October Baby – A Chat With Jason Burkey

by Yo Snyder

Did you know that there are people who are abortion survivors?
Their mother tried to abort them, but for whatever reason, that didn’t work out
and they were born just the same. Imagine the feelings one would have upon
discovering that. What would that be like? How would you respond? In the movie October Baby (which releases on Blu-Ray
and DVD September 11th), you’ll see the story of one young woman who
has to deal with the discovery of the only reason she’s here is because her
mother’s abortion didn’t work out as planned. Abortion is a sensitive, touchy
and often contentious issue, and certainly not one you see many movies based
on. We recently had a chance to talk with Jason Burkey, one of the stars of October Baby, about what that experience
was like, making a movie about such a touchy subject, and how the experience
has impacted his life.

Yo: So Jason, first of all why don’t you tell me a little
bit about why you wanted to be a part of this movie, especially considering
that it touches on such a controversial and sensitive subject.

Jason: Right. Well
how I got involved initially, I worked with the Erwin brothers on a television
pilot back in ’09, and we really connected. I mean everyone, the cast and the
crew, really kind of created a family on that project and the show didn’t end
up getting picked up, but we all knew we wanted to work together again. About a
year later, the Erwins approached Rachel and I and a few other cast members
about doing a feature. They sent us a script for October Baby and I read it over. I wasn’t aware at the time that
there was such a thing as an abortion survivor, but I knew that one it was a
powerful story and two I wanted to work with the Erwins again. So, there wasn’t
really a question in my mind about jumping on board.

Yo: So what did you think about how this movie handled that subject,
again since it is such a sensitive issue and, as you said, not a lot of people
are aware that there are such things as an abortion survivor, how do you feel
about how well the movie portrayed that subject? How well did it convey what it
wanted to convey?

Jason: Well that’s one thing I really enjoyed about the
script was how well balanced it was and also it wasn’t just slapping you in the
face with anything or forcing you to believe one thing. It was simply telling a
good story, an inspired story. So that’s what I liked about it. The Erwins didn’t
go out, none of us went out to make this film as some propaganda piece. It was
simply we wanted to tell a good story and have conversations arise out of watching
the movie, and there have been some conversations about the movie that have
come up just with audience members who have seen the movie. So I think that’s
cool, I think the Erwins did a great job in telling this story and not forcing
some idea down your throat.

Yo: It’s interesting that you bring up that topic of propaganda.
I was looking some of the past reviews on the movie, and they were mixed, some
were favorable and some were not. One, which I thought was rather interesting, said
the movie was nothing more than “propaganda for the already converted.” How do
you feel when you hear people saying things about this movie? Like you said, it’s
not a propaganda piece, but some people apparently perceive that way, how would
you respond to them?

Jason: Right. I think we all expected to get some flak for
it, just simply because of the topic, and since it is a sensitive issue. You
know, people can respond to the movie and take the movie however they choose,
and there have been some people who have kind of missed the point. That doesn’t,
at least personally, that doesn’t bother me. It’s looking at the positive
responses that really encourages all of us. I mean literally talking to some
people and some abortion survivors at some of these screenings who have been
touched by the film or found a bit of healing by watching the film, that’s what’s
important to me and I’m sure is important to the Erwins as well. So, there have
been, unfortunately, people who have missed the point of the film and who maybe
went into it looking for ways to shoot it down.

Yo: In the movie, you play Hannah’s friend. In playing that
role, what did you learn about the importance of someone whose life has been
touched by abortion, either as an abortion survivor or maybe they for whatever
reason had an abortion, the importance of having that kind of support; the support
of an understanding friend, someone who’s willing to listen, perhaps share the
pain, and help?

Jason: Well I learned, just by playing that character, I
feel like in my life, I feel like I want to have all the right answers for a
friend who’s going through something or struggling through something. I think
the most important thing that I realized is that if you’re not personally going
through that exact situation, all you can do is offer a listening ear and
support in whatever way you can. After my character hears Hannah unload and
tell him this whole story about her past, he even says, “I don’t know what to
say.” So I think that’s the biggest thing. You may not have the answers, but
the biggest thing is to just to be that support for your friend and to lend a
listening ear. I did talk with some people who went through some similar situations
who said that they had an adjacent character in their life that they went
through it with, and that just a huge thing for them, and a necessary thing for
them. So yeah, it is very important to have someone there when you’re going
through that. I mean all of us need someone when we’re going through tough
times in our life.

Yo: How much did you know, or were you involved with this
issue before doing the movie, and then after doing the movie, how has that
influenced your view of it, your opinion of it, your feelings about?

Jason: Hmm. Well, like I said before, I had no idea that
abortion survivors existed, so I was kind of blind to that whole issue until
reading the script and meeting Gianna Jessen who’s the abortion survivor the
story’s inspired by and she’s become a great friend, and just looking into
stats on abortion and just reading more and researching more about the issue
before filming, it was eye-opening. It definitely is a touchy subject, but
seeing the effect the film has had on have had an abortion or have some
connection to an abortion, it has definitely become an important issue and an
eye-opening thing for me just by doing the film. It’s kind of staggering, the
statistics on how many abortions are happening in our country.

Yo: What do you hope people will take away from watching
this movie? What do you really want them to ponder after seeing it?

Jason: Well, I think the biggest theme of the movie is the
power of forgiveness. I think maybe that’s the biggest thing I’d want people to
take away. There are also different aspects of the film that people can connect
with. There’s the father/daughter relationship that’s strong, it’s a road-trip
movie, and there’s a love story in there, so I really hope, and people have so
far connected to all those aspects of the film. But I think the biggest thing
is the power of forgiveness and is the strongest thing I’ve heard people take
away from the film.

Yo: So do you have anything on your plate coming up next that
you want to tease or share about?

Jason: Yeah, I just wrapped on another feature film in
Nashville. It’s called A Matter of Time
and Kevin Sorbo and Shelly Long are in that one and it should be released next
February and that’s a romantic drama. And then I have a couple more independent
feature films coming up, so yeah, I have a few irons in the fire right now. It’s
been busy, but it’s been good. I’m just waiting for some stuff to be released,
and that’s probably the hardest part is waiting. (laughs)

Yo: Yeah, I imagine it would be. So being so busy as an actor,
I’m always curious about this, did you have a favorite movie of the summer that
you went to go see. Besides the one that you were in…

Jason: (laughing) Yeah, right.

Yo: Was there a movie that you just really enjoyed? Did you
have time?

Jason: I did. I haven’t been in a theater in a long time
actually until I went to go see the new Batman movie…

Yo: Yes!

Jason: And I really enjoyed that. I mean, I was watching,
recently they had the old Batmans, like Batman
and the George Clooney one, on TV and those were just…so bad.
Watching them, they’re just so cheesy and terrible. (laughs) So I did enjoy the
new Batman, but that’s honestly the last movie I’ve seen in awhile.

Yo: Well, at least you picked a really good one.

Jason: Yeah, right. It was, it was good.

Yo: Jason, thank you so much for time and for sharing about
this movie, especially since it touches on such an important and sensitive subject
area. I’m glad you were willing to chat about it.

Jason: Yeah, absolutely. Any time.

October Baby
releases on Blu-Ray and DVD on Tuesday, September 11.