Actor Josh Swickard has portrayed Detective Harrison Chase on ABC’s “General Hospital” since 2018. But when COVID shut down the show’s production for months on end in 2020, he decided to put his free time to good use, both practically and spiritually. In addition to co-producing and co-starring in the hit Netflix movie “A California Christmas” with his wife Lauren, Josh connected with his 97-year-old grandfather daily over FaceTime for Bible study. Those sessions bolstered Josh’s faith life, leaving him with a deeper connection to God than he ever had before – and better prepared him to become a father, when he and Lauren welcomed their baby daughter, Savannah, into the world just a few months ago. We discussed all those things recently on “Christopher Closeup” (podcast below).
Josh grew up in Illinois as the son of a pastor. He told me he was fortunate to have parents who guided him and his three sisters in their lives, without resorting to a stern and rigid “do this or else” approach. As a result, neither he nor his siblings ever “really went nuts.”
When Josh turned 18, he asked himself an important spiritual question: “My parents believe this, and my grandparents believe this, but what do I believe for myself?”
He realized that Christianity was real for him, and he lived his life accordingly. Still, Josh knew there was a lot more room to grow in his faith, and the perfect person from whom to learn had served as the best man at his wedding: his 97-year-old grandfather, Arthur Brown, a World War II veteran who had run with a gang in high school, but who changed his ways after picking up a Bible that someone had given him.
Josh called his grandpa during the COVID shutdown and said, “Hey, we’re both locked up right now. You want to do some FaceTimes every morning and we’ll crack the Word?” And they did, every morning, for one hour to three hours.
Not only did Josh benefit in his understanding of Scripture, he came to appreciate his grandfather even more. Josh said, “Seeing how he lives life and dives into every morning, going, ‘This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad.’ He’s forcing himself to do it with a smile and do it with joy, just in how he says it, no matter what he’s feeling. Then he starts quoting Scripture, and he sings a hymn.”
That ritual taught Josh that we can all take action to choose our disposition for the day. He observed, “It’s just a quick thought, or a train of thoughts, that you have to implement. Routine or ritual, I think, is vital to a faith life. I equate everything to going to the gym. If you go to the gym every Sunday morning, you’re going to have some muscle. But Sunday morning’s not going to get you fit. Maybe three to four days a week, or every single morning, would get you fit…I’ve always been a Christian, but during COVID, I was like, [I need to start] daily conversation with the Lord – and throughout the day conversation with the Lord, [like] ‘Lord, I hope all my thoughts, my actions, and the words that come out my mouth, glorify You.’ Something that simple, and all of a sudden, I think you start to see life in a really beautiful way. I’m so new to it. And I obviously fail every day, and I’m overcome by sin, we all are. But boy, it’s such a better way to live, in my opinion.”
When I saw Josh interviewed on Maurice Benard’s “State of Mind” Youtube show, it made an impression on me that he conveyed a sense of joy, humility, and kindness when discussing his Christian faith. He credits that to seeing the way his family has lived out their faith, without an overemphasis on judging others. “All I know,” explained Josh, “is that God has called me to be the light or the salt, and He’s called me to love. When I break it down to that simple truth, everything else goes out the window.”
Josh’s parents and grandparents were also his role models in approaching married life for himself and Lauren. He said, “I put a lot of pressure on marriage when growing up, because I didn’t see fighting. I didn’t see people raising their voices and yelling in multiple generations. Now, they could have behind closed doors…but I didn’t see it. So I had this [idea], this is what marriage is…And thankfully, I married a wonderful woman. I think we had one disagreement that there were raised voices when we were dating. And I was like, ‘I’ve got to be honest with you. I don’t know how to cope. I don’t have the right tools for this. So if we want to make this a lifetime thing, we can’t yell at each other.’ And, and she was like, ‘Okay.’ Knock on wood, it’s been four years, and we haven’t yelled at each other yet.”
Some couples can have a good marriage, but not work together well. That wasn’t the case with Josh and Lauren when they co-produced and co-starred in the Netflix movie “A California Christmas,” for which Lauren wrote the script. The reason?
“I really don’t mind being the sous chef,” explained Josh. If he took an idea to Lauren and she didn’t think it was right for the movie, he didn’t take the rejection personally. He applauds Lauren for doing a great job with the sequel, which will be available on Netflix on Dec.16th, happy they can both put out a feel-good movie that lifts people’s spirits.
Josh has a lot of joy in his life right now: from a successful career, to a loving marriage, to a healthy, happy baby daughter. But every person encounters times of darkness. When those times come, Josh approaches them with the wisdom he’s learned from life, family, and God.
He concluded, “If I want be happy, I play happy music, I do something happy, and I hug my wife and I ask her to tell me a joke…I’ll literally create an environment to make me feel this way. So if I’m going through a dark time, I’ll pray, and I’ll give it to the Lord. After I give it to the Lord, I usually recognize…I’m so blessed. No matter what house you live in or what your bank account looks like or what you drive, everyone goes through [darkness]. My dad did a lot of mission trips, so I grew up going to Central and South America. Seeing that in your developmental years – what actual poverty looks like and ten-year-olds taking care of their two little siblings – it puts everything in perspective. So I have a series of thoughts: give it to the Lord, and bro, you’re fine. That usually pulls me out. Sometimes it doesn’t, and that’s okay. You have a bad day. That’s the beauty of morning by morning, new mercies I see. It’s a new day. And regardless, God is still good. That’s the one thing that doesn’t change. And if you try to keep that [idea] center and not tertiary, I think you’re in good shape.”
(To listen to my full interview with Josh Swickard, click on the podcast link):