewer through the movie and ultimately celebrated the dignity of human life and protected unborn babies through a very subtle means of using film in a positive way.
And I just have to say, I celebrate that with you, and I'm thrilled and, frankly, I hope the community of faith, those who follow Jesus Christ will absolutely get out and support this movie in an unprecedented fashion, because it really is a great movie, the kind of movie we wish Hollywood would produce over and over and over again. Well, finally, it's here. You know what? Support it. Go to it. Take your family, your friends, this will be a great movie to build some bridge, I think, even into the non-Christian community.
Bob: Well, there's a reason why this movie won the People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. It's because it is a powerful, moving story, and we probably ought to say that younger children will get restless at this movie. Not because there are objectionable elements, but there are mature themes. So it's probably for teens and older adults.
But you can go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and if you click the red button in the middle of the home page that says "Go," that will take you to an area of the website that has a link to the "Bella" website. So if you're looking for a list of cities and theaters where the movie is currently playing, you'll find it on the "Bella" website, and there's a link to the "Bella" website on our website at FamilyLife.com.
There is also a link to an article that first appeared in our online magazine, which is called "The Family Room." It tells how this movie was made and gives a movie review. So if you'd like more information about that, again, go to FamilyLife.com, click the red button that says "Go" on the home page, and follow the links. In fact, I should mention here if you'd like to subscribe to "The Family Room," it's a free subscription. We send it out to tens of thousands of people each month, and we'd love to have you on the subscription list, and you can sign up on our website at FamilyLife.com.
Then let me remind you, if I can, that FamilyLife Today is listener-supported. Folks just like you who tune in and listen to our program each day will, from time to time, call or go online and help with a donation for the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and without those donations we could not continue on this station or on other stations across the country. So we appreciate it when you do make a donation to FamilyLife Today.
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Well, I hope you have a great weekend. I hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we're going to talk about not just the holiday of Thanksgiving but a heart of Thanksgiving. We're going to talk about lessons we can learn from the men and women who came and settled in America 400 years ago, and I hope you can be with us for that. Barbara Rainey is going to join us, and we hope you'll be back as well.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. Have a great weekend, and we'll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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