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Finding Abby: Actress Who Portrays Johnson in Upcoming Film 'Unplanned' Was Nearly Lost to Abortion Herself

Josh Shepherd : Oct 10, 2018 :

When she signed on to play the lead in 'Unplanned,' actress Ashley Bratcher had no idea that—decades before—her mother had walked into an abortion center. "I've never told you this before," Ashley's mother told her on the phone, "but I was actually at the clinic with your dad. They had called my name. They took me back..."

airlift[] As the topic of abortion remains headline news, the upcoming dramatic film 'Unplanned'—with release tentatively set for March 22, 2019—will attempt to offer a different take on decades-old dividing lines. (Image: 'Unplanned' movie poster/via The Stream)

Abby Johnson worked for a Planned Parenthood clinic in central Texas for eight years before abruptly leaving. Her bestselling memoir 'Unplanned', the basis for the new movie, recounts how and why she changed.

Rising star Ashley Bratcher portrays Johnson. Produced by Daryl Lefever and Joe Knopp ('I Can Only Imagine'), 'Unplanned' also stars Robia Scott (CSI), Brooks Ryan ('Overexposed'), newcomer Jared Lotz, Sarah Hernandez ('The Mentalist') and Emma Elle Roberts ('The Hunger Games: Mockingjay').

Only upon getting the part did Bratcher learn unexpected secrets from her own past. "To know you almost didn't exist is an incredible thing to hear," says Bratcher in an interview. "I was just seconds away from not existing. I still don't think I've processed it, because I've been so busy nonstop doing this film."

She spoke to media on the 'Unplanned' movie set in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The story begins with writer-directors Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman. In late 2014, they inked a deal with Johnson to produce a major motion picture of her life story.

The Crucial Element to Begin Filming

airliftWithin a year, Solomon and Konzelman had completed their script and received a thumbs-up from Johnson. Bigger challenges were on the horizon: casting and funding a multimillion-dollar movie. (Photo: Abby Johnson/via The Stream)

Four days before filming was set to start, the directors still hadn't found their Abby Johnson. "You don't wait in the movie business," says Solomon of their casting process. "But the Lord had put it on our hearts to wait."

The two admit it even even cost them investors on the project, a necessity for an independent film. Konzelman recalls one high-stakes meeting.

"This billionaire had been dancing us around for a year," recalls the film co-director. "He asked: Well, who's your lead? We told him we hadn't cast the lead yet. He dismissed us as insane amateurs, saying we would be an irresponsible investment."

With past hits such as 'God's Not Dead' under their belt, they were no amateurs. But they knew the investor had a point. "A movie like this costs like twenty thousand dollars an hour," says Solomon. "If you don't have a lead, you're in big trouble."

Konzelman finishes his production partner's thought, as the two often do in interviews. "What size does the wardrobe team design clothes for?" he asks. "When is her hair going to be dyed? These are big issues when you're four days out."

They were seeking an actress who not only looked like the national pro-life figure but also "had the spirit of Abby," says Konzelman. "Then we came upon Ashley Bratcher."

Actress Makes Startling Personal Discovery

A North Carolina native, Ashley Bratcher has starred in over a dozen faith-centered films including '90 Minutes in Heaven' (with Hayden Christensen) and 'War Room.'

"It's undeniable that I was meant to be here," says Bratcher. "They told me I got the part, then added that a flight was leaving for Oklahoma in four hours. They said, Can you hop on the plane and get out here? I answered, 'Well, nothing's impossible.'"

After a week of filming, Bratcher realized she hadn't even told close family about landing the part. On a phone call with her mother, Bratcher recounted the basics of Johnson's story.

"I knew she would be emotional, but the intensity of the water works was something I did not expect," she says. Her mother revealed that, at 19 years old, she had walked into an abortion clinic... Subscribe for free to Breaking Christian News here.

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