Media Maven Series Spotlight: Juli Tapken
Bringing Characters to Life that Bring People to Christ
How did you start acting? (Are you professionally trained or on the go learned?)
From as early as I can remember I have been “acting”. My first experience in front of an audience was at our church when I was 7. We did Psalty’s Christmas Calamity and I had lines and a solo. I was completely hooked after that. I would say, I’m “on the job” trained. From that first experience I went on to do school plays, community theatre, Oklahoma Kids, college (where I studied voice and diction in hopes of a broadcast journalism career, but I didn’t care for journalism), then on to the Branson stage. I have always been involved in church drama ministry, childrens church skits and the like, which is truly where I credit my training. God used those experiences to hone my skill and lead me onto this path I never could have imagined.
What impact do you hope your roles will have on people?
I take very seriously the idea that I am representing someone. Someone who has truly faced the issues my characters face. So I want to be diligent in portraying their plight authentically. I hope that for those who have never faced those type issues, they would come away with compassion and understanding of the stuggles people face. For those who are represented, I hope they feel like they are not alone and that there is hope for their situation. The most honoring compliment I’ve ever recieved, is “That was me. I felt like I was watching me.” And I take that as a huge responsibility.
What gives you the most pleasure: being in front of cameras or working elsewhere on set?
As a Christian, I know that we are created for a purpose. I fought it for a long time,the idea of acting beyond my little comfort zone of church and stage. But when one surrenders to The Fathers plan for their life, there is joy unspeakable. My greatest pleasure is simply knowing I’m where I’m suppose to be, and that I have an opportunity to serve and to encourage others.
Do you feel it’s important for actors today to know more than ‘acting’ why or why not?
Absolutely!!! I love to eat, my family loves to eat and so I’m grateful that my inheritance from my dad was a skill (painting) that allowed me to be fairly free with my schedule, and that paid the bills while I paid my dues. Also, characters need to be real, with real skill, so if my chacter is cooking, I should know my way around a kitchen, if she is a bycyclist, guitar player, horse trainer, boxer, I need to know how to do those things, because there are real people who know when you know and when you don’t. If you’re not authentic in your movement, you can lose credibility in the emotion.
What has been your favorite role to date? Which has been your most challenging?
This probably isnt the answer you want, but my favorite role is “Mrs. Tapken”, and my most challenging is “Lain’s mom”. lol
As for characters I’ve played, that’s a hard one, each one is different and precious and a part of me, it’s like naming your favorite kid. The most challenging role I’ve had to date was Susan in ‘Mission Improbable’, there but for the Grace of God, I personally have never faced addiction and domestic abuse, though I witnessed it in my early life. Having to draw from those experiences was painful and challenging, but somewhat healing at the same time.
Who has made the greatest impact on you in this business?
God has used every soul I’ve ever met to lead me to this place. Some have encouraged and edified, some have shown me how Not to be, some have contributed character traits and habits I’ve picked up through observation, but truly the one person who has had the greatest impact on this career, would be my husband/manager Jeff Tapken. He is the driving force behind me. He is the one who said lets go to Branson and see what happens. He is the one who encouraged me to step out and do film. He is the one who keeps the momentum and the opportunites rolling. He is a man with strong faith in Christ and in me. You would never had heard my name if he didn’t shout it from the rooftops. He knew this was our path long before I did, and I’m grateful that he trusts and obeys the Spirit’s call, because I can be a bit rebellious to it at times.
Where do you see faith-based film going in the near future?
I believe God is positioning His people. He is raising up a remnant. I believe that audiences are getting tired of gratuitous sex and violence. I believe they are hungry for something with more substance and truth. And we have just what they hunger for. But I also feel like sometimes faith films shy away from the realities of life on a fallen planet. The bible is very clear on sin and reveals the depravity of the human condition to highlight the Holiness of God and reveal why we need to be saved. Faith-based films have more of a responsibility to be “real” and bring the viewer to an encounter with The Spirit than any other genre. I believe we need to become more brave and resilient toward that calling.
What inspires you most when you see Christian films?
I’m inspired by God’s Word. Which will not return void. But I also know that His Spirit can surpass our expectations of the vehicle. If God can use a donkey to get His point across, He can use anything, even this jacked actress to show that He is Greater than our sin. He is greater than our struggle. He is The Author of every story, and if we surrender to His will He will lead us on an adventure beyond anything we could ever dream or imagine.
Random- What’s your favorite food?
Anything that doesn’t eat me first! I love food!
What is the one tip you would give to others coming into this industry?
It’s a hard long journey. Trust the process, work work work. Be professional. Don’t do it for fame. Humble yourself before The Lord and allow Him to be your reward. Do all things as if you’re working for Him, not for man. Because at the end of it all He’s the only audience that matters, and when He says, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” we will throw every award, every applause, every accolade at His feet in honor and glory.
If you weren’t acting what would you be doing?
I honestly have no idea. Even painting is a means to this end. I guess if I’m not acting, I’d be walking by the Crystal Sea, because that would mean the purpose for this life has been exhasted and I have entered into the Joy of His reward!