"There are so many jewels in SHINE. I think they've just needed a platform to be able to express that."
"God, are you calling me back in?"
After leaving Canada for New York City, Wendy Heagy headed to Broadway to begin her new life as an actress and dancer. It wasn't until fifteen years into her career, however that she made the decision to follow Christ, which she thought meant leaving show business behind. Now a talent consultant with SHINE, and with a new acting resume that includes the role of a core police officer on Law and Order: SVU, Wendy feels confident that God has called her back into the entertainment industry to be salt and light for His name.
How long have you had an interest in show business?
I've been in show business all my life. I started dancing when I was five or six years old. So I've never been out of this industry. Some way or the other, I've always been in this industry. I went to school, I finished college. I went to the Computer Data Institute of Canada, because my parents said, "Look, we love you, but we want to make sure you have something to fall back on. And I said, "Okay, no problem. I went to school, I finished, and I presented them with my certificate. I had a 97.5 average, and they said, "Okay, now you've got to go try and find a job. And I said, "Mom and Dad, this is not my love. And they were like, "You know what, you've done everything we've asked you to do. If you feel you need to leave and do your thing, then you go ahead and do that. And that was it. So somehow or the other, I've always been in this business.
What have you been up to since SHINE?
I've been working ever since. When I was at SHINE, I was picked up by the Bella Agency. We got back from SHINE in January and I came on board with them maybe at the end of February? And I booked my first commercial in March. That was amazing, really cool. Right after that commercial, I did another commercial for Tribeca Film Festival- I had lines in that one, and that was entitled, What's the Film Every New Yorker's Should See? I did an audition for that, and they said, "you need to talk to us about a film that was actually filmed in New York, and so I spoke about a Christian film; it was a modern day John the Baptist story with all the landmarks in New York and I got the commercial! They said they loved my video audition, and they wanted to offer me the commercial. The funniest thing is that they said, "You're very articulate, so could you kind of New York it up a bit? I said, (in New York accent) "I feel that all New Yorkers should see this!" (Laughs). So I did those two commercials. I did a film called Before the Snow where I play a cancer victim whose name is Carol. Now my Mom went home to be with the Lord from cancer, so it was not difficult for me to do this, but they asked that I cry through the whole monologue. So I did it in front of them, and then I didn't hear from them for about three weeks. I said to my husband, "I know I did the best I could." And then I finally heard back from them, and they said to me, "Wendy, we cannot find anybody who can do this role the way you've done this role. So we're offering it to you but not only that, we love the way you portrayed the character, and we're giving you more lines." And I said, "That sounds great!"
When did you feel called to media as a mission field?
At least four years ago, and I've felt it two years strong. I spoke to my husband about it, and then my son. To be honest with you, I did expect to continue being a dance choreographer and doing street ministry with my evangelistic team. I felt that this was what God was wanting me to do; my slogan is, we're going to dance until Jesus comes. So I said, "God, are you calling me back in?" If He was, then I said, "Lord, we're going to do everything Your way, not my way. I do believe that God is so mindful of the talents and the gifts that He puts in us, that they're irrevocable. He knew before I was in my mother's womb that I was going to do this. Now I'm thinking, I'm getting older. That part of my life's done. But God has sanctified and consecrated me, and can trust me. And there are some of us who are called to this right now, and as much as I would love to do all family friendly television and commercials, I just believe that God has called the radicals. And that's what we are. We are radicals for Christ, and we are going to get ready to get on these sets that are compromised.
It seems sometimes there's this idea in theatre that you have to stand on set and be willing to say or do anything and be comfortable with it, because as an actor that's your job.
The enemy just wants to push us past that perversion that's so strong, where anything goes. And you can see how they're pushing the envelope on the ratings now. With TV-14, or TV-MA, you know they're pushing it, and God says, "No! There's a standard here." I can do a violent film, but I don't have to curse in it. If you offer me a role where I need to take off my clothes, that's not happening. And I'm not afraid to tell you, because I serve a big God. There's no gray area for me. I'm like, "God, I'll do whatever you need me to do until my last breath is in me or you come back." I want to encourage you, stay steadfast, and stay on that narrow road. Exalt Him; you lift Him up before man, He will exalt you in the heavenly places. Deny Him before man, He'll deny you. And that's not what we want. We don't want to stand before God and say, "But it was only a line." Really? I'm not saying that we're going on set and that we're Bible thumping, but we are definitely salt and light. You know, salt goes in and sometimes it hurts. And where light is, darkness has to flee.
You've played in both theatre and film; notably, as a dancer in Jackie Mason: Politically Incorrect on Broadway, and more recently a co-starring role in the upcoming film Before the Snow. Do you prefer acting in film to theatre?
I do like theatre because it keeps my chops up, but I absolutely love film. Absolutely. That is my preference.
You are a dancer and dance consultant with SHINE. What do you enjoy most about helping other performers?
Well, with SHINE I'm not just doing dance, because I often coach acting. Like I tell all of them, I love seeing the fruit of my labor (laughs). I love seeing them get it. Hearing them say, "You know what? I know why I'm here." When they first come in, they're like little deer in headlights, wondering what am I doing here? Then two months into their training I see these amazing actors, actresses, dancers and singers, and I love to see that, because they've been trained well, and they've been trained with the love of Christ behind them. I have so much joy in seeing that sometimes it's hard for me not to say to them, "Listen, when you get to SHINE, you better shine like nobody's business!" (Laughs). So I really get excited to see them from the beginning, that middle part, and then that end part, because Christ is behind it and they're just coming forth in such excellence. There are so many jewels in SHINE. I think they've just needed a platform to be able to express that.
You act, model, and dance. What do you find personally to be the most challenging medium in the industry?
I think film would be the most challenging. The dance world, for me, is more physical. The challenge now is that I'm older. As far as modeling, you don't really say much, you just get in there and do what you gotta do (laughs). But film I would say definitely, that's the biggest challenge. It's my preference, but it's a challenge as a Christian. With dance, you can create so much beauty, but you don't have to be vulgar with it. Jazz is jazz, modern is modern, ballet is ballet.
What are some of the most difficult challenges you've faced breaking into the industry?
I think my confidence. SHINE prepared me for everything: on camera, scene read, cold read; I was so prepared. And I think that helped tremendously. But one of the challenges would always be confidence, because we're our own worst critics, especially getting into my first commercial. But it didn't pose as a challenge after the second time, you know what I mean? Also, just getting a break! I'm the thirty-five and older group so I think the difficulty would be getting opportunities. I don't see it as a problem right now or as a struggle, I just say through praying, "Lord, you know what's for me, and what's not for me." This industry is very competitive, so I don't let it get to me. I just continue to do and to get out there. I just try to do my best in every opportunity. The operative person is God in this whole thing, which totally makes you non- anxious. It doesn't make you haughty or prideful, and I really believe that because I'm saved and I know the Lord, my patience is there. And I have to wait on the Lord; if it's not for me, it's not for me, and I truly do say that at the end of every audition. God holds all things, and because He knows better than I do, I just entrust Him to every commercial, every film, and every play that He may allow me to be a part of.
Have you seen any miracles or amazing things happen on set?
I have asked the Lord in prayer prior to going to set, to soften certain people's hearts. There was this one particular actress, and she's absolutely not interested in the Lord. So one night I say, "Lord, I'm going on set tomorrow. Would you please soften this child's heart so that I can plant something?" God is so amazing. The next day I got up and it's not like we're angry at each other or something, she doesn't care for Jesus, and she's made it clear to me. So she came to me, and I'm sitting down, talking to someone.
And she said to me, "You know what Wendy? You're my inspiration." And I looked up and I said, "thank you Jesus." And she said, "You just say things; the way you are, and the way you carry yourself, just inspire me." And I was like, "Okay sweetie, I know you don't want to hear about Jesus, but you're just getting opened up here!" (Laughs). So that experience was very much supernatural. That was such an answer to prayer. I'm just going to continue to be who I am and watch God move. I know that with every seed that is planted, God's Word will not return to Him empty. But it will accomplish the reason it's sent, and it's going to be successful in all of their lives. Makeup artists, wardrobe people, all the people that we've witnessed to on the set, I do believe are going to come to Christ.
What advice would you give to Christian performers?
Stay anchored in Christ. Stay in the Word. If there's no Word, there's no ministry, and we have been called to minister. No matter if we call it performance, or entertainment, it is those things, but I believe that those who are coming through SHINE are called to the entertainment industry, and that is our ministry. So my strong suggestion is to stay in the Word of God, and stay anchored. Constantly be around someone that you can trust in prayer who can intercede for you, and be salt and light.