Robia Scott plays Planned Parenthood clinic director Cheryl in Unplanned, the new movie about pro-life activist Abby Johnson’s life, to be released in theaters on March 29 (watch the trailer here, or listen to her talk about the role here). Scott began her entertainment career as a dancer at age 16 and then moved on to acting. Her television roles have included Jill Fleming on Beverly Hills, 90210 and Jenny Calendar in Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the 1990s. She then became a Christian and walked away from her Hollywood career in 2005, but returned to acting to play a key supporting role in Unplanned.
Scott recently spoke with CWR about her role in Unplanned.
CWR: How did you come to play the role of Cheryl in the film?
Robia Scott: I started my entertainment career as a professional dancer as a teen, and then transitioned into acting. I thought that acting is what I’d be doing with my life. I became a believer, however, and God called me to step away from the entertainment industry. I now do full time ministry work. I had no intention of going back to Hollywood. I love working for the Kingdom of God.
I met Unplanned’s writer-directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, however, and they told me about the movie. I was intrigued by the story, and they had me look at a few pages of the script. I was initially hesitant about playing the role of Cheryl, the face of Planned Parenthood, but I came to believe that God was calling me back to Hollywood after a 13-year hiatus.
CWR: Why did you want to play Cheryl?
Scott: It wasn’t so much I wanted to play Cheryl, as I wanted to do the movie. I am a lover of truth, and believe that the truth sets you free. I believe this movie tells the truth about abortion and Planned Parenthood.
I read Unplanned, Abby’s Johnson’s book that the movie is based on, and I thought her story could make a strong impact on those who heard it. Many people have little knowledge about what Planned Parenthood is. They may know how Planned Parenthood portrays themselves, as supporters of women’s empowerment, or know of their claim that abortion is only a small part of their business, but not about their true motives. Abby’s story gives insight into those motives, and I felt passionate about sharing that story.
Cary and Chuck had rights to make a movie about the book for six years, but the Lord kept telling them, “Not yet.” They put it on the back burner for a time, then God told them to make the movie. Had the movie been made, say, four years ago, it would have made an impact, but not like today. The movie is being released at a time when many are aggressively pushing a pro-abortion agenda, such as with the passage of the New York law in January [allowing abortions at any time during a pregnancy].
I believe our movie is a weapon of love that God will release through the media. I hope it will change minds and hearts, and I’d love to see a change in laws.
CWR: How did filming go?
Scott: It was incredible. It was the first time I’d ever been involved with a production in which most everyone involved was a believer in Christ. It allowed me to be fully who I am. There was also a sense that we were doing something bigger than ourselves. We also had a sense of spiritual warfare. In fact, there was a paid prayer department on set. These were a handful of men and women who prayed ongoing for the success of the production, and prayed over directors, the cast, the financial team and whoever else was involved. It made a huge difference.
CWR: You play the villain. How did you get in the mindset to do this character?
Scott: Cheryl was not an easy character to play. It wasn’t a lot of fun to portray her. Hers was an important role, though, even though portraying her was intense.
Cheryl is very different from my personality. I am gregarious, goofy, and playful; Cheryl is driven and focused. I dug into that part of me that was passionate, and twisted it to fit this character. I turned the compassionate part of my personality off, and I played her as solely driven for success. Then I just had to follow the script, which was beautifully written.
Abby Johnson has a pro-life ministry, And Then There Were None, which has helped over 500 former abortion industry workers leave the abortion industry. I’ve heard from them about my portrayal of Cheryl. They tell me, “She was exactly like the director at my clinic!”
CWR: There were some cameo roles in the film. Lila Rose of the pro-life group Live Action plays a reporter who interviews you; Mike Lindell, CEO of My Pillow, plays a construction worker who tears down a Planned Parenthood sign.
Scott: Yes. Lila is a powerhouse, and an extraordinary woman. She wanted to be a part of the film. Mike Lindell came through with $1 million in funding for the film just when we needed it. He was also excited about playing a role.
Also, our abortionist in the film was [played by] Dr. Anthony Levatino, who is a former abortionist himself who is now pro-life. He stepped back into his old shoes to demonstrate to us how an abortionist works. It was in watching him that Abby has a revelation about what she is doing.
CWR: The abortionist makes a joke as he’s about to kill the baby.
Scott: Yes. As he’s about to turn on the suction machine, he says, “Beam me up, Scotty.” It shows how desensitized he has become.
CWR: Were you upset that Unplanned received an R rating?
Scott: We weren’t upset, but we were hoping for a PG-13. There are many movies and TV shows far more intense than Unplanned that have a PG-13. Those of us involved with the movie think it’s a political statement by the Motion Picture Association of America.
Movies receive ratings based on sex, nudity, foul language, and violence. We don’t have any of the first three. And, if the MPAA gives us an R rating for violence, they’re ultimately agreeing with us that abortion is violent.
So, I would recommend to parents and church leaders not to look upon an R rating as meaning restricted, but recommended or relevant. This is a story we want our teenagers to see. It is ironic that in many places a 13 to 16-year-old can get an abortion without parental consent, but they cannot see Unplanned without a parent.
CWR: What impressed you about Abby Johnson’s story?
Scott: It is extraordinary. She was so pro-choice, and complicit in over 22,000 abortions. But God lifted the veil, and showed her of what she was a part.
It is an interesting story, as she was on the inside of Planned Parenthood. It is not a story of shame, judgment, or finger-pointing, but one of hope and redemption. Our God is a forgiving God. God has used the mistakes Abby has made in the past for good. Today, Abby has an incredible ministry, and is a powerful speaker.
I had the chance to meet her when she was on set. It was quite an experience for her to see her life on screen, and to know that her story would impact lives.
CWR: You had many scenes with Ashley Bratcher, who portrays Abby. How was her performance?
Scott: Ashley is extraordinary. I cannot imagine anyone else playing this role. She was hired just a few days before filming started. It was a risk for her, as she is a professional actress. The directors made it clear that Hollywood might blacklist her for playing this role. It was not a big deal for me, as I have left Hollywood, but it was for Ashley.
CWR: Who do you think ought to go see Unplanned?
Scott: Everyone. I imagine it will have a special attraction to pro-lifers, and I would encourage them to vote for life by buying a movie ticket. When a film does well on the opening weekend, it gets more media attention and gets released in more theaters. This movie has the opportunity to shift the culture, so I encourage everyone to turn out March 29-31.
I’d also love for pro-choicers to see it. It will give them a clear demonstration of what they’re involved in. Hopefully, it can stimulate some good debates.
CWR: What else would you like to share?
Scott: I’m very proud of this film. It is well written, with a terrific casting. I’m excited about its release, as I think it has the potential to impact our culture for the better, especially among youth and young adults. I’m curious to see how God may use this film to put a stop to abortion.
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