Something to Hold On To


Lisa Griffiths, who plays Kris in a new videotape for seminary, found out for herself how life’s choices are easier when you live the scriptures, not just read them.

“All I ever hear anymore is Jessica this and Jessica that or ‘Isn’t that great about your sister?’”

Kris Douglas was irritated with all the attention her twin sister, Jessica, was receiving. It seemed like everyone was delighted to support Jessica in her ballet, but when Kris had a big tennis match, no one showed up to watch. It hurt her feelings. At dinner that night, when Jessica was excited about her upcoming solo dance performance, Kris stomped out saying that she would not be able to make it to the performance. She said she had a meeting with the tennis team she couldn’t postpone.

This scenario is set in the first of ten episodes in a new seminary videotape called “I Will Lead You.” The series involves the members of the fictitious Douglas family as they learn to apply the teachings in the Doctrine and Covenants in dealing with the difficulties in their lives. At the end of the first episode, Kris realized that she was feeling jealousy but that Jessica was her sister and needed her attention and support at the performance.

Kris left her meeting and hurried to the auditorium in time to wish her sister good luck before the curtain rose.

For the first time, the seminaries have produced a videotape instead of a filmstrip to go along with the year’s course of study. Each episode presents a dilemma common between family members or between friends. As characters confront their problems, they learn the best ways to react by following the truths they know from the scriptures.

Lisa Griffiths, who plays the role of Kris Douglas, learned some valuable lessons when she had to put herself in her character’s shoes. When Lisa went to audition for the part, she had her confidence shaken. “I asked myself, What am I doing here? My application, where I was supposed to list my experience and training, was blank. I prayed very hard that if I needed to do the role because there was something I had to give to the character or that she had to give to me, I would know how to read the script.”

When Lisa got the part, she told her roommates, “I had the best acting coach—the Lord. That must have been it, because I certainly was not as experienced as the others.”

Lisa said that in some ways she is like Kris, but in others she isn’t. She knows a lot about her character and can anticipate what Kris might do in different situations. “Kris always seems to know how to phrase things or how to subtly get the message across. I can feel it, but verbalizing it is hard for me.

“She has incorporated the scriptures into her life. She really tries to apply what she is reading to what she is doing,” Lisa said when she described Kris, almost as if this fictional character were a close friend. “She does start to resent the fact that she is always the good one and her twin sister gets a lot of attention for the rebellious things she does. She focuses on herself for a little while until she straightens it out.”

Lisa applied the lesson she learned from playing the part of Kris to her own life. “I learned to check where my focus was. I was pulling on some natural feelings. I have a sister who is a performer. She’s fantastic, and I look up to her in so many ways. I have felt the role before of the younger sister that doesn’t get the attention sometimes. There have been times I have let that get to me, so I knew that what Kris was feeling really happens—that you really do get jealous. I can see when my focus was on myself, when I wasn’t applying things I had learned in church, things didn’t work out. I still have to do that kind of checking.”

Lisa is a little embarrassed to remember that she and her friends used to laugh a little at the filmstrips they watched in seminary. That made her want to perform so that her character was believable. “I wanted to make this character real so that at least one person who watched it would stop and say, What is she really saying? What is she really wondering about? The whole cast set that as a goal.

“I did make fun of the filmstrips when I was in seminary,” said Lisa. “We had little jokes about what they were wearing and their hairstyles. I can remember when the wardrobe lady was dressing me and doing my hair. I thought, Now I know why we laughed. I would laugh sometimes at myself while I was doing it. It was a humbling experience. There is a message behind what the characters are wearing and how their hair looks. There is a message or a mood behind it all.”

Kris talked about the most difficult part of the video for her. “The hardest scene for me,” said Lisa, “was when I was sitting on the porch with my grandfather and we are looking at the stars. He’s saying how lonely it feels when he looks up there. Kris sees it as the Lord saying He is there for people and that He loves you no matter what. That was a hard scene for me because I believed what I was saying, and I was very worried that it would come across sappy or trite to high school students watching it. There are times we do feel alone, but there are times when we’ve got to know that we really are not. The Lord is there for us.”

Learning that each of us has to rely on guidance from our Heavenly Father is the whole purpose of the “I Will Lead You” videotape. And that guidance is contained in the scriptures. Lisa said, “I learned to read my scriptures every day to get something out of them to hold onto. That was the idea of the films. Sometimes you can’t handle it all. You just don’t have the answers. It doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t seem fair. You have to remember that even if you don’t feel the Lord, his hand is there and he is leading you.”

[illustrations] Lettering by James Fedor

[photos] Photography by Philip S. Shurtleff, Quinn Orr, and Mark Taft

[photo] Rachel Jolley played the part of Tori Shumway, Kris Douglas’s best friend. Rachel compared herself to her character and hit upon a significant similarity. “Tori was struggling to find out if things are true about the Church and to figure out things about her own life, trying to set her life on the correct path. Everyone struggles with that, so I could relate to her.”

[photo] “I’m not really like Tori,” said Rachel. “She tried so hard, and she had all these pressures. I can’t relate to her family being so unsupportive.”

[photo] Paige Trinnaman played the role of Jessica, Kris’s fraternal twin. Both Lisa and Paige felt they needed to develop a sisterly feeling before the cameras started to roll. They arranged a little slumber party and sat up late talking. Lisa said, “We really did feel like sisters.”

[photo] Real-life relationships developed off stage as the actors worked together. “I enjoyed being around Josh,” said Lisa, speaking of the boy who played her brother in the film. “He really became like a little brother to me.”

[photo] The struggles and conflicts of the fictitious Douglas family are the basis of the new “I Will Lead You” series. (left to right) Richard Clark played Ross Douglas; Josh Tenney portrayed Matt Douglas; Lynette Baum had the role of Marge Douglas; Brad Tenney played Taylor Douglas; Lisa Griffiths was Kris Douglas; and Paige Trinnaman had the part of Jessica Douglas.