For a father, nothing is more daunting than the uncharted territory of raising a daughter — let alone three. With faith and family at the center, Pure Flix’s first original movie, “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters,” explores the ups and downs fathers face when raising their little girls.
Adapted from Dr. Meg Meeker’s bestselling book, “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” explores the dynamics of the Parstons, a traditional suburban family in which the father, Steve, navigates raising his three daughters all in different stages of life. Alongside his wife, Connie, Steve grapples with his youngest daughter outgrowing childhood, the dramatics of raising an angsty teen, and letting go of his eldest, whose life plans stray drastically from his idea for her future.
One of the most unique aspects of the film is that parents Steve and Connie are played by the real-life couple Bart Johnson and Robyn Lively. Casting them was no coincidence, as director David de Vos happened upon their family vlogs and saw that their personal life aligned with his vision for the fictional Parston family. You might recognize Lively from “9-1-1: Lone Star” or “The Karate Kid III,” but playing a suburban matriarch alongside her real-life husband has been a whole different experience for the actress, as her personal life supplemented the acting process.
“I’m so grateful that I have the experience of being a mother and the bonus of being married to Bart,” Lively told The Federalist just hours before the red carpet premiere of the movie. “We definitely sidebar and keep each other in check, and that’s how you got to do it. You have to be a team first. And you have to be a parent first and a friend second to your kids. I loved having this opportunity to work with my husband. We say, ‘Wow, we’ve been prepping for this for over 22 years.’ We really loved it.”
Behind every strong father is a strong mother, and Lively’s portrayal of Connie shows how a mother can lead by example for husbands in how to raise girls into strong young women. She also exemplifies how the intrinsic differences between women and men, mothers and fathers, balance out and complement each other in raising a family.
If Bart Johnson seemed familiar to some — especially millennial and Gen-Z viewers — it might be because this is not Johnson’s first time playing a strong father figure on the silver screen. Viewers might recognize him as Coach Bolton from the hit Disney Channel original series “High School Musical.” Johnson’s role in that franchise showed a dad who worked to ensure the best life for his son through basketball — and soon realized how to support his son’s other dreams as well. Now, Johnson channels a similar energy for Steve Parston in “Strong Fathers.” Whether playing the father of a son caught between two passions or of a clan of girls at different life stages, his objectives remain the same.
“This movie got me thinking about how I played Bolton,” Johnson told The Federalist. “I tried to play that character with conflict because I think that’s the reality of being a parent. You want to lead your kids to do the right thing, but you don’t really know what you’re doing. You’re just doing your best. So along with your confidence, you must have an element of humility and know that you don’t have all the answers. You just try to base your decisions on doing right by your kids, and not doing what’s necessarily easy or fun. The right choices to make in life are rarely the easiest choices to make, and the hardest choices are the ones that will serve you the best.”
Strong faith might seem in conflict with a successful acting career, but the couple’s faith has led them to projects that actually work in tandem with their beliefs and the morals they want to exemplify.
“We’ve always made a commitment in our lives to put family first and put our relationship first, so we don’t really have a hard time turning down things that don’t feel right,” Johnson added.
The couple couldn’t be more excited to finally share the project that hits so close to home for them and many viewers. In talking with The Federalist, the two bantered back and forth about their experiences filming, noted that their kids don’t think they’re particularly cool despite being movie stars, and laughed along with each other while recalling their experiences parenting on and off the screen. As a normal family with normal experiences, the acting pair brings a believable quality to their parental performances many viewers can relate to.
In a world where notable on-screen patriarchs are drug king-pins or mob bosses, “Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” is a breath of fresh air and will stream exclusively on Pure Flix, a streaming service that specializes in faith-filled and family-friendly content. The movie doesn’t aim to degrade a man’s strength, but rather exemplifies how it can be misconstrued in raising a family sometimes and how it ultimately serves as the strong backbone for a family.
“Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters” will be available for streaming Aug. 1 on Pure Flix.