As an actress, producer, and television director, Roxann Dawson boasts credits such as “Scandal,” “The Deuce,” “Star Trek: Voyager” and MARVEL’S “Runaways.” Still, after three decades of doing the work, Dawson’s beliefs may be best exemplified through her fast-approaching feature-film directing debut BREAKTHROUGH. “I was never able to really express what I believe in the work that I had been doing,” Dawson explained at the Dallas-based BREAKTHROUGH roundtable discussion.

The feel-good film starring Chrissy Metz became that opportunity for Dawson with its progressive message and climactic twist. BREAKTHROUGH is based on the impossible true story of a mother’s unwavering commitment to her son following him being medically pronounced dead after collapsing through the ice of a Missouri lake. With a timely call-to-action, the film highlights the power of prayer and inspires a sense of responsibility within viewers communities. Here is why Roxann Dawson hopes BREAKTHROUGH will create a grander discussion at the box-office.

You mentioned this story coming to you. What pressures did you feel to make sure this story was told correctly as the Director of BREAKTHROUGH?

Roxann Dawson: Well, I wanted to make sure the movie was accurate, and that it was true. Ultimately, [I needed to make sure] Joyce Smith, John Smith, and Pastor Jason Noble would all feel good about the way their lives were documented. To that [point], I spent time with the family for a weekend before we started filming. I was talking with them, the doctors, and visiting locations, including the lake where this occurred. Additionally, I went to the hospitals, spoke to first responders, and visited houses to become familar. I was trying to absorb what it felt like [following John Smith’s accident].

It was interesting because although it was a year following when this took place, you could still see how everybody was affected. Everyone I talked to wanted to explain what this had done to them. That conveyed to me that this was not only about [John Smith’s] miracle — it was about how the miracle affected the community. That is the basis of the story.

Recently, you and DeVon Franklin the film’s producer met. After this experience do you think that you and he will work on something else?

RD: Oh, we better work on something else! It was quite wonderful. I did not know DeVon at all. In fact, I was going in for my meeting, and I went on YouTube to look at some of his work. I thought, “Oh, this guy is a talker. What is he even going to be like? Will he speak about himself?” [Laughs] You know?

He’s very good, but I still went, “Wow.” [Laughs] After that, all he did was let me talk. He listened to me. I have a very strong point of view. My feeling was that if I had a point of view that was not right or if he did not agree with it, then it was okay. This was not meant to be.

I came in with something solid, and something that meant something to me. I think he saw that. Thank goodness, it seemed to be on the same page with what he was thinking. That is how we melded. We did not know one another until I got a random call from my agent to go in and meet with him.

Can you speak to the casting of this film?

RD: Chrissy Metz was necessary. Let me put it that way. [20th Century] Fox Films was not going to go ahead with the film unless we got her. First, Chrissy went in and had a meeting with them. I needed to close the deal. She wanted to meet with me next. We had coffee, and I was trying to gently persuade her that this would be the best thing for her and her career.

I tried not to be too enthusiastic. You are trying to woo this person to be in your film. I knew she was right, right from the beginning. We had to wait for her to make this decision. At the same time, time is going by. The ice is melting, literally.

DeVon and I both knew that if we did not begin this soon. We would not be able to do this film. This was the window. When we got a yes from her, that was very exciting. We began casting away for everyone else.

Do you know why this is a 20th Century Fox Film and not a Fox Faith film?

RD: I do not know. However, I am glad that it is not. Personally, I don’t want to define BREAKTHROUGH as faith-based. I think we can reach a wider audience. I think that has been our intention from the beginning. The day I went to meet with DeVon Franklin, I said, “I do not see this as a faith-based film. I see this as an everyone-based film.” I do not want to limit us to preaching to the choir. We want to reach out and touch as many people as possible with the actual true story.

What would you like people to discuss on their way home from the film?

RD: You know my dream on planet ideal is for the lights to come on and for the audience to feel like, “We have just experienced something together.” Then we need to realize; we are all here for a purpose. We are all connected. That would be so awesome.

I would love for people to go with their families and discuss the power of prayer. [They can ask one another,] “What does prayer mean to you?” Think in terms of, “My father, my daughter, my sons, or my friends” — what [do they mean]?

How can we better learn that praying for other people gives so much to us? It comes around. So, it is very important for us to realize that prayer is an activity. Prayer is a muscle that must be nurtured.

Although, you do not want to acknowledge the narrative as strickly faith-based, how much of your own belief was moved by the production of this project?

RD: My faith was profoundly affected. I am a Catholic. I have been working in Hollywood for quite a while. When I first read Devon Franklin’s book, The Hollywood Commandments, I felt like, “Oh, my God! This is me.” I was never able to really express what I believe in the work that I had been doing. Now, I have been blessed to do wonderful projects. However, a lot of them have not been in line with my personal beliefs. BREAKTHROUGH was the opportunity. I just jumped on it. This experience was so fulfilling.

By Bianca Alysse for

About The Author

Bianca Alysse is a creatively driven Bronx-born writer and editor. Before becoming The Knockturnal‘s music editor she served as Latina‘s creative coordinator and was a contributor at Billboard. The Boricua scribe has a lengthy resume in the music industry and has penned for Universal Music Publishing Group, Epic Records, G.O.O.D. Music, Compound Entertainment, Artistry & Récords, and Arcade Creative Group. Her work has been seen on platforms like VIBE, mitú, TIDAL, Remezcla, and behind the scenes at New York Fashion Week. As an independent contractor, she has written for Sony Music Entertainment’s global business affairs department, Warner Music Group, and currently Roc Nation.

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