‘I Can Only Imagine’ Actress Shares Faith
Madeline was raised in a Christian home and went to church every Sunday growing up. She started modeling when she was 3 years old. At 9, Madeline gave her heart to the Lord and began reading her Bible. “That’s when I discovered who God was,” says Madeline. Immediately she began serving in church and in the nursery. When she was 10, Madeline got offered what she refers to as “every actor’s dream job.” “I was so excited to get a role in this movie, but then I read the script,” she says. “It was filthy.” She was so torn. “How is this possible?” she thought. “I was so confused.” Madeline broke the news to the director telling him she couldn’t be in the movie. Soon after, while in church on a Sunday, the pastor called Madeline up to pray for a boy. After she laid hands on him and prayed for him, Madeline returned to her seat. She turned to her mom and said, “I can’t do this. It conflicts with everything I believe.” This was the beginning of a hard journey for Madeline who had to watch the actress who took her place get famous. “I knew God was a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him,” says Madeline. For the next few years, Madeline says she reviewed scripts that were dirty and turned them down. Soon she got shelved because agents didn’t agree with her turning down those roles. By the time she was 18, Madeline says she was broken. “I never walked away from God but I didn’t understand and cried out to Him. Lord, I turned down these projects for You. Why are You not seeing me? If You don’t want me in Hollywood, just let me know.” Madeline says she had to let her dream die. “I was willing to walk away.” The next day, God answered her prayer! Madeline got a text from a director who said he remembered her from a previous audition and wanted her in his next movie! “I told him the story of how his text was an answer to prayer and he started crying!” says Madeline.
Last year Madeline was on a commercial audition and a woman who was paired to play her mom somehow knew Madeline was a Christian. She said, “You’re Madeline Carroll? You need to be in that new movie, I Can Only Imagine.” Madeline had never been in a faith-based movie before and immediately called her agent. She said, “You have to get me in. I know this song!” Once her agent contacted the director, he said Madeline was his first choice but couldn’t get a hold of her. “Getting this role was the favor of God,” she says. Recently when Madeline saw the screening for the movie at Greg Laurie’s church she said she was so moved by the film. “I cried so hard,” she says. “Never did I believe God would bring my faith together with my talent.”
I Can Only Imagine is a movie based on the life of Christian band, MercyMe’s lead singer Bart Millard. Bart’s dad was verbally and physically abusive and drove his mom away. Bart gave his life to the Lord in 7th grade at church and met Shannon (played by Madeline) because her parents were his Sunday School teachers. (Eventually Bart’s dad gave his life to the Lord and reconciled with Bart before he passed away in 1991.) After sports injuries, Bart reluctantly joined his high school choir then started a band in college. His grandmother (Mammaw) said, “Mercy Me, Bart, get a real job! (That’s how the band got their name.) After numerous independent projects, Bart wrote the lyrics for I Can Only Imagine one time, with no tweaks or changes, as a tribute to his heavenly Father and his earthly dad. That song, also recorded by national recording artist Amy Grant, reached radio stations in October 2001. Three months later, it went to Number 1. The song won a Dove Award for Song of the Year/Contemporary Recorded Song of the Year with Bart winning the coveted Songwriter of the Year. One morning in 2003, a mainstream DJ in Dallas played the song on a morning program. Then other stations began playing it. Imagine became the first Christian song to reach two million downloads sold. Seventeen years after its debut, Imagine just hit number one again on the iTunes Christian chart!