A Talk with Gary Moore
Getting Lost, Getting Saved
TV talk-show host Gary Moore started out on the stage many years ago a schoolboy in Chicago—and has of late transitioned into a film career, starring lately in the straight-to-DVD PureFlix release The Bill Collector, in which he plays Lorenzo, a loan-agency con man whose West Coast debts catch up to him in a very East Coast fashion.
He’s paid his dues. After studying TV acting with the original Marlboro Man, Jim Bressi, in San Francisco, Moore worked through a pretty steady slate of gigs in commercials and then into a couple stints as host of cable programs.
As part of the promotional effort for The Bill Collector, I was given the opportunity to speak briefly with Moore last week over the phone.
GW: I know that you’ve done some training as an actor, and I’m sure that one of the things you’ve run across and done many times is to build a backstory for your character. So what was the backstory that you developed, from a spiritual point of view, for your character in The Bill Collector?
Gary Moore: Well, actually, that wasn’t really that hard because I was pretty much that guy, Lorenzo, growing up. I had a lot to draw on. I grew up in Chicago, and I was a wheeler and dealer, and liar / con guy, you name it. So when I went in to audition with [director] Cris [Krusen] in Atlanta, there was just me, Cris, and David (who plays Omar), and we did about a two-hour audition. And I just had no problem doing this role because it was just one of those… As you know, this business is type-casting. And when you’re a good fit for the part it’s just so fun and easy. And I was just really Lorenzo.
GW: So where is Lorenzo in this, spiritually? What’s his background? Did he grow up in the Church? Was he just one of these troublemakers who doesn’t pay attention, or did he grow up completely outside that spiritual perspective?
GM: He grew up in the Church, but didn’t have any strong leadership there that would disciple him or take him under his wing. So he just kind of drifted and had no real spiritual background, other than that initial contact. So he’s pretty much forgetting it by the time of the events in the movie. Tyring to do things all on his own.
GW: Right. So you say Lorenzo’s backstory shares an awful lot with your own. Does that extend to your background with faith? Where does your own faith story diverge from Lorenzo? Obviously, you haven’t wound up in precisely the debt crisis that he did, which was necessary to turn his life around. What was your turning point, personally?
GM: Yeah. You know what mine was? I was arrested at sixteen years old for being a pretty major drug dealer. And I was sent off to a work farm in South Dakota. And when you’re in South Dakota in the winter, on a work farm, you tend to think your life over real fast. I mean, it was so cold! I remember—literally; I’ve always heard this, but never thought it was really true—getting up one morning, going out to work in a steel Quonset hut, and I spit… and it actually clanked when it hit the ground. It actually turned to ice before it hit the ground. I thought, “Wow! Where am I now? I’m a Chicago inner-city kid in the middle of nowhere, and I think God’s trying to get my attention!” So that’s when I started to see what was seriously wrong in my life, and what was missing.
GW: Who did you connect with, then, after you got back to your home?
GM: Well, my parents put me in a Christian school in Chicago. So I spent my last two years… I went to three different high schools. I went to a public high school, and the beginning of my sophomore year was when I got arrested, along with a lot of my friends. So then they sent me to South Dakota, where I finished my sophomore year, and then spent my last two years in Christian school.
GW: So did you develop a personal faith at that point, or just lay the groundwork for that coming at a later time?
GM: Yeah, it just laid— You know, I’ve heard a lot of theories, but it’s really just between you and God when you got saved. For me, I was about eight years old when my mom took me to a women’s prayer meeting with a missionary lady speaking, and I didn’t want to go. I was the only kid there, and all these older ladies. But it was Kay Friederichsen, and she was a missionary in the Philippines, and was actually in a concentration camp with her family. But she had a story like nobody’s business. I was just glued to her, and I felt like she was talking right to me. And I think she probably was, as I was the only little boy there and was really appreciating these stories. But she told about how to get saved. And I went home that night, and I knelt by my bed, and I asked God to come into my heart and save me and forgive me. I was so thrilled. I remember distinctly: I ran into my mom’s bedroom and told her what had just happened, and she was thrilled. So when this happened in my teens, I was obviously just very far from the Lord. I hadn’t had anybody disciple me, or show me what to do: how to go to church, read the Bible, or anything. So I was pretty wandering.
GW: So what do you feel God is doing with you now, through your acting career? Is God using you more to influence others, or is using this phase of your career to shape you?
GM: Certainly both. I don’t pretend to be anybody’s spiritual model to look up to. I am far from perfect. I try to pick the right projects; I’ve been offered a lot of junk. I’ve got four boys, and they were little at one time; and my mom challenged me: “Don’t do anything you don’t want your boys to watch.” And I thought that was a great idea. I got a chance to work with Tim Conway a couple times, and he said it this way: he never wanted to do anything he had to apologize for later. And I decided that’s what I wanted. It’s amazing how much acting affects other people. Look at our society: it’s all driven by celebrities and what they do, and by their personal lives. But they’re people who have the same problems we do. And a lot of times, they have them without the Lord. The more I get to know a lot of celebrities, the more I empathize with them, because I know the kinds of problems they’re facing. All I can be is a testimony to them. You can’t come on set and be preaching, preaching, preaching. All you can do is come on set, and do a good job, and be fair, and be prompt, and don’t be screwing up. And be fun! And that’s when they’ll have you back. So, yeah. I think God is doing both. But it kind of scares me when I think I’m affecting other people.
The Bill Collector is now available on DVD. You can read my review of the film here.