Hollywood actor and producer Stelio Savante says he's on a mission to “pursue artistic integrity with a Kingdom-driven heart.”
Having starred in a variety of films, Savante told The Christian Post that his goal is to use his "gifts and relationships that God gave" him to spread truth.
Savante is known for his leading and supporting roles in both mainstream and faith-based films and TV shows such as the hit series “The Chosen” and the recent Christian persecution action thriller “Infidel,” and “Two Thieves,” a film about the crucifixion from the perspective of the thieves on the cross with Jesus.
During his more than three decades in Hollywood, the South African actor said he's been outspoken about his journey as a believer and will continue to speak out.
“I find that ‘American Christianity’ takes far too much for granted,” he told CP in a recent interview. His travels across the world have exposed him to Christianity across the globe, and he says the “storms” many in other countries are facing, “most American Christians aren’t familiar with or might not be ready for.”
The actor just wrapped the film “Pulled From Darkness,” which tells the riveting true story of Armenian missionaries who put their lives on the line to rescue a family from a human trafficking racket in Ukraine. His next project will be released on June 4, titled, “Under The Stadium Lights.”
Savante said the film is “an underdog football film that a friend wrote and produced, based on a true story. Saban/Paramount is releasing it. It stars Laurence Fishburne, Milo Gibson and Abigail Hawke. I’m a producer of the film," he added.
The following is an edited transcript of Savante’s interview with CP where he describes his mission in film and TV, shares what it's like being a part of creating content with serious themes, and gets honest about what he thinks of American Christianity.
CP: Can you share the background story of how you came to faith in Christ?
Savante: I survived a very painful, tumultuous and violent childhood in South Africa. My parents divorced at a young age. I felt unworthy, unwanted, irrelevant, and also struggled at school both with grades and peers. The message of the Gospel and Christ’s love and acceptance of me drew me in.
I gave my life to the Lord in 1984 but wandered in and out of Christ’s will for my life for many years because I struggled with myself.
CP: How has your faith impacted your role in Hollywood as an actor and producer?
Savante: Discernment. I’ve finally and recently learned the following: "I know what to do with what I’ve been given." And God has also generously navigated the relationships He’s given me — teaching me to love other people, listen to them, lift them up, serve God, and serve them and myself last.
The journey has been fruitful. It's taken me to all corners of the world, working with sublimely gifted artists and planting spiritual seeds that make God’s Kingdom, love and acceptance known in fulfilling the Great Commission.
CP: What is a theme that you look for in all your films?
Savante: I chase truth. There is that one common theme my characters have. I commit to making them real — neither perfect nor completely flawed. We all have flaws and redeeming qualities. I lean into that.
I refuse characters whose sins are either glorified without consequences or ones that seem unrealistically perfect. Perfect people don’t exist. Unfortunately, [perfect people] only in “Christian-themed” films. These filmmakers have to be better at understanding cinema, the craft of filmmaking, how to write and direct and cast real actors, and start making films that form part of a cinematic landscape.
God is the greatest artist and creator, so artistic integrity and pursuit of truth should not be compromised.
CP: Can you share what it was like filming a movie such as “Infidel” with such a serious storyline?
Savante: [It was] an honor and privilege for many reasons, being part of a film that brings attention to Christian persecution. The role was a challenge, a high wire with no safety net. The character’s fine line of being a journalist and a spy. Working with Cyrus Nowrasteh, the brilliant writer and director of “The Stoning Of Soraya M” and “The Young Messiah,” [and also] working with Claudia Karvan.
I fell in love with the people and country of Jordan. Visiting Petra, Wadi Rum, Amman — so much biblical history, and then a trip to the Holy Land. [We also spent] Christmas Eve in Bethlehem at the Church of Nativity for midnight mass, [visited] the Mount Of Olives, the Garden Of Gethsemane, [and saw] people being baptized in the Jordan.
My wife and daughter joined me for the trip. Meeting and praying with Palestinian Christians, Syrian and Iraqi refugees. I could go on.
CP: How would you compare American Christianity and Christianity in South Africa or other places in the world?
Savante: American Christianity is very political and extremely lazy and comfortable. That’s a terrible generalization, I know, but being blessed enough to travel and work all over the world as an actor since the early '90s, I find that “American Christianity” takes far too much for granted. We have it easy here; no clue just how “good” we have it.
It takes a very strong faith to live in countries where Christians are literally persecuted. To live in third-world countries without a roof over your head, no food, no electricity, no heat, water shortages, sometimes on the run, separated from your family, and in some cases not allowed to worship freely or spread the Gospel. They are constantly having to face their giants.
There’s the part in the book of Matthew where Peter attempts to walk on water. But falls in because he takes his eyes off the Lord. He cries out to the Lord to save him, and of course, Jesus does. I quote: “And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” And the very next verse says, “And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.”
That tells me that the Lord walked back to the boat on that same water with Peter, in that wind and that storm. The Lord did not take the storm away until He was back in the boat with them. Their faith grew, Peter’s faith grew, and it parallels the Christian walk. The Lord doesn’t take away our storms, but He literally walks through them with us. That is very beautiful to me.
Christians worldwide are constantly walking through storms that most American Christians aren’t familiar with or might not be ready for. How much is our faith growing when we’re constantly complaining, wanting everything to be easy?
CP: What was it like to work with Jim Caviezel on multiple projects?
Savante: Between “Person of Interest,” “Running For Grace,” and “Infidel,” we’ve spent a lot of time together. Sometimes in very close quarters. I know Jim well. We both love the Lord, have a passion for Jesus Christ. So there is important common ground there. But we’ve also had some pretty heated friendly debates on a number of subjects, and I’ll leave it at that. He’s a talented artist and I’d work with him again.
CP: What is your goal as a believer in Hollywood?
Savante: To pursue artistic integrity with a Kingdom-driven heart, using the gifts and relationships that God has given me and being an important part of films, series and plays that make a difference in people’s lives.
CP: Can you share about a project you are really passionate about?
Savante: I’m always most passionate about what I’m working on at the time. I’m currently attached to two outstanding projects. One written by a very brave friend, a respected actress with a huge resume. The riveting story of her childhood. She’ll be directing from her own script. I’m beyond honored to play a role in it and help produce her story.
The second is written and directed by a very recent two-time Academy Award winner. I can’t reveal anything further, but I’ll have a role and am helping produce the film.
To connect with Savante and find out more about his upcoming films, visit his Facebook page.