AJ Michalka centers herself and her relationship with God on prayer. She’s honored to start an interview with prayer, which is what we did when we met to discuss the movie Grace Unplugged. Growing up in a Christian home, AJ has grown tremendously in her faith, particularly in the last few years when she claims that her faith has become her own. She shares a deep desire to go to church with her sister (Aly), and says, “We’re going because we want to learn more about the Lord. We want to learn more about His word. And then we started inviting other people. Which is really cool, because you’re not just going with this group of Christians, you’re also witnessing to people who don’t know anything about the Lord.”
“I don’t feel like Grace makes her faith her own at the beginning of the film,” says AJ when talking about the main character Grace Trey from the movie Grace Unplugged. I think she’s going through the motions. She sees her dad as a worship leader, sees that her mom is an incredible Christian woman and I think she strives for that, but at the same time, it’s not really her relationship yet with God.” AJ continues , “I love Grace. I think she’s got a really good heart, a lot of drive and big personality. Does it get her into a little bit of trouble? Yes. Does she get ahead of herself sometimes? Yes. This girl has a dream, and she goes about it in a certain way. And, in the end, she learns what she gets wrong,” explains AJ when discussing the overall struggle of her character in the movie, which leads her to describe her own professional challenge. “My sister and I went from having a children’s career [Aly & AJ] to now having an adult career [78Violet], and I think we’ve made that transition gracefully. We’ve gotten older, and we’re making our music match. So I can identify with that part of Grace. I think every girl can identify with the idea of wanting to be your own person but wanting to please the people around you at the same time. ” AJ can also relate to her character Grace on standing firm in faith while in a secular industry, “Not only are we both young girls going through this change as artists, but also growing up in the church and having to find our own path.”
When encouraging others to find their purpose and identity in Christ, AJ says, “Pray about it. There are people who want to pray with you.” She drives this idea home by proclaiming volunteers in church want to pray with those who may be a little confused about their faith or their future. “We naturally feel like [our passions are] what we want to do, so it must be what the Lord wants us to do. And instead we don’t take it to Him first. I feel like it’s important to pray on, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do? How do you want me to serve you? How will you make me a messenger’?” AJ continues by saying, “The most important thing is that we don’t make our dreams and passions get in the way of who we are. Or get in the way of the fact that [our passions] are instilled in us because the Lord instilled them. This is something that He gave us. It’s a gift. There is nothing wrong with having a passion or a dream or a goal,” says AJ, but she believes we must take the time to pray, “Lord, this is my passion, and because of you I have this passion. But now, how can I go forward and pursue it and at the same time witness to people?”
Lord, this is my passion, and because of you I have this passion. But now, how can I go forward and pursue it and at the same time witness to people?
With passion, AJ exclaims that we must surround ourselves with incredible Christians and strong relationships when discovering God’s plan for our lives. She mentions, “Grace is trying to make that transition when it comes to the church and then entering the secular world. For her, she doesn’t do it quite as gracefully because she doesn’t have the people around her that are protecting her.” Grace Unplugged provides examples of relationships in which we can all relate. AJ starts by explaining Grace’s relationship with her dad by saying, “I sense that her relationship with her father is definitely at a point where they just don’t know how to communicate quite as well as they used to. They have such a strong bond. And now all of a sudden, he just doesn’t quite know how to communicate with her and vice versa. It’s no one’s fault.” AJ continues to explain that Grace’s dad wanted to be a friend, but in that moment, Grace needed a parent. However, when her dad started being a parent, she felt like he was bossing her around. This is certainly a scenario that we can all relate to when it comes to gaining independence from our parents. The lesson of this film though is that eventually Grace realizes that her dad wasn’t being controlling, instead he wanted the best for her. As AJ puts it, “His intentions were always pure.”
When her father’s old manager enters into her life, Grace becomes so excited about the music industry that she ends up following the guy who started her dad’s career believing that he may be able to start her career as well. In the midst of all the elation and progress, Grace has pushed everyone else out of her life so she has no one to share it with. She realizes, “I can’t enjoy any of this without my parents or without my friends.” And as AJ succinctly proclaims, Grace sees that the manager may be able to get her to the next step in her career, “but as a person, he’s not going to be able to enhance her at all.”
“Then she meets Quentin. Which totally knocks her off her feet, says AJ, who believes Grace is intimidated with the fact that he’s a believer because she doesn’t want him to see her in this light, as Grace isn’t being the best example. But, eventually she realizes, “This is the one guy who can ground me in Hollywood.” We see that Quentin asks Grace the hard questions about why she’s pursuing a career in the music industry and where she stands in her relationship with Christ. He becomes the “most poignant person in the film who brings her back to this grounded, centered girl,” explains AJ.
AJ, filled with tremendous joy in her voice proclaims that God is willing to give us all another opportunity, even when we think we’re a horrible person and we’ve done everything wrong. She believes that He will plant one person in your life to center and ground you. “What I think is so cool, is that God, no matter what place we’re at, even if we feel like we’ve done so much wrong, He will always bring in little angels to completely center us again. He does that through grace. His biggest characteristic is grace. He always has grace for us.“
If you don’t have people in your life that can support you in, then who can you start reaching out to? Look around, God’s placed people in your life already, utilize them and share life with them! Or are you the person that God is using to center a friend? Pray that God will continue to strengthen your faith, so you can be the person who brings people back to Him. Ask God who you’re supposed to help ground.