Message of 'October Baby' film hits close to home for one of its stars
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Actress Shari Rigby sat right across from her interviewer, her legs crossed. On the instep of her right foot was a tattoo of a flower. She was asked what it was.
"Her name would have been Lily," Rigby answered, "and so that's there to remind me."
She was talking about the baby she had aborted 20 years ago.
Rigby plays a relatively small part in the new movie "October Baby," but it's a pivotal role: She plays the birth mother of Hannah (Rachel Hendrix), but Hannah was born as the survivor of a botched abortion; Hannah's twin brother only survived a handful of days after the abortion attempt.
Pictured: Jason Burkey and Rachel Hendrix star in a scene from the movie "October Baby." The Catholic News Service classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some mater ial may be inappropriate for children under 13. (CNS photo/Samuel Goldwyn Films)
But the kicker is that brother directors Andrew and Jon Erwin, when they sent Rigby the script for her consideration, had no idea she had ever undergone an abortion.
In fact, Jon Erwin told Catholic News Service, it wasn't until after the movie had been shown to several focus groups that Rigby went in front of the camera again to address moviegoers about her own abortion experience, which has been added to the film's closing credits. "There are millions and millions of post-abortive women out there," Erwin said.
"October Baby," which debuts March 23 in about 360 theaters, details the revelation to college student Hannah about the circumstances behind her birth, and her quest to find the woman who tried to abort her.
The movie also stars John Schneider ("The Dukes of Hazzard," "Smallville") as Hannah's father and Jasmine Guy ("A Different World") as the nurse from the abortion clinic all those years ago.
Erwin, Rigby and Hendrix spent two days in the Washington area to promote "October Baby," conducting a joint interview with CNS at a Washington hotel.
Rigby is part of show biz royalty. She's the aunt of 2007 "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks. Coincidentally, Chris Sligh, a finalist during the season Sparks won, has a comic-relief role in "October Baby."
Hendrix -- as did the Erwin brothers -- grew up in Alabama, where the movie was filmed in a brisk 20-day shooting schedule, but by the time "October Baby" was ready to shoot, she had moved to Zurich, where her photojournalist husband lives. Hendrix had even established her own photo studio.
Erwin said he remembered casting Hendrix in a music video for Christian music singer Michael W. Smith. "She just had that look," he said. "October Baby" is her first feature film. "I just told her to step up to the plate, take a big swing and run with it -- and she did," Erwin added.
If "October Baby" does well at the box office, Hendrix said she and her husband would relocate to Los Angeles to try her hand at the film industry full time. Hendrix won an "outstanding achievement in acting" award at the Red Rock Film Festival when "October Baby" was screened there -- except festival sponsors hadn't expected to give anybody an acting award. So, instead of a trophy, Erwin said, they gave Hendrix a collection of still photos of action scenes and explosions from previously submitted films.
If she makes it to L.A., Hendrix can join Rigby, who just changed her professional name back to her maiden name after having gone by her German-American husband's surname of Wiedmann. "It either gets mispronounced or misspelled," Rigby said. When not acting, Rigby helps with her husband's L.A.-based farm equipment parts business. Acknowledging the seeming incongruity of having a farm business in one of America's biggest metropolises, Rigby hastened to add, "It's like the amazon.com of farm parts ordering."
Erwin praised the investment by American Family Studios in the film, which cost a mere $1 million to make. Its parent, the American Family Association, has been for decades one of the staunchest critics of television and film content. "They told us, 'Everybody knows what we're against. Now they'll get to know what we're for,'" Erwin said.
He's a bit bothered by the movie's PG-13 rating, saying there's no objectionable content. "Apparently, 'abortion' is a PG-13 word," Erwin said.
When "October Baby" premieres, its chief debut competition will be the much-awaited "The Hunger Games," on 10 times as many screens as "October Baby." The initial thinking was that "October Baby" would get swamped. But then, Hendrix said, "there will be all these teenage girls waiting in line to see 'Hunger Games,' and they'll see the poster for 'October Baby,' and they'll want to go see our movie, too."
"October Baby was given a classification of A-II -- adults and adolescents -- by CNS for "mature subject matter and potentially disturbing references". It is a "strongly pro-life message movie whose theme viewers dedicated to the dignity of all human beings will welcome unanimously," said staff critic John Mulderig. "Opinions about the aesthetic package in which they wrap their point," he added, "may be more divided."
— Mark Pattison, Catholic News Service
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