Tim McGraw’s driven by one thing whether it comes to the music he makes or the acting roles he decides to do.
“I’m always searching for big themes, for universal themes,” McGraw says during an interview to talk about his latest movie role in “The Shack.”
McGraw doesn’t look like the music superstar who prowls the stage under a massive cowboy hat. He looks more like a church deacon with his conservative – sans hat – look.
There are several universal themes in the new feature film that’s based on the faith book by William P. Young, including family and faith. McGraw plays the neighbor to a man dealing with overwhelming grief following the death of his daughter. This leads to a crisis of faith for the father that leads to a weekend with God.
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This is the latest film from the Louisiana native who has released 14 studio albums that resulted in three Grammys, 11 CMA and 12 ACM awards. He and his wife, Faith Hill, will bring their Soul2Soul The World Tour 2017 to Save Mart Center on Sept. 29.
As soon as McGraw read “The Shack” script, he went into what he describes as an “emotional meltdown.” Despite that deep connection, McGraw had to decide if he even had the time to devote to a movie with all of his music obligations.
He finally decided “The Shack” had so many universal themes, he had to be part of the movie. McGraw knew he could relate to the themes in the movie because he’s had to deal with his own demons over the years including a battle with alcoholism.
Instead of letting past problems stop him, McGraw has tried to grow with each hurdle. McGraw has always felt he has learned the most about himself when he was falling backwards rather than when everything was moving smoothly forward. Even when the times got the darkest, he was able to hold on to his faith.
“Part of my journey, and what will continue to be my journey, is not to ask why God has forsaken me. Most of the time I ask, ‘Why have I forsaken God?’ ” McGraw says. “Probably, the better question to ask is, ‘Where are you God?’ and ‘How can I let you in?’
“The best thing is to open yourself up.”
His role in “The Shack” is a man who has a deep faith who offers his support to his friend who has lost all hope. In McGraw’s own life, he has opened himself to that kind of support because he believes no one can move forward on his own.
McGraw doesn’t have a lengthy acting career but he has learned about the craft along the way. That’s why he knew he would never be able to show exactly what it’s like for a family to go through the horrific tragedy they face in “The Shack.”
Instead, McGraw drew parallels to what it’s like when people feel like they have gotten so far off the right track they feel completely lost. He saw in the script for “The Shack” a story that has the potential for people to look at their lives and decide what has happened to them that has broken their spirit and tested their faith.
“I have always been family-oriented. I come from a sort of dysfunctional, broken family while growing up and I think that’s probably what instilled in me the need and want to have a strong family.”
McGraw was so drawn to the family script of “Friday Night Lights” he was determined to land a role in the Peter Berg film no matter what he had to do. Berg had no interest in casting a country singer in his film, but McGraw bought his own airline ticket to Texas before filming was to start to meet with Berg.
After the meeting, McGraw had changed Berg’s mind.
At the same time, McGraw has continued his successful music career.
“Just like an acting role, music has to hit me in a visceral way,” McGraw says. “It’s different because sometimes as an artist, you tend to go to the heartbreak and sadness because that has the heaviest emotional beats you can pull out as an entertainer.
“Everybody loves a sad ballad because it’s cathartic for the audience and artist.”