Christian Movies: Nancy Stafford Interview

Nancy Stafford Interview with Dr Fred Eichelman

This writer has had the opportunity of getting to know and working with Nancy Stafford. Perhaps best known for her TV work, especially on Matlock, Nancy is now making faith films, writing books and giving motivational talks.

Fred: You have done a lot of great work in the media, but we’d like to start at the beginning. You are a Florida girl. So many young people who go into the entertainment world have a struggle with their faith and starting their career.

Nancy: I was sort of a prodigal when I began. I grew up in the church. From the age of eight I had a relationship with Jesus. I grew up in a wonderful Christian family and I loved the Lord. I frankly started getting a little frustrated in high school. In my immaturity, and with teenage arrogance, I thought I saw so much hypocrisy in the church.

So I sort of decided, when I went to college, I didn’t need the church. I felt I could make it on my own and before very long was acting like the world. For the next fifteen years of my life I considered myself a good person and thought of myself as a Christian, but I was not really walking with the Lord. I did not grow up with the idea of pursuing a career in acting. I was involved in chorus and school and being in musicals. I was Miss Florida in the Miss America pageant and that kind of ‘bit’ me a little. I found I kind of enjoyed being on stage.

The year after that was over, back in 1977, I joined a public relations firm. That was my major in college, I was a journalism major and specialized in public relations. I was working in the business world and pursuing that when I got a call from an agency in Miami. They remembered I had been Miss Florida and called to say they wanted me to audition for commercials. So in one week I auditioned for five national commercials and to my shock I got them all! And that’s what really propelled me. I thought it was interesting and I seemed to actually be good at it.

I did more commercials and left the PR work as I felt I could do better as an actress and a model. After doing commercials awhile in the Florida market I wanted to see if I could do this “acting” thing. I moved to New York and began studying at the Stella Adler Conservatory. I didn’t go there to work, just to study. Within a year I did sign with the Ford Agency and did lots of modeling and commercials and my first audition was for a regular in a soap, The Doctors. I got that and did that show for a year.

Then I went out to LA to screen test for a couple of projects. And then everything changed—I had a crisis which threatened to disfigure my face. I was diagnosed with a very severe skin cancer on my face. A doctor told me he could do surgery, but said “I don’t know what you are going to look like afterward.”

That crises in my life made me realize that all my life I had grown up with a foundation of faith, a foundation of knowing my security was in Christ not myself. Now I was building a career and earning a living from this superficial “house” that I live in-my face and body. I realized how far I slipped, I needed God. That is what drew me back after a 15 year stretch when I finally realized my need. I cried out to God, had an amazing encounter with Him and came back ‘home’ again to Christ. I committed to do work that would not compromise my faith in any way. By the time I did Side Kicks for NBC I was prepared.

Fred: We appreciate your witness very much as you have indeed “walked the walk.” You have done so many outstanding shows that we can’t cover them all here. There were two that are heavily in syndication, your years with St. Elsewhere and Matlock. People remember best your role as Michelle Thomas in 109 episodes of Matlock, starring Andy Griffith. What was it like working with Andy and how could you keep a straight face while portraying a very professional and sympathetic person?

Nancy: Those were the most fabulous years in my career, the five years on that show. Andy was an icon and I just was in awe every day at work. He is very funny and we had a really great time on the set. That is incredibly important. That whole set was like a family, and is one of the reasons I liked series TV so much and I miss it. Having a place to come to and having a family you get to know very well. That was an amazing group of people.

I credit much of that to Andy’s leadership. But it was hard not cracking up in scenes. He’s funny and every time we’d do a take, he’d do something different. A lot of those wonderful Matlockisms were totally Andy’s idea, shining his shoes all the time. Eating hot dogs all the time was totally Andy’s idea.

Another quick story, season five he took me out to ‘eat al fresco’, and I’m thinking this is going to be so great. Then we go to a hotdog stand outside in the blistering sun. He is devouring this hotdog going “hm hm hmm”, can’t you just hear him? Then at the cut he said “Oh why did I ever invent this? I’m so tired of turkey dogs.” He is really into health foods. The hot dogs were turkey dogs. But he had to eat a bushel of them.

Fred: We’d like to talk about your books. The first was Beauty by the Book: Seeing Yourself as God Sees You and the second was The Wonder of His Love: A Journey into the Heart of God. What was your motivation in writing these books and who were you trying to reach?

Nancy: Well, Beauty by the Book came first. My motivation was really to help women and I have such a heart for women. I understand how incredible they are and who He has made us to be. I had struggled with deep feelings of inadequacy and low self esteem for years and years. I realized that no matter what people might say about you, how much success you have on a worldly basis, (even my mom would say how beautiful I was especially on the inside) we don’t know what God really sees.

No one’s words really matter until we hear our Heavenly Father telling us what He sees in us and who we are to Him and what He has done for us. He says, “You’re incredible, you’re valuable, you’re worth dying for.” Once we begin to see the words from scripture, that love letter, the Bible, it will begin to change us. And it changed me and I thought, “You know what, these promises of the Lord can drive out what I had believed about myself, that I am nothing, that nobody really loved me. These words of truth opened my eyes—how can you possibly feel insecure when The King of the Universe says you’re accepted, chosen, adopted, He loves you with an everlasting love!

Beauty by the Book, is frankly an inner healing book disguised as a beauty book. I have been very gratified how it touched so many women. But, I was told by a man, “This is not just a chick book. It is for any man who has lost a job and with it his identity; anyone who has struggled with success or had his ability questioned can gain from it.” That was the first book.

Interestingly it came about because I was hosting a fashion/lifestyle TV show and our producer suggested I write a column. So I started in to write about what ‘real’ beauty is. It was so much more than what is on the outside –it is about a relationship with God. A Christian publisher started reading it and said, “You have to write a book.” That is how it started.

The second book, The Wonder of His Love, is my favorite book. It is a daily devotional. It is based on thirty one, sometimes surprising, aspects of how God loves us. My invitation to the reader is just, “Why don’t you come and spend the next thirty one days just basking in God’s love?” To me that is the change agent.

We all want to grow in our faith, to change. But what we naturally try to do is try to follow the law—we strive, we think we have to work harder, be better, do better. But Paul says in Romans 7 that the law has no power to change. Only the power of God’s love can bring change, can transform us. It actually invites the reader to reflect on how to recognize and experience God’s love in their lives. A transforming love, a secure love, not a shallow love. He has different ways of expressing that love that we sometimes miss.

Fred: Now in regard to your motivational speeches. You speak in churches, conferences and conventions?

Nancy: I love invitations to speak. I have done this at conferences, retreats, churches, and I love it. I get to do a lot of outreach events, which is great as I get to share my story and extend an invitation to others to enter a relationship with Jesus. I am thankful the Lord has given me the opportunity.

God has given me the visibility through all my years in television. I have built equity through my years as an actress as people will come to hear an actress share her story. I have built equity through my years as an actress to share what Jesus Christ has done for us. I’m kind of like ‘bait’. Bait to bring folks into a church who may not normally walk in. They come to hear an actress share her story. And I am grateful for that.

Fred: However, you are still very much involved in acting and you have been involved in a number of faith based films including The Wager with Randy Travis and your starring role in Christmas with a Capital C.

Nancy: The latter came about through a long held desire to do a Christmas film. Now I have done three in a role and I hope I won’t be typecast. I need a Valentine’s Day film. Christmas with a Capital C was made two years ago and last year was shown on GMC, now UP TV. Last year I was in Christmas Oranges which has been released on DVD and is slated to be shown on HallMark for this Christmas season. Earlier this year I was fortunate to have a starring role in Christmas for a Dollar which will be released in November.

Fred: You have another feature out right now as well as a couple short films I believe.

Nancy: Yes, a film I made last year, Season of Miracles, is showing now in select theaters and will be sold as a DVD in WalMart all over the nation. Super Heroes don’t need Capes is a one hour film that deals with autism and bullying. It is being shown in schools and churches.

The other short film is Foreclosed which deals with a subject dear to my heart. Letting go of material things and letting God guide you. There is another feature coming that I have a small part in, Assumed Memories. I am appreciative of the people who are trying to produce family and faith films and I have been meeting filmmakers like this all over the country. There are a lot of incredible people out there doing a lot of wonderful things, a real trend.

Fred: You are also very much involved in a project that is also media related, designed to bring about major changes in the world, SAT-7 and SAT-7 Women for Middle East Hope.

Nancy: I am especially glad you asked me about that. I had never heard of SAT-7 until a friend asked me to emcee their 10-year Anniversary celebration for donors and friends of the ministry. From the moment I began to hear the stories of lives changed I could not stop weeping the entire two days!

I joined SAT-7 USA’s Board a year later. I was, to learn that we have so many Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East and that the Church is thriving there, despite being threatened and often driven ‘underground’ in the face of severe persecution. God’s heart for the people of the Middle East became very clear to me and I felt a real paradigm shift regarding the people group, their needs, and the power of satellite television. Since it is ‘free to air’ there, virtually every house has a satellite dish, from the wealthy to the nomadic tribes. And because the signal comes directly into the home, it cannot easily be jammed or censored by the government, so people can watch Christian television in the security and privacy of their own homes.

It’s the perfect delivery system to share the message of Jesus to a region of the world that we had thought was ‘impossible’ to reach with the gospel! And recently I have been involved in a vital extension of this program. We knew SAT-7 television already reaches 15 million viewers with programs created by and for the people living in that region.

But we also knew that even more women and girls could be helped by more programs with a biblical view of womanhood, marriage, family, and society. Women face suppression, abuse, honor killings, suffering, despair. More than 250 million women in the Middle East and North Africa are desperate for hope.

The more women could hear the truth of how God sees them, and learn the hope and peace they have in Christ, the more their hopeless lives would be transformed. And when women are transformed, so is the family-and society. So we’ve launched SAT-7 Women for Middle East Hope, and already countless women around the US are joining us saying yes, I want to be a voice for women of the Middle East and North Africa!

Fred: It is wonderful to talk with an actress who is a warrior for Christ in writing, speaking, and film making, and for Christians in the Middle East. To learn more about Nancy please visit her at:

Dr. Fred Eichelman About Dr. Fred Eichelman

Dr. Fred Eichelman is a retired educator and one of the founders of Point North † Outreach, a Christian media organization. He is the editor of its publication, Point North † Tidings. For information about this organization or to subscribe to receive it free on-line, contact: or visit: