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 | By Cami Beecroft

AJ Michalkin, star of Grace Unplugged, has it all

A musical and acting career and a strong faith to keep her focused on what she needs

Grace Unplugged is a movie about Grace Trey, who has just turned 18 and aspires to do more than sing in her church’s worship band, which is led by her father, Johnny Trey (James Denton), a one-time pop star who gave up his life in secular music when he became a Christian.

As Grace begins to taste the kind of success she’s always dreamed of, she feels pressured to compromise her Christian values and learns not everyone who says they’re on her side really is.

Grace Unplugged stars AJ Michalka (Super 8, Secretariat, The Lovely Bones), James Denton (Desperate Housewives), Kevin Pollak (The Usual Suspects, A Few Good Men) Michael Welch (The Twilight Saga) and Shawnee Smith (The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Becker).

FAITH recently had the opportunity to talk to AJ Michalkin about her strong faith and life lessons from the movie.

How do you stay strong in your faith? Do you have a daily routine?

Every morning before I start my day, I read from the daily devotional book Jesus Calling. My days get so busy it’s easy to get caught up in everything else going on and I can get distracted from God. I want all that I do to glorify God, so starting it in prayer and reading from the devotional keep me focused. It is very important to always start your day in prayer.

How does your faith impact the professional choices you make?

Faith is very important to me. It impacts all the decisions I make. [An opportunity] may come along that looks really good or fun and I would enjoy doing it, but it doesn’t match my values, so I say ‘no’ to it. I have found that saying no right away is best. If I don’t say no right away, the project begins to take on a life of its own and can trap you into doing it. It’s best not to let that happen, so I just say ‘no’ right away.

In the movie, Grace gives up a lot to follow her dream of being a pop star. What would you say to someone who is compromising their faith for what they want?

Always remember God is the one in charge. Sometimes, that is hard to remember; we want to be in charge. Sometimes, people have to learn lessons the hard way like Grace. As long as we can ask for forgiveness when we make mistakes, we can turn around from the mistakes. Who knows, it may be God’s plan for us to go through what we need to go through. It may be a lesson we need to learn – Grace needed to learn it.

Grace battled some issues with her pride. How do you find the balance between celebrating your gifts and becoming prideful or arrogant?

I keep in mind that the gifts I have come from God. It is easy in this business to lose sight of that, but I am doing what I am doing because of the gifts he gave me. I want to use them in ways that give him the glory.

In the movie, Grace had two very good friends who told her what she needed to hear, not necessarily what she wanted to hear. How important do you think it is for people to have those kinds of friends in their lives?

This question hits on one of the things that is really important to me. It is so important, especially in this business where everyone tells you how great you are and no one really tells you the truth, to always surround yourself with people who love you and want what’s best for you. What is best for you may not be what you want or think you want. Something may look good, but it may not be good for you. I need to surround myself with people who will be honest with me and tell me what I need to hear. My sister Aly, who is two years older than I am, is that person for me. She always tells me the truth and I am grateful she does. I can always turn to her.

What would you say to teens and parents who, like Grace and her dad, seem to be fighting all the time and find it hard to talk to each other?

Just keep talking. It’s hard on a family when kids are growing up and becoming their own persons. They want to be grown up. Parents need to recognize that their children are becoming their own persons and treat them that way. It will be hard to be on the same page, but just keep talking.