Note: My interview with Angus T. Jones was published today, Nov. 27, 2012 as an exclusive for Christianity Today. The CT article, this post and the images herein are protected under copyright. You may not reprint without permission. If you are an individual with a personal blog, you may reblog, but you must link back to Hip Mama Media. Following is the full, unedited version for my blog readers.
Angus Turner Jones, the “half” of CBS’ “Two and a Half Men” has sent shock waves through the entertainment world this week by denouncing his own show, the third highest-ranked TV comedy, as “filth” and urging viewers to stop watching. Since age 10, Jones has played the character Jake Harper for nine seasons—eight of those as Hollywood’s highest-paid child actor, making roughly $8 million annually. His declaration was spurred in part by his newfound faith in God, a faith he says is at odds with the themes of the show. Jones graduated from high school in June and plans to attend college in Colorado next fall. I sat down with him in October to discuss his conversion to Seventh-day Adventism and what it means for his acting career and his future.
Tell me about your conversion experience.
About nine months ago, there were a series of events in my life where God was talking through other people to me. What God was giving me was, “The way your life is set up now and the way you are living and planning on continuing to live is not going to get you what you want.” (Smoking week, doing acid). I just had this big wake up call. It was in conjunction with one of my older cousins -who four months prior- God had woken him in a similar way. This was over a couple of days before New Year’s and then, two other specific nights, Jan. 22 and 30, that I felt God was speaking to me. There were so many other things I could have steered off into that could have made me just another statistic.
How is that impacting your work now?
It’s a really interesting experience. I know I am there for a reason, but at the same time I have this strange twist of being a hypocrite: a paid hypocrite. That’s the way I have been looking at it lately. I say paid hypocrite because you say one thing and do the other. Even though it’s my job to be an actor, I have given my life to God and I am very comfortable and firm in that, but I still have to be on this show. It’s the number one comedy, but it’s very inappropriate and the themes are very inappropriate. I have to be this person that I am not.
What does that mean for your future with the show?
I don’t know what it means for the show, but I only have a contract for this year.
What do you say to Christians who want to entertain without compromising?
What I would say to a person who is firm in their faith and wants to go into an acting career: it is such a difficult thing to do without compromising your beliefs. Even though you are just pretending, if you sign the contract and agree to do what they are doing, even if your character is not evil or doesn’t compromise your belief, you are in a world similar to that of Alexander the Great. Everything the Greeks did was to promote their own world view, their schools, their theater, their religion, and their sports. Basically, we have the exact same thing now. You are either in the world or with God. Committing yourself to some kind of job that isn’t committed to God is going to bring so much trouble into your life: it’s not good and not something I would suggest that someone seek.
People often say secular artists, bands, and actors are better and Christians just copy and are not original. How would you answer that?
One thing I would say is the Bible talks about thing of the world as enmity with God. The people of the world can’t understand God because they are flesh. I really don’t think there should be any kind of attempt to use music, art or any worldly things to bring people to Christ. Christ came and preached the Gospel. His followers did not try to use subversive lyrics or try to be smart. (The Apostle) Paul talks about not coming “with wisdom of words.” Paul was just, “Nope, Jesus. That’s it. I am not watering it down or building it up. Here’s what it is: Take it or leave it.” Otherwise, if you can argue a person into faith they can be argued out of it. You are not going to change a person or get them interested in God by bringing them a watered down version of the world. The world does worldly things best. Everything a Christian should do is to praise God, not for people to say, “Oh yeah, that’s really good.”
How then does a Christian craft their art and what is the standard for creating?
The standard is: does it bring glory to God?
You graduated in June. Other than work, what are you doing these days?
Right now I am doing a lot of work for my church, taking an evangelism class, doing a lot of reading – mostly the Bible and things that coordinate with the Bible, and things that go along with the evangelism class.
Why are you taking an evangelism class? It seems the last thing an actor with your resume would be doing.
I feel it is extremely important for me given the position that God has given me to get out there and do His work. The Bible says that “To whom much has been given, much will be required.”
What has been given to you?
In my position: a lot of things. I have very excellent family, have a home. I have financial means and I have influence. People will listen to me just because I was that kid on that show – which doesn’t make any sense in my mind, but to them it changes a little bit how they think. God has placed me in (that show) knowing that one day I would come to Him and come to know Him truly. Now, I am working from the from the inside out, more or less.
Tell me about your involvement in the Pacoima Valley Crossroad Seventh-Day Adventist Church.
Right now I am taking an evangelism class, learning how to give Bible studies, how to teach and do small groups, how to witness door-to-door. Once that work is finished I am going to be an intern there.
How did you end up attending an African-American church?
I was going to three or four churches on the weekends looking for a congregation to join. A friend of a friend had gone to that church a few times and he told me about it. The first time I went there the message was tailored made for me. I felt this was the church for me.
What resonated with you there?
The spirit of the people: they are so loving, so accepting. It’s powerful.
How did they react to you as a celebrity?
It’s still a slow change. The pastor says he remembers seeing me there the first time and thinking, “What’s this white boy doing here?” It’s as much a learning experience for them as it is for me. I am completely comfortable in my own skin. I don’t’ care what anyone thinks about me. I am there for the Word. I am not there to impress anyone.
What do you see yourself doing in five years?
I want to do something with proper health and diet and learn how to grow fruits, plants and vegetables naturally, completely organic. – how to prepare the soil right, how to do basic agriculture. I have farm land out in Texas so if I figure it out, there is a possibility of creating a farm that can supply homeless people with healthy food. They are getting the slob of the slob: high fructose corn syrup, white bleached flour, everything that is processed. I would love to get healthy food to them: Everyone needs it, but they have the least chance of getting it.
Are you talking about the US urban poor or poor developing countries?
Wherever where I am led. I think the United States is a huge mission field. We have 70 percent born-again Christians in the US, but that number can’t be true. I would love for it to be true, but if there are 70 percent born-again Christians in this country, then why is no one being like Jesus and taking His example and doing things for people on a larger scale? Why are we not getting together as a community and moving?
As the highest-paid child actor, how did you have a normal life?
Of course when you are a kid it goes into a Coogan account which is protected. So it was never a thing where I could go and do this or that with money. If I wanted some video games my parents would buy them. I was a kid going to school, going home playing Lego’s, playing video games and my little guitar. I wasn’t trying to be a big shot because that’s just not my personality. If you are really looking for the celebrity paparazzi thing you are going to get it because all you have to do is be a little bit out of line. It’s not hard; it’s very easy to do that. But I wasn’t out in public. I wasn’t in the scene and I wasn’t hanging out with the people who were in the scene. I was only friends with kids at school. I felt totally protected and insulated by my parents and God. They kept me from all that.
How did you balance your filming schedule with your school work?
I would always do my school work, but it got a little heavy because I had a full-time job. The teachers would send the work to me and I was diligent to get it done and then I could come right back on campus. I loved those days when I had seven classes like a normal kid.
How did you fit in with the cast and crew? How did that change as you grew up in front of the camera?
Excellent, I loved it: it was my work family. I was always just the kid on stage. I loved Charlie (Sheen) and Jon (Cryer). People always ask what it was like growing up on TV, but I was just growing up. I have just been documented more thoroughly than most people and the documentation of my life was televised to the world. It’s definitely an interesting way to grow up, but I can’t get upset with that. When people recognize me, I use it as an opportunity to witness.
How did you feel when Charlie left the show? Do you stay in contact with him?
It was kind of bummer, but I didn’t really worry about it back then. I wasn’t following the news or listening to what people were telling me, “Oh did you hear this, or hear that?” I love both Chuck and Charlie. I can understand where both were coming from. Charlie’s situation: he lived in a bubble, a total glass jar and everyone knew everything about him. It’s such a strange life and not human for a person to be able to live like that. Basically, the way I see it, he gave society what they wanted to see in a celebrity: that’s what society, in the end, wants a celebrity to be. They want this spectacle, they want this huge train wreck of a life so they can say, “I am not so bad.” It makes them feel better. I have tons of respect for Charlie. I love him to death. We talk on the phone every now and then.
What were some memorable times in high school?
Every day that I got to go to school was memorable. Lunch was always a good time, being on the yearbook staff was such a blast, playing on drumline was so much fun. People are always so ready to get out of high school, but I genuinely wish I had taken more advantage of it. It was such an awesome community. It’s so frustrating that people get all weird and funky in high school. I was saying, “What are you guys doing worrying about all these non-existent things?” I loved my high school years.
How did you navigate your parents’ divorce?
That was before me and God were really on it together. I see now in hindsight that God used that to bring me closer to Him. He could have done it in a lot of different ways, but he used that. At the time I was 16 and basically being the tough guy. I did not want to be at home. Home frustrated me. Being at home and hearing my parents and being around them just bothered me. At the time I had a girlfriend so I would go spend time at her house or my friend’s house. I could spend the minimal amount of time at my house. Basically, what I was doing was running. I was running away from what was going on inside of me. I was just doing my thing and pretending like (the divorce) wasn’t really wasn’t bothering me. But it was something that God used: everything works out for our good.
Where are you now in regard to your parents’ divorce?
Now, I am a lot more comfortable. God has shown me the “what happened and why.” I am totally content and not hurt. The main person I feel bad for is my little brother. I grew up with both my parents. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but they were together. Now Otto has this split and I feel a responsibility to be the stable one. I am the bridge between the both of them. So no matter what my parents are going through, I can be there for Otto.
What is the biggest challenge facing your generation?
I think it’s the challenge every generation has: the desire to serve yourself and put yourself in front of everyone else. The desire to do what you think is best.
What else would you want readers to know about you?
I have gone to Christian school all my life and I learned all the stories. I don’t know if it was me or the fact that my home life wasn’t Christian. Maybe God wanted me to go through those things to have a more powerful testimony. I don’t know. I feel though, that I am now on a crash course. I have been missing out and don’t want to waste any more time. I feel so driven. All the other stuff is going to fade away. What is going to last for eternity is where we stand with Him. It really is the only work in life.