Dexter Darden has been singing his entire life. Really. He began singing in a church choir at the young age of three. But aside from seeming a natural fit for the role of Walter in the movie Joyful Noise, Darden brings a unique experience and understanding to the role. He took time to share with Risen about his own faith and challenges and gives a message for young people struggling with their identity.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: How would you describe your faith journey?
Dexter Darden: I grew up in church and knowing Christ. My mother and father were very involved and I got my foundation from the church. Plus, I grew up singing and playing the harmonica in church. Now it is about growing in my faith and really [having] my own view as I grow into adulthood.
RM: In the movie, your character, Walter, has Asperger’s syndrome. How did you prepare for your role?
DD: My cousin has Asperger’s syndrome and we are the same age. I have experienced it hands-on growing up with him. I did a lot of my research through him and also researched it online. The combination of both helped me prepare for the role.
RM: One of the emotional scenes in the movie was when your character is having a conversation with his mom about how he views having Asperger’s syndrome. He tells his mom that if he loves her, she should hate God because God was the one that made him this way. Why do you think it was important for the characters to address this issue?
DD: Walter goes through an emotional struggle. His whole life he’s wanted to fit in and not be socially awkward. His best friend is “Mr. Popular” and the bad boy too. Walter just wants to feel like he is accepted, but he feels like he is a problem. He wants to know if God loves him and his family, why was he created in a way that he is such a burden. It was important for him to find out that he wasn’t a burden, but a blessing. It was a little bit of an emotional breakdown with himself and struggle with his family.
RM: Has there ever been a time in your life where you have struggled with similar thoughts?
DD: I was born with sickle cell anemia. Growing up with it was a struggle in its own. Then, when I was eight-years-old, my father passed away. Dealing with the passing of my father and sickle cell was an emotional struggle similar to Walter’s. I too turned to my mom to help me process everything.
RM: How did your faith get you through that?
DD: Being brought up in the church, you learn that everything happens for a reason. Whether you have sickle cell anemia, lose a parent, or have cancer, we can go back to the fact that God has a bigger plan. My mom would remind me that God had bigger plans for me. I had to trust God and his plan.
RM: Based on your experience and what your character went through, what message do you have for a young person that might be struggling with their identity?
DD: Going through your teenage years can be rough. You are trying to find out who you are as a person. Take your time with your decisions. And know that everything is happening for a reason. Seek spiritual guidance from your family and friends because they won’t steer you the wrong way.
RM: Joyful Noise talks about using your gifts and talents not to bring glory to yourself, but instead, to God. Is this hard for you personally as an actor?
DD: God gave me these gifts and this is my calling. I feel like if I am using my gifts in the right way and doing it the way that he would want, then, I’m glorifying him because he is the one that blessed me with these gifts.
RM: What challenge do you have for others about using their gifts and talents?
DD: Practice and use your gift and talents. Focus on them and bring them to fruition. God gives us the ability, but we need to find it within ourselves to work hard on that craft. Whether it is singing in the studio, taking a piano lesson for four hours, or going to the gym to get better at basketball, God gives the abilities to us, but we need to access them and use them to the fullest so he is glorified by the gifts he gives.