Since the mid-90’s, Lucas Black has starred in a string of memorable roles with family themes: The War alongside Kevin Costner; religiously thoughtful supernatural drama American Gothic; Jackie Robinson biopic 42 with Chadwick Boseman; and recently, three of the Fast and Furious action films.
But he sees a “trend happening” that has caused him to question Hollywood more than ever.
“So many current films and shows undermine men and the role of fathers,” Black told me in a phone interview. “One of the goals in my work is to tell stories that empower the nuclear family and empower fathers.”
Alongside his wife, Maggie, they homeschool their three children—which is how he came to star in adventure film Legacy Peak, which just premiered on streaming service Pure Flix.
A star of film and TV for decades, Black shares why this new family drama excites him, stories from the set, and what truths he hopes that families take away from the film.
The interview has been lightly edited for length.
Making a film Hollywood no longer will
After starring in action films and some big TV series, what drew you to this project?
Lucas Black: In 2019, after being on NCIS: New Orleans for 125 episodes, I decided to leave the show to spend more time with family. We had sacrificed a lot of time away from each other.
During that year, we prayed about what the next step was. We'd started to see a shift in our culture, especially in Hollywood.
So I'd been praying to the Lord, How can you use me in a way to point people in the direction of Jesus, and also empower men and fathers?
I went to Houston for a homeschool convention. A mutual friend of ours introduced us to a pastor, we got to talking about homeschooling and the Lord.
It turns out he was a co-producer on this film project, and he ended up sending over the script that his friend, Matt Mikolatos, was working on.
Now, I wasn't really eager to get back in front of the camera. But this story had something special, and I asked my wife to look at it.
She comes to me later with tears in her eyes and says, “You have to be a part of this project.”
We felt like it was an answered prayer. When I didn’t even have an agent at the time, God orchestrated events so that Legacy Peak fell into my lap.
How would you describe the heart of this story and its family themes?
Black: What's special about Legacy Peak is it shows that everyone has that need for an earthly father.
In this great adventure story, we’re introduced to two kids, Sam and Ben, whose father died as a military hero. Years later, my character Jason is planning to propose to their mother at a family gathering.
We three have to cross a mountain range to get there, to meet up with her and everyone. And our small plane goes down.
Over the course of this journey, we find they still yearn for that father presence in their lives.
My wife and I have three kids: my daughter who is 11, our first son who is nine years old, and our youngest boy who is seven.
And I've noticed that with my kids. It's not like I have to plan anything, any activity or have something to do. They just want to be around me. Sometimes they just want to have my presence.
Action film — at a smaller scale
Tell us about the film shoot for Legacy Peak in the Colorado Rockies.
Black: We filmed for four weeks in Estes Park, both in and around Rocky Mountain National Park.
At times, we were over 9,000 feet elevation, which the movie shows really well. The weather changes on a dime: we'd have sunny skies then, all of a sudden, a storm would blow in, and it'd be snowing and blowing sideways.
We had good weather on the days that we needed it, and rough weather to encapsulate how real it is out there in the wild.
In one action scene, my character crosses a steep drop-off, which we had trouble figuring out. Our stunt coordinator initially had me in a harness, but it was really hindering my movement.
Growing up in rural Alabama, I climbed trees a lot. So he finally agreed to let me do it without the harness, after I assured him I could catch myself if something happened.
While you've starred in several Fast and Furious films, this production plays out on a smaller scale. How would you compare and contrast your experiences?
Black: You got hundreds of millions of dollars spent on every Fast and Furious movie, and I’ve been on three of them.
So, they take a lot of time with so many camera angles and equipment involved in every scene. On a project like this, you don't have those luxuries.
But the working environment on Legacy Peak was incredible.
In the Bible, it talks about being “unequally yoked” in business contracts or relationships. This was my first on-screen project of being equally yoked, because all the leaders believed in Christ.
In the mornings, we started the day off [by] putting God first with a daily devotion. And we shared the same goals we wanted to accomplish with this film, to point people to Jesus and glorify God.
Themes that resonate today
Your character, Jason, has this push and pull with these two siblings, as you try to win them over. How do you see the journey of your character?
Black: He had a plan. Then when things don't go according to plan throughout the story, he actually starts to connect with them more, even if he doesn't realize that at first.
He realizes he has to rely on God. Many times throughout the story, he prays to his Heavenly Father for help. But he's not scared to step into that fatherhood role.
All of us, as fathers, you're stepping into the unknown. It's a leap of faith, but we're called by God to take on that responsibility.
Jason is willing to do that, he doesn't take a passive approach. Even though things don't go according to plan, at least he had a plan.
Through the adversity they go through, it shows the children Jason's heart for them.
He becomes more vulnerable and tells them about his father leaving him when he was young. They're able to connect when he’s transparent.
For myself, I realized that can be hard for me to do with my kids. But when I am transparent, they actually love me more for it. So I think a lot of us can learn from this story.
Disney used to make this sort of family film — in fact, you were in a few of them, notably the horse rescue film Flash. As Hollywood goes a different direction, does it create an opening for films like this?
Black: Absolutely. In a time when Hollywood content often undermines the role of men, I had prayed for God to use me and my platform to really empower the nuclear family and empower fathers.
My character, Jason, doesn’t have it all together but, from the start, he is disciplined.
When he gets out there in the wild and goes into survival mode, he knows how to build fires, provide food, and catch fish.
I was blessed to grow up in the outdoors, where camping, hunting, fishing, and fixing four-wheelers are things I’m familiar with, and, for me, are part of fulfilling that role as a father.
A lot of movies haven't portrayed men and fathers in a good light. This film reflects the family values that we love, and it also has a Christmas element towards the end.
Through word of mouth, it has the potential to really be a film that families enjoy together throughout this season.
Rated PG for peril, brief violence and thematic elements, Legacy Peak starring Lucas Black is now streaming on Pure Flix.
Image: Pure Flix
Josh M. Shepherd covers culture, faith and public-policy issues for various media outlets. He and his wife are raising two children in Northern Virginia.