Sun Moon’s MacKenzie Mauzy: Taiwan, Relationships & Comfort Zones

Kelsey is running from failure, heartbreak and humiliation. In an attempt to understand God’s purpose for her life, she goes to Taiwan to teach English. Will her leap of faith pay off? This is the premise of Affirm’s Sun Moon that streams May 5 on Pure Flix.

MacKenzie Mauzy stars as Kelsey and we talked about the themes of the movie, filming in Taiwan, getting pushed out of comfort zones and learning to ride a scooter in a foreign country!

Interviewed for Risen Magazine

Risen Magazine: One of the things that I loved about this film is just the idea that all of the circumstances that happen within your life can be used for good, and they are part of the fabric of who you are. Maybe talk to me a little bit about what Kelsey navigates in Sun Moon.

MacKenzie Mauzy: So she starts out at a really low point in her life, maybe the lowest one she’s experienced so far. It’s right after she’s been left at the altar and she’s really kind of numb and heartbroken and confused and trying to figure out what the purpose is for her life after this. She thought she was going to be his wife, and this was her role, and now that’s all kind of crumbled. And so I think her journey is finding out who she is on the other side of this, redefining her relationship with God and just figuring out, finding strength again. I think there are so many moments in the film where God’s working in ways that maybe she doesn’t see in the moment, but can look back and see them. Just reminders that He works through hard times. And I think that I’ve definitely experienced that in my life, that some of the lowest points have actually opened up my perspective to things that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. But that’s not easy, especially when you’re dealing with loss. So I think that it’s hopefully going to be encouraging and uplifting to people and a reminder of how God can work in ways that you can’t even imagine.

RM: Absolutely. And one of the big themes of the film, as you mentioned, is loss. Several characters are facing loss in different aspects… talk a little bit about how everyone’s processing loss and what that looks like.

MM: I think Kelsey gets a little hardened at first, and she’s got a sense of humor, which is fun to play, but just trying to navigate this question of, “God do you care about me. You allowed this to happen.” And that’s the thing, I think that’s the hardest part about losing someone or something, or going through a bad breakup or anything is like, well, “I know you didn’t do this to me, but you let this happen to me.” And that’s a hard thing to navigate. And in terms of her marriage, which I think it’s only after her fiance leaves her, it’s only after going through this experience where she realized God had something so much bigger for her, and so much better for her, and in all these different ways.

And I think that experience also helps her kind of face what’s going on with her mom in a different way. She was running from that a little bit, I think that had been going on for a while in their lives, but just coming to terms with what it meant for it to just be her and her sister left and their family, and just trying to trust God through all of it, even when you’re struggling with understanding why it happened and why he allowed it to happen. So I think hopefully it’s a story that’s told truthfully enough that will resonate with people and make them feel seen and heard and maybe inspired.

RM: And one of the ways that she does takes this leap of faith, she literally flies to Taiwan… did you film there? Obviously learning the culture, I’m assuming it was your first trip, but maybe it wasn’t… What did that look like?

MM: Totally my first trip to Taiwan, and basically we filmed all of the domestic stuff in Nashville, and were supposed to fly the next day to Taiwan, but they revoked our visas because the island went on lockdown because they have a zero covid policy, so they weren’t letting anyone come into the country. And so it was seven months later that the Minister of Internal Affairs basically implied that if we tried to get visas for this window, which was the following week, that we would probably be accepted. So basically we found that out and the next week we were on a plane. So it was nuts. And then we had to quarantine for two weeks in a hotel because there was a zero covid policy, which had potential for making us all go insane, but we survived. And thankfully it was a nice hotel, and the staff was really lovely and would draw pictures on our food bags when they delivered them to us, and then getting out of quarantine and I remember that drive going up to Sun Moon, and it was just unbelievable.

It’s so beautiful there. The mountains, it’s like rainforest looking, and the mountains are huge, and there are these beautiful bodies of water and tiny little towns that… Taipei is more European, which is the main town where you fly into. But the town where we were filming was very rural, very small family owned restaurants and little markets, and it was the black tea capital of Taiwan and also the mushroom capital. There were lots of different kinds of mushrooms in the grocery store. And just understanding, I didn’t know the language, so learning how to communicate. And Sydney, the director’s parents actually lived there, and they gave me a scooter that I could use while I was there. And that was so fun because then I could take myself places rather than having to call someone and ask them if they could drive me. And that’s when I really started to feel like I fake lived there for a little bit. It’s so beautiful.

RM: Did you feel then like you’re on screen kind of role a little bit mirrored real life in that you’re exploring and learning language and trying to communicate?

MM: In those ways, it was very, yeah, that was similar. It was pretty easy to play because I was just actually going through that. The first day they gave me scooter lessons, and then Sydney was like, “don’t leave.” They said, and I was like, “what?” And I just took the scooter and I drove up the busy road and went to the lake and drove around until I was starting to feel a little bit uncomfortable and then I came back. But I just wanted to do that because I wanted to feel what she would feel like cause I knew when we were filming all the scenes, when my characters riding, that there would be cameras and everything everywhere. So I just wanted to have that experience privately and things like that were really mirroring experiences between the character and me.

RM: We’re seeing the character get pushed out of her comfort zone again and again. And it sounds like that’s something that’s kind of natural for you. You’re pushing yourself out of her comfort zone just to take the scooter out and do what not. I think it’s super relatable for anybody on any level, whether it’s school or work, talk to me a little bit, about a time when you were pushed out of your comfort zone and it ended up being fantastic outside of obviously said experience.

MM: My personal life, I never would’ve met Scott [Ratliff, husband] if I wasn’t a little bit out of my comfort zone. I’m just talking about this now, but it was a dare to get on this app. And my friends were like, “this is kind of depressing, you haven’t met people, just try it for a month.” And he had a friend who did kind of the same thing, and we both saw each other’s profiles, but weren’t really taking it seriously. And ultimately he gave me his number. He was like, “I’m getting off of this, but if you want to connect.” Anyway, long story short, I never, in a million years thought that I would be open to dating someone that I didn’t know through a friend or through work, or real life. And it turns out that it just worked out this way for us.

And so maybe that’s the top of my mind because I was just talking about it, but I also didn’t think… I was living in California. I just met him cause I was home visiting my family. And so I didn’t think that I would be open to moving back to the South ever, even for a brief amount of time. Just so many things weren’t my idea for my life, and it ended up being better than I could have imagined for myself. And that’s happened to me in work, that’s happened to me in this relationship. But I think that one of the themes of this film is really sort of, I think that when you let go of expectations for what your life has to look like, sometimes there’s something even bigger that you weren’t seeing on the other side of that. So yeah, I guess that’s one example.

RM: I agree. I had similar experience where when you let go of that lens of where you should be, at what time in your life, and markers… I too met my husband online and was super prideful about even getting on. And my brother was like, “The worst thing that could happen is that you’ll find your husband.”

MM: Yeah, I know my friend was like, “You don’t have to do, just see what’s out there. You don’t have to give anyone your number. You don’t have to tell them more.”

RM: It’s fun to see the ways that your story can unfold with provision that is set ahead of you. In the film, you’re putting on a little play, which was hilarious, and so much fun. What was it actually working and conversing with the “students”?

MM: Oh my goodness. I love those kids so much. When I get into the classroom in the movie — I mean, the whole movie has special meaning to me — but when she gets to Taiwan and she gets in the classroom, that’s when I get really excited just because all those relationships were so special and the kids were actually not kids. They were just amazingly young looking adult humans that were even more professional than me. One of the kids was an actual teenager, but the rest of them just looked like 15 but weren’t. So really mature and really fun to be around. And we were filming in a school when it was in session. I think the first week we were filming there, the school was out, but then the rest of it, we were filming around the bells that were going off every hour.

But they were so fun and each of them, of course, had their own unique personalities and different experiences in Taiwan. And some of them hadn’t been to America ever. And they were asking, we were all kind of asking each other questions, and then Justin speaks Mandarin. So he was able to communicate, kind of help with any kind of language barrier thing that happened. And then the crew was also, we had a Taiwanese crew, and so a lot of them wanted to practice their English on me and I wanted them to teach me things I could say at ordering food or at the gas station. Things that I needed to know to kind of go through life there. So it was fun. It was a little family while we were there. And the kids are all so talented.

RM: Thank you so much for taking the time today. I’ve loved our chat. I wish you continued success and can’t wait for audiences to see Sun Moon when it streams on Pure Flix on May 5th.

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