Be sure to listen in as Scott and Sean interview actress Robia Scott, one of the stars of the film, "Unplanned," the story of former Planned Parenthood clinic director and leading spokesperson, Abby Johnson, who, after witnessing an abortion at the bedside, quit her position and became a staunch pro-life supporter. The film is based on her bestselling book by the same title, and opens March 29.
More About Our Guest
Robia Scott returns to the screen for this film after a 15 year hiatus from acting. She began her career as a dancer, traveling the world with Prince, and then moved into film and television roles. She had major roles on Beverly Hills 90210, CSI and Buffy, The Vampire Slayer. It was during this TV run that she came to faith in Christ. She maintains a full time speaking and Bible teaching ministry and is the author is Counterfeit Comforts: Freedom from the Imposters that Keep You From TruePeace, Purpose and Passion. For more about her, see robiascott.com
Scott Rae: Welcome to the podcast Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture. I'm your host, Scott Rae, Dean of Faculty and Professor of Christian Ethics here at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University.
Sean McDowell: And I'm your co-host, Sean McDowell, Professor of Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University.
Scott Rae: We're here today with a very special guest, actress Robia Scott, who is starring in an upcoming movie entitled Unplanned. We'll let her tell a little bit about what the movie is about, but it's a wonderful story and she's got a terrific story, too. Robia, thanks so much for being with us and for taking some time to talk about your own story and about the movie Unplanned.
Robia Scott: Thank you, gentlemen, for having me today.
Scott Rae: As I look through your credits and the media pack, you've had a, let's just say you were definitely a working actress for some time. What film and television credits would people know about that you've been involved in in the past?
Robia Scott: That is correct. I actually started my professional career as a teenager. I saw the movie Flashdance, and I was completely inspired.
Scott Rae: Wow.
Robia Scott: Do you remember that movie?
Sean McDowell: Yes, of course.
Scott Rae: Oh, yeah.
Robia Scott: So, I was that little girl who danced around the house and put on shows for the family, and once I saw Flashdance, I realized that you could dance beyond your backyard and beyond your living room and make a career out of it. So, I started training as a dancer and a few years after that, a few years later, I was hired by Prince to play the pearl half of the diamond and pearl from his hit album from the early '90s.
Scott Rae: Wow, yeah.
Robia Scott: So, that was incredible. I toured the world with him, dancing on stages with 60,000 fans, and did all the videos from his album and on his cover. Then, I transitioned into acting and did various shows such as Beverly Hills, 90210, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And it was during my time on Buffy the Vampire Slayer that I started seeking God more fervently and became a born again Christian.
Scott Rae: Tell us a little bit more about your spiritual journey, how you came to faith in Christ. It was while you were on, in your role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer that you actually came to faith?
Robia Scott: Yes. I mean, it didn't happen on set on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Scott Rae: That would've been a really good story.
Robia Scott: That would be a really good story, yeah. No, it didn't happen there, but it was during that time in my life that I was successful and I had traveled the world with Prince and I was on TV shows and doing really well, but I was struggling internally. I was struggling with just feeling kind of tormented and fearful, and chain smoking and really dealing with eating issues and wanting to just find freedom from that. You know, I was very obsessed with my body and my weight, and you know, most women struggle with it in that area. But being a professional dancer and actress just exacerbated the situation, so I was really seeking freedom. And I was in Southern California, and when you're searching for spirituality in Southern California, you usually hit up against the New Age movement. So, that's the most prevalent. Jesus is not necessarily the first stop here in California.
Robia Scott: So, I did a little bit of New Age investigation and got involved with that, but it wasn't really meeting me in my struggles. So, I had some people minister to me about Christianity, and I was open because I was really looking for answers, but at the same time my idea of what being a born again Christian was, you know, I had that sort of Hollywood version idea that it meant I was either, "Praise the Lord, praise the Lord" every second. You know, like Christians are portrayed on television and from the mainstream media, it's not usually the real savvy, intelligent, articulate woman that you want to emulate, you know what I mean?
Scott Rae: Yep.
Sean McDowell: Yeah.
Robia Scott: So, I wasn't really sure about Christianity, but little by little, God, you know, he's so faithful. And he wooed me, and I always believed in him, and I was just praying and asking for direction, and he just did one thing after another to lead me. And at one point, I was in this incredible church in Inglewood, this all black church except for me. There was like thousands of people, all African American, gospel on fire church, and that's where I accepted the Lord.
Sean McDowell: Wow. What was it that these people who engaged you first did? Was it in conversation, relationship, inviting you to something? How did they open up this spiritual dialogue in a way that you were receptive to it?
Robia Scott: Oh gosh, let me see. Well, I had a few people. I had some people in my family, actually, that were talking to me that they had come out of the New Age. So, they were sharing with me about the difference between Christianity and the New Age, and then I had another friend that I had worked with as a dancer years past, and we wound up running into each other, and he was ministering to me a little bit. So, I had a couple different avenues of people talking to me about Christ, and then it was I wound up going to church, and it took me a little bit at church. I didn't understand a lot what was going on, but at one point, everything just hit and I knew that what I was hearing was true and that I wanted to be [inaudible 00:05:35].
Robia Scott: So, from there I became a Christian, and I stayed in entertainment for a little bit, but very quickly a couple things happen. One is that I felt, as I was growing in God, I just felt convicted about the types of auditions I was getting, and I just didn't want to do it. In my heart, in my spirit, in my soul, I just didn't want to do some of the things I was having opportunities to do. And I also had an affinity for God and prayer very quickly, it just felt right. I just knew how to connect with him and how to pray in power, and there was just something very strong that happened.
Robia Scott: So, it was a pretty quick switch where I felt the Lord was having me leave the entertainment industry. So, I walked away from a 20 year career to step into pursuing God and pursuing full time ministry. And you know how God is, it was such a faith jump because obviously as a new Christian, I didn't have a ministry yet, but I knew that's where God was taking me and wanted me to take the leap. So, I completely let go of my career and jumped into the full-time ministry that I did not yet have. But you know, seeking God, and he started to open the doors for me to start moving forward as a speaker, as a teacher, you know, leading Bible studies. And he expanded my platform to stages and churches, and I authored a book.
Robia Scott: And long story short, I've been doing this for 15 years. I love the things of God, it's my passion. I have no intention of ever going back to Hollywood. Honestly, no interest in doing it, but through just a God only series of events that just make no sense, I met the writer directors of the hit film God's Not Dead a few years ago. Some I met introduced me to them, they felt like I was supposed to meet them. We did meet for a coffee, they shared the story of Unplanned. I was intrigued, they asked me to audition. I thought, "Hm, this is interesting." And I did, and they offered me the role. So, after a 15 year hiatus from acting and never doing anything in the entertainment industry as a Christian, God brought me back for such a time as this to do this, for such a time as this film, because it surely is.
Sean McDowell: So, is it like riding a bike, you just picked up where you left off? Or was it like, "Oh my goodness, I am starting over. I've got to relearn this." What was that transition back to acting like for you?
Robia Scott: No one's asked me that, I'm so glad you asked me that. You know, it was still in there. It did come back, but there are things that you just forget when you're not working regularly. You forget all the obstacles that are happening on set that try to take you out of the moment, and sounds that are going on, and just, you know, a lot of technical things that you do have to figure out how to incorporate all that in the moment and doing the performance. I also got thrown in, on my very first day back on set, with probably the most challenging scene. And so the directors apologized profusely, but it just worked out that way that they mapped it out. So, I basically stepped back on set in the most challenging scene of the movie. Have you seen the film yet?
Sean McDowell: Oh my goodness. We have not seen it yet.
Scott Rae: No, not yet.
Sean McDowell: We are anxious to see it.
Robia Scott: Well, I do a real toe to toe scene with the lead actress, Ashley Bratcher where I play the, and we'll talk about the movie, I play the head of Planned Parenthood, I play her boss. So, yeah, I stepped back into, now I'm a Christian and I'm not doing this really anointed, War Room, prayerful kind of role. I'm doing the head of Planned Parenthood, which is the antitheses of who I am as a person. But there's a scene where we go toe to toe and I basically, I'm really giving her a hard time and I'm letting her know that we're an abortion facility. That's how we make our money, this is our motive. It was just a really intense scene. I basically abortion is our bread and butter and she needs to get onboard or she's in trouble, and that was my very first scene back on set.
Scott Rae: Wow, nothing like being thrown in the deep water right when you start to come back.
Robia Scott: Exactly.
Scott Rae: Well, tell us a little bit more about the film Unplanned and particularly the story it tells about Abby Johnson.
Robia Scott: Unplanned is a true story based on a woman named Abby Johnson, and she wrote a book called Unplanned. It was a bestselling book, now here we are making the film. Abby Johnson was a college student, a Christian girl in a pro-life family, and Planned Parenthood happened to be on her campus recruiting interns, and they shared with her the propaganda that we hear from Planned Parenthood about who they are, women's empowerment, women's healthcare, women's rights. And although Abby was Christian and she didn't know that they performed abortions, she loved the other side of it, the fact that it was all for women and she wanted to make a difference in the world.
Robia Scott: So, she went and she was willing to intern. She wasn't sure what would happen, but very quickly she started just rising up the ranks, and she decided it was her cause to do this work. And yeah, I play her boss in the clinic, so I take her under my wing, I raise her up and mentor her, and then she winds up running a clinic. And they're really grooming her to be in a very, very high position in the Planned Parenthood organization. Eight years in, she's the clinic director, and over her watch, while she was there, she had overseen over 22,000 abortions.
Robia Scott: When one day, they bring her into the procedure room. She had never actually been into the procedure room, and she saw an ultrasound guided abortion. And everything that she thought she knew, everything that she taught women about it just being cells and not being a baby all went right out the window when she actually saw what was happening. And God lifted the veil, she had a huge revelation, left Planned Parenthood, and now is a big pro-life advocate. And that's a little nutshell of the story, but there's so many twists and turns and ups and downs, and it's pretty incredible to be able to really lift the veil off Planned Parenthood and let people see what the organization is truly about.
Scott Rae: So she, let me make sure I understand this correctly. She had, Abby Johnson in her role as intern clinic supervisor and running her own clinic, had been apart of supervising over 22,000 abortions and she had never seen firsthand what had gone on herself?
Robia Scott: That's exactly right.
Scott Rae: I'm thinking, how can that be? How can she not have known what the procedure was like?
Robia Scott: She even says that. The movie starts with a voiceover of her saying, "People ask me, how could I be so naive? How could I be so gullible? Did I not really know what I was doing?" And it's interesting that you say that, because that's exactly how the film starts. And she said, "No, I really didn't." For whatever reason, she just didn't ... she bought into the fact that she was helping women in crisis. She bought into the fact that what she believed, you know, scientifically it wasn't really a baby at a certain point, up until a certain point, until she saw the ultrasound guided abortion. She actually saw the baby, the perfectly formed baby, fighting against being aborted from the suction. The baby was resisting, and she couldn't believe it. So, it wasn't just a bunch of cells, it was an actual baby recognizing it was in danger, and it's fighting for its life.
Sean McDowell: In the movie, the role of Abby Johnson is played by Ashley Bratcher. She found out something once she accepted the role that was pretty surprising and shocking to her. Would you be willing to share that with us?
Robia Scott: She did. It's a tremendous story. She was hired last minute, the movie was about to go under production in a few days, and they still had not cast her, that role, because many actresses were too scared to play the role because they didn't want to be blacklisted from Hollywood. But she knew she was to play it, and they offered it to her last minute. She jumped on it. So, she was on set and she hadn't even had time to tell her mom where she was, only her husband and son knew. And so she got on the phone with her mom a few days into set, and she wanted to be very sensitive to her mother 'cause her mother had shared that before she was pregnant with Ashley that she had actually had an abortion.
Robia Scott: And so Ashley was cautious, she didn't want her mom to feel judged or condemned. And as she started to share with her the story of Abby Johnson and what she was playing in the movie, her mom had a breakdown and just started crying hysterically. And she admitted to Ashley that not only did she had an abortion prior, which Ashley knew, but she told Ashley, for the first time Ashley heard this, that while her mom was actually pregnant with her she was in the abortion clinic, on the table, moments away from having an abortion. And something hit her where she just knew that she couldn't do it, and she got up and left.
Robia Scott: And so now, I mean, talk about God knowing things from the beginning to the end, the end to the beginning. God knew that Ashley herself was almost aborted, and now here she is in the lead role, the face of this movie 30 some years later, and she almost wasn't here.
Scott Rae: That's an incredible, incredible coincidence. You know, that's something that only happens in the [inaudible 00:15:02] of God. That's amazing.
Robia Scott: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Scott Rae: Now, you play the role of Cheryl, the head of Planned Parenthood. I'm curious to know what it was like for you to play this particular role, especially because that's a role you've got to get into the person, you've got to play a somewhat sympathetic portrayal of her. But knowing that she represents a position that you have so much difficulty with, how did that work for you to play this role?
Robia Scott: Well, even though it was an intense character and maybe you would consider it a darker character, it was different from the work I've done in the past. When you're doing a TV show that's very occult-ish and sort of glamorizes that, as oppose to doing a project like Unplanned, which just really reveals the truth, so I knew that the character wasn't being glamorized. For me, I wanted to play a real, human person. I didn't want to do a caricature of the bad one or any of that. So, personally, I just tried to tap into ... well, a lot of it was in the script and written right on the page, but as a minister also, a lot of what I teach is emotional healing, and that we act and react from wounds that we haven't necessarily fully gotten healed from.
Robia Scott: And so I came to this character wanting to go a bit deeper to think about what kind of wounding or what kind of experience she would have that would put her in this position, that would make her so driven to succeed. So driven for success, to not have an emotional attachment to what she was doing. So, that's the work I did as an actress to tap into that. And I basically took that drive and passion and fire and desire I have for women's ministry, and I just kind of twisted it a little bit in that direction of her kind of fire, passion, desire for her achievement. But then as a minister, I also have a lot of compassion in there. So, I just felt with this character, I turned up the drive and the passion to 100, and I turned the compassion down to zero. And really just played her as just not being very emotionally connected, and just incredibly driven.
Sean McDowell: Sounds like a draining and difficult task, but that you aimed to do with integrity, which I think is the right thing to do.
Robia Scott: Thank you, and it was. People say, "Oh, was it so fun to play the villain?" And maybe for some people it is, but I can't say it was really for me. You know, I would've much rather played a character that is prayerful and loving and vulnerable and emotional.
Sean McDowell: Yeah.
Robia Scott: And for me, that would be more satisfying. I wouldn't say this was fun to do, it wasn't thoroughly enjoyable on set, but it was enjoyable knowing that I was apart of this incredible project and what I believe God wants to do with this movie. And I'm passionate about this topic, and as a minister, again, I'm a lover of truth. So, I'm passionate about revealing the truth 'cause I know it's the truth that makes people free. So, all of those things were very exciting for me. Playing the character was not as exciting.
Scott Rae: Understandable.
Sean McDowell: Yeah.
Robia Scott: But I'm glad I did it. I'm so glad I did it because I just ... it's just a beautiful film. I cannot wait for you to see it, and for the listeners and the students to see it. It's extraordinary.
Scott Rae: Robia, I'm really curious. Just kind of behind the scenes and on set, what's it like working on this film, where clearly people have a budget and they need to not lose money on a film, but it's about so much more than that and a vision. Versus other projects you've been on where people want to entertain, but I'm guessing lack this deeper life calling and vision that was part of Unplanned. Were there differences, and if so, what were some of those?
Robia Scott: Night and day differences. We I think all new on set, we just knew we were doing something bigger than all of us, and that we were really doing a kingdom work. And you could feel it spiritually, you could feel the resistance to what we were doing. There were all sorts of obstacles, spiritual, financial, constant things coming to try to fort the project from coming to fruition. But the enemy did not prevail, and our writer directors are men of God, Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman. They were wise enough to realize what they were taking on by telling the story, and what we were all taking on.
Robia Scott: And on a film set, you have all different departments. You have a hair and makeup department, you have a wardrobe department, you have a camera crew department. Well, on this film, they hired a paid intercessory prayer department.
Sean McDowell: Wow.
Scott Rae: You're kidding.
Robia Scott: Yes.
Sean McDowell: Interesting.
Robia Scott: So, we had five. We had five powerhouse men and women, a team, and they called themselves The Five Stones 'cause they were the five stones in David's sling coming against Goliath. That was the name they gave themselves, and they were there all day every day, praying over the set, praying over the scenes, praying over everything that needed prayer. Praying over us, and it was an extraordinary experience to feel the shifts that took place from prayer, to have that kind of support, to be on a set where for me, I could really be who I am and be myself and didn't have to ... you know, you could say things like, "Oh my gosh, there's a lot of warfare," and everyone knew what you were talking about, you know? It was just a completely different kind of experience.
Scott Rae: What do you hope will be the impact of the film?
Robia Scott: I have many hopes. First and foremost, I hope that it brings education and understanding to most people in our country. I mean, the average person does not really understand who Planned Parenthood is, what they do, because Planned Parenthood has been a master at using the media to program people to believe what they want them to believe. So, this lifts the veil, and I think it's gonna be really shocking and eye opening for people when they learn things like, at Planned Parenthood you can't plan your parenthood because there's no prenatal care there.
Robia Scott: You know, the whole pro-choice and about a woman's right to choose, when you go to Planned Parenthood, you're not really given choices. It's not, "Oh, can we help you become a parent? Are you open to adoption?" It's none of that. I don't think the average person realizes that when you go to Planned Parenthood, they do not let you see your ultrasound because statistics prove that when a woman sees her ultrasound, she bonds with the baby. And they specifically do not allow women to see her ultrasound, because they don't want that emotional bonding because they want you to have an abortion.
Robia Scott: I mean, I could talk about this very thing for an hour straight. About who Planned Parenthood is, the origin of their intent of why they started the company, what they're doing. They're a billion dollar corporation, you know, there's so much to say about that. But just in a nutshell, that I think is going to be so eye opening for people.
Scott Rae: Sounds like it'd be more accurate to call it Planned Un-parenthood.
Robia Scott: Exactly. The fact that they call it Planned Parenthood in itself is just deceptive because there's nothing about parenthood there. It's not even an option. I am excited for, I think, gosh, I just think this film has the potential to really turn the tide and shift the direction that is happening currently in our country with this abortion issue and more states pushing to the laws that are going on. Like New York and the Senate voting for after birth abortion, and things that I just think, I mean, for me I just can't believe this is even happening in my lifetime. I can't believe I'm even seeing this as a reality.
Robia Scott: So, I think this movie is very God ordained, and God wants it to shift culture. I think it's gonna be, for individuals it's gonna be very healing. I think for post-abortive women who might feel scared to see the movie, this movie has no shame, it has no condemnation, it has no judgment. It's about healing, it's about hope, it's about redemption, it's about regardless of what you've done, God has a plan for you. He has a future for you. So, I have really been imploring women to not feel nervous about, you know, 'cause there have been numerous post-abortive women as I've done screenings around the country, that they're sharing it with friends, that they've been hesitant.
Robia Scott: Is this a good movie for someone who's been through this personally to see? And I would say it absolutely is, because I think it will pave the way for just a deeper level of healing. So, I'm very excited about that, that the film doesn't come across in a preachy, judgey, Christiany, legalistic way. That it's really so infused with love and grace and hope, and it's beautiful.
Sean McDowell: I'm not surprised, but I'm so thrilled to hear that the movie aims to just be as gracious and love-filled and accurate as you describe, and I can't wait to see it. What advice would you give? You kind of hinted at this in your last response. Given that it deals with a sensitive topic and actually portrays an abortion on screen, now not a real abortion, but the kind of thing that Abby would have seen in real life that led to her transformation. What advice would you give to families, to individuals, to churches, to people going to see this so that they can just be in the right mindset?
Robia Scott: We did receive an R rating. The movie probably should've gotten a PG-13 rating, but we sensed on our team that there was a little bit of a political backlash there. And how an R rating is determined is from four factors. It is sexuality, nudity, foul language, and violence. There's no sexuality in Unplanned, there's no nudity, there's no foul language. But the Motion Picture Association, because of a couple scenes that do depict abortion, they have deemed abortion a violent act, which is an admission in itself.
Scott Rae: What a concept.
Robia Scott: Isn't it?
Scott Rae: Wow.
Robia Scott: I know. They're actually saying, they're agreeing, that it's a violent act. So, we did get a rated R, but for everyone that can hear this now, I want to encourage you that what our team is saying is that in this case, R stands for recommended.
Sean McDowell: Nice, nice.
Robia Scott: Yeah. R stands for real, relevant, recommended. You know, I'm a parent myself, and I know church leaders, church goers, parents, we want to protect our own soul and spirit from certain imagery and things that we just don't want to allow into our eye gates and ear gates. But this is not those things, this is the kind of truth on screen that is very important for people of all ages to see. And I would even go so far as to say especially teenagers, especially teenagers. In our country currently, a 13, 14, 15 year old can go and get an abortion without parental consent, but now cannot see this movie, Unplanned, about abortion without parental consent. So, the irony there is just extreme.
Sean McDowell: Unbelievable.
Robia Scott: You know, all the college kids that we've showed it to, they are blown away. I can't tell you the tears, the things that they've stood up and shared. They said, "You don't understand what we deal with on our college campus. The pressure, the mindsets of so many of the people." They just could not wait for their friends to see this movie. There's one scene that's very powerful, it talks about, it shows the abortion pill, and Abby going through an experience with the abortion pill. And you probably know, in California, they were trying to push the bill that the abortion pill would be able to be dispersed on college campuses. That did not go through, but this is the kind of agenda that is trying to be pushed.
Robia Scott: And it's so powerful in this movie because let me tell you, once college age kids see her going through this, they are not gonna be running to go to get that abortion pill. Because what they tell you is, "Oh, it's not a big deal. It's sort of a gentle, it's not surgical. It's no big deal." But what Abby goes through in the movie, and it's a true story, none of this is fabricated. Once you see what she went through on screen and the weeks and weeks and weeks of pain and things that she went through from the pill, it's the best. It's just gonna be the best eye opening experience, I think, for a lot of these kids, and really people from all ages. Obviously adults as well need it, kids need it.
Robia Scott: So, I know that was a long answer, but I do hope that ... parents obviously need to decide for themselves at what age they feel. It's their child, that what age of maturity their child is. I personally think 12, 13 would be a good age. My daughter is eight, I'm not gonna have her see the movie yet 'cause I think it's too much for her to understand even though she understands abortion. I've had to share with her because I'm doing this movie, so we talked about it, but I personally think about 12 years and up, everyone should see it. And I encourage church leaders and youth group leaders and pastors and priests and those who are leaders in the body of Christ to encourage their people as well.
Scott Rae: All right, that's really helpful. I think especially why you got the R rating, I think will be very helpful to our listeners just to know why that rating was given and that there's really nothing in there that would be problematic for somebody maybe 13 and above. So, yeah.
Robia Scott: Absolutely. There's two scenes in particular where you see a little bit behind the veil. They're not necessarily easy scenes to watch, but I think they're important scenes to watch.
Scott Rae: Well, Robia, this has been so helpful, and just you telling your story, telling us a little bit about the movie. I'm sure, I want to encourage our listeners not only to see the movie, but to also pray for the impact of it, on the culture in general. Pray that the movie will impact the future and the destiny of the unborn for many years to come. We're very grateful for you coming on with us. I know it's a super hectic time for you, so thank you very much for taking this time to be with us on the podcast today.
Robia Scott: Thank you. And I want to encourage people, because the film comes out this weekend, those that are listening, to please get to the theaters opening weekend because that makes a difference in the movie having a greater impact. And you can go to unplanned.com and find out where the film is playing near you. You can just plug your zip code in, and all the theaters will come up. We're in about 1200 theaters nationwide right now, which is incredible.
Sean McDowell: Excellent.
Scott Rae: Fantastic.
Robia Scott: And then also, if your listeners want to stay connected with me to learn more about the movie and the ministry, I'm all on social media, Instagram, everything's under my name, Robia Scott. Or, go to my website, RobiaScott.com, and then we can connect a little bit as well, 'cause I love to connect with people.
Scott Rae: Very good, very good. Thank you for that. Again, much appreciated for you coming on with us, and all the best to you and to the family.
Robia Scott: Thank you so much.
Scott Rae: This has been an episode of the podcast Think Biblically: Conversations on Faith and Culture. To learn more about us and today's guest, Robia Scott, and the movie Unplanned, and to find more episodes, go to Biola.edu/ThinkBiblically. That's Biola.edu/ThinkBiblically. If you enjoyed today's conversation, give us a rating on your podcast app and share it with a friend. Thanks so much for listening, and remember, think biblically about everything.