When fans tune in to the “Person of Interest,” they may not realize that actor Jim Caviezel, who plays crime fighter John Reese, credits Billy Graham with showing him God’s truth at the age of 15.
Yes, Jim Caviezel was Jesus in the 2004 film, Passion of the Christ, a role that comes along once in a life time. But “B.C.,” the actor played memorable parts in movies like Pay it Forward and Frequency.
These days Caviezel is seen most often on the small screen, starring in the hit CBS series “Person of Interest” (Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET), in which he plays John Reese, an ex-CIA hit man who turns crime fighter in partnership with a computer genius played by Michael Emerson.
With anticipation building for tonight’s season finale, we thought it would be fun to dust off this interview from 2004, when Caviezel talked about the impact of Billy Graham just before stepping on stage at the Rose Bowl during the November 2004 Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade.
After their meeting, Mr. Graham said he was impressed with Caviezel’s deep sincerity and the commitment to the Gospel that Jim and his wife, Kerri, share.
Q: You first met Billy Graham during the filming of Passion of the Christ. What was your meeting like?
Caviezel: I’ve always wanted to meet him and I was profoundly moved. What moved me the most about him was that he gets out of the way and allows God to come through. It’s so easy to give the truth with a bit of your own spin on it. He doesn’t. He speaks from his heart. He prays from the heart, and we’re forever grateful to him.
Q: We understand a Billy Graham television special had a real impact on you. Can you tell us about that experience?
Caviezel: When I heard him speak [on television] years ago, it was in the middle of the night, and I couldn’t deny—there was something inside me that said, “This is the truth.” I recognized truth from the start, and I had to answer it. It doesn’t matter if this person hits you or your father did this to you or whatever, the truth still exists out there. Something I couldn’t quite put into words at 15 years old. It gave me a hope.
I saw the truth. And I knew at the end of the day, when I’m dead and gone, it’s just me and God standing there, and I have no one else to protect me. All those people that were my beer-drinking buddies that were going to be with me … ? They’re gone. Here I am. It’s one-on-one now. I had to answer to that.
Q: Did you have any doubts or concerns about portraying Christ?
Caviezel: Yes, a voice would say, “Do you dare try?” We ask God for forgiveness, but we come short and don’t forgive ourselves. But I could still hear that truth of grace, “I love you. I will forgive you. I have forgiven you, Jim. You haven’t forgiven yourself.”
“But, God, I’m not right for this role. I’m not, you know? You could have chosen better.”
“But, Jim, I don’t always choose the [most qualified], you see? So do you dare try? Do you take the responsibility that I’m giving to you?”
And offering this role to play Jesus was a great blessing, to ask me to be an actor is a great blessing. But still, with all these things is great fear. And am I getting to the end of my life and saying, “Yeah, I lived life like a coward”? I can’t.
I’ve always been the person that didn’t want to get to the end of their life and see what they could have done and been afraid. I don’t run on fear. I go on desire and hope, and I took this role as a responsibility. That’s how I see it still.
Q: Do you think that it’s difficult to be a Christian in Hollywood right now?
Caviezel: I think that in these times, of course it is. But anything that I undergo, I look at as redemptive suffering. In other words, the pain that I go through [is] for the conversion of sinners. And I ask God that he could use my suffering for that. It’s part of the cross you take up when you choose to believe in Him…we all have this desire to want to be liked…but what we should be asking God is the desire for humility.
Q: Do you have a favorite Bible verse that inspires you?
Caviezel: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” — Philippians 4:13.