Sometimes a story impacts an actor on ways he or she didn’t expect.
In the new film Unplanned, hitting theaters on May 29, Kaiser Johnson plays lawyer Jeff Paradowski, who helps former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson (Ashley Brachter) with her legal troubles after she left the organization and turned to the pro-life perspective.
Since Johnson — who stars in Family Theater Productions’ online series Catholic Central — filmed his part in the film early last year, he and wife Keeley Bright Johnson had a daughter. As he sat in the theater for the Los Angeles premiere of Unplanned, his daughter in his lap, he
had some thoughts, shared with me yesterday:
It just took on a much more personal context. … I had my own thoughts about it beforehand, but then to see this, to be holding my daughter and go, “Oh, my gosh, there is a corporation and an industry that exists only to separate children from their parents And to look at that and go … how do we not see this? How are we blind to this as a society?”
If we see that clearly, I hope that industry would cease to exist.
But, it’s like, the people who are clamoring the most about corporate greed and corporate power and stuff like that are looking at a corporation and an industry that is built around separating children from their parents. Whether it’s at the border or in whatever case, let’s look at where it’s being done the most, and the most recently, and that’s in the womb.
Based on Abby Johnson’s book, UnPlanned: The Dramatic True Story of a Former Planned Parenthood Leader’s Eye-Opening Journey Across the Life Line, the film chronicles how a Texas girl from a pro-life family became an ardent pro-choice advocate and a stellar employee — a clinic director by her late 20s — at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bryan, Texas.
According to Abby, what she saw when she was called in to help with an ultrasound-guided abortion of a 13-week fetus shocked her. Having had two abortions herself (one with RU486, the so-called “abortion pill”), and spent years explaining the procedure to women at the clinic, Abby was no stranger to the concept.
But, she says, seeing the unborn baby fight to escape its own death affected her deeply, so deeply that she could no longer work at the clinic. She resigned in October, 2009. After leaving, Abby — also a wife and mother — has become a popular and tireless pro-life activist, author and speaker (and eventually, a Catholic).
Unplanned, directed and written by Chuck Konzelman and Cary Solomon (God’s Not Dead), traces Abby’s story from college through her change of heart. After Abby’s resignation, Planned Parenthood slapped her with a temporary restraining order to prevent her from talking about her former job. That order was lifted in Nov. 2009 — thanks to the efforts of Jeff Paradowski.
Kaiser Johnson got to meet the confident, freewheeling Paradowski at the premiere and said:
He’s exactly who you’d expect him to be. He’s definitely who he is in the movie.
Johnson also says that when you see Paradowski’s billboard in the film, that’s his real contact information. He notes:
So if you need a personal-injury lawyer in practice, you know who to call.
Johnson is a working film, TV and voiceover actor, and doing a controversial movie like this could impact his career. Asked about that, he says:
On the side of doing this movie, the only way to have this be controversial is if you don’t watch it, or if you go in bigoted and prejudiced, if you refuse to set your prejudices aside for a minute and actually look at it. This is a true story. This is a woman’s true story. If there’s anything that all of Hollywood is telling us right now, it’s that we need to listen to the true stories of women, and they should have a voice and be listened to … and I agree.
So if you are someone who goes, “Oh, no, this is the kiss of death to anyone’s carer,” or you go in and you go, “I’m not gonna see this movie because it’s anti-choice, or it’s anti-Planned Parenthood,” or something like that, well, you’re letting your biases shut out a true story that a woman has to tell. It’s a hot topic, but it shouldn’t be a controversial one.
And for those who might dismiss Unplanned by saying, “Oh, it’s just another one of those Christian movies,” Johnson says:
I read the script, and I’m like, “Oh, this isn’t even a Christian movie.” God is mentioned in it maybe twice, and it’s just because it’s part of the true story, too.” This is not a preachy movie. This is not an over-the-top movie. This is a movie that just shares the truth of this person’s story, and it’s worth watching.
Here’s a video Johnson recorded Tuesday for the Facebook page of Unplanned:
Kaiser Johnson who plays Jeff Paradowski (Paradowskilaw.com) in the movie #Unplanned – shares a personal story of how this movie has impacted him. See it in theaters this Friday – pre-order your tickets on Facebook and pay NO FEES – https://www.facebook.com/movies/2767431609998983 #Unplanned #PullBackTheCurtain
Posted by Unplanned on Tuesday, March 26, 2019
And a video Johnson shot on the set:
Lasly, here’s the film’s trailer:
For more information and to buy tickets, visit UnplannedFilm.com. Warning to parents, the Motion Picture Association of America gave the film an R rating for “some disturbing/bloody images.” The filmmakers claim this is unfair, but that the rating, as a CNSNews story says, “reinforces the position that abortion is violence.”
To watch Johnson in Catholic Central, visit CatholicCentral.com.
Image: PureFlix Entertainment/Patrick Nuo
Kate O’Hare, a longtime entertainment journalist, is Social Media Manager at Family Theater Productions.