Priscilla Shirer on the meaning of 'Overcomer'

The writer and speaker on how acting became part of her calling. 

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- Posted on Aug 21, 2019

Courtesy of Priscilla Shirer

Given her starring role in the unexpected box office success War Room, it might come as a surprise that Priscilla Shirer never intended to be an actress. Her father, Tony Evans, is a well-known pastor and author, and for years, Shirer followed in his footsteps. She earned her master's degree in Biblical studies, authored several books and spoke around the world. 

It wasn't until 2015 that she burst onto the film scene in War Room, after Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the writers and directors of the movie, convinced her to join the cast despite her lack of acting experience.

Since the success of the film, Shirer has received other acting offers, but besides a role in I Can Only Imagine in 2018, didn't take any roles until the Kendrick brothers approached her again with a new project called Overcomer.

So what brought her back to the screen? 

"My purpose whether I'm writing a book or standing on a platform or...acting on a screen is to honor God," Shirer told Guideposts.org, adding the integrity of the Kendrick brothers and the inspiring atmosphere on set provided that. 

Overcomer tells the story of John Harrison, a high school basketball coach (played by Alex Kendrick), who is forced to coach cross country after an economic downturn in the town. He is frustrated by the turn of events—especially considering only one girl, Hannah, signs up for the team. But as he learns more about Hannah, both of them are forced to reckon with their purpose and faith. 

"Overcomer is a film that is all about identity," Shirer said. "It's about who or what you have allowed to define you." 

Shirer plays Olivia Brooks, the principal at the school. 

"She's polished and professional," Shirer said. "But we get to see her interact with Hannah and read between the lines of what Hannah is saying to her. [She realizes] there's a heart in there that needs a personal touch."

It was a role Shirer said she could relate to, as the mother of two teenage sons. In fact, it was her sons who were partly responsible for her decision to join the film. 

"That's what I pray for my sons," she said. "That their teachers and coaches won't just be [focused on them getting] an A on a test or doing well in the football game. I pray for people who have a tender heart." 

Shirer said her sons spent three months of the set of War Room, an opportunity that allowed them to be around a staff who gathered for devotions every morning before filming.

The crew prays every morning and before particularly poignant scenes, Shirer said. She relished the opportunity for her kids to see skilled people excelling in their craft and using their talents to honor God.

Especially as her boys grow up, Shirer finds herself praying for her children differently. Just as the characters in Overcomer must learn to root their identity in God, she is learning to trust her children's future to their Creator

"[God] loves these treasures more than I do," Shirer said. "He's got a plan for their life." 

It's a theme that comes through in Overcomer as well. 

"I'm hoping folks will walk away reminding themselves that their value can only be determined and defined by the one who created them," Shirer said. "I hope that folks will be inspired to go back to the Word of God...and then they'll start making decisions and living from that place of truth."

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