Lindsay Pulsipher has done some interesting things as an actor since she left her hometown of Salt Lake City for Hollywood.
She has had recurring roles on the lawman drama “Justified,” the FBI series “The Beast” (which starred Patrick Swayze in his last role) and the conspiracy thriller series “Shooter.” In the miniseries “Hatfields & McCoys,” she played the daughter of the McCoy patriarch (Bill Paxton). She played an amnesiac in the 2011 Sundance Film Festival horror entry “The Oregonian.”
And, most famously, she spent two seasons as a lovelorn werepanther (like a werewolf, but a panther) on HBO’s sexy-vampire series “True Blood.”
This week, with the release of the Christian-themed drama “God Bless the Broken Road,” the 36-year-old actor gets to do something she’s never done before: Play the lead in a widely released movie. (The film opens on some 1,200 screens nationwide Friday, including in Utah.)
“I really like to diversify,” Pulsipher said in a recent phone interview. “I want to do as many different types of projects as I can. This was a genre that I’d never done before. I really liked the transformative journey with Amber.”
Amber, Pulsipher’s character, is struggling to raise her daughter, Bree (Makenzie Moss), on her waitress wages and survivor benefits from her husband, an Army sergeant killed in Afghanistan. As the movie begins, Amber is fighting a lone battle against poverty, having decided to stay away from the community church where she was once the choir director. At the same time, a cocky stock-car racer, Cody Jackson, arrives in town to learn some life lessons from a crusty driving coach, Joe Carter (Gary Grubbs).
The cast includes Kim Delaney (“NYPD Blue”) as Amber’s mother-in-law, Robin Givens and 2007 “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks as her church friends, and Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson as her pastor.
After such dark roles as in “True Blood” and “Hatfields & McCoys,” Pulsipher said, “this kind of warm, fuzzy, feel-good movie really spoke to me. It’s something the nephews could see and get excited about.”
The movie is directed by Harold Cronk, who made the pro-Christian polemics “God’s Not Dead” and “God’s Not Dead 2” — both featuring characters shouting arguments about the existence or nonexistence of God. And while “God Bless the Broken Road” talks about God and faith, Pulsipher said it’s more grounded than most “faith-based” films.
“The story felt very authentic and true to life. It’s a situation that a lot of people could easily relate to,” Pulsipher said. “The realness of the story was very appealing to me.”
She’s uncomfortable with the “faith-based” label. “More than this is a ‘faith-based’ film, it’s a feel-good story … and an inspirational story,” she said. (Pulsipher is one of six siblings raised by parents who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but she deflects questions about her own beliefs.)
Pulsipher’s acting career began on a heavenly note. While a student at South Jordan’s Valley High School, she had an uncredited role in a 2000 episode of the TV series “Touched by an Angel.” She trained at Hale Centre Theatre, did some more TV filmed in Utah, including three more “Touched by an Angel” episodes and one of the crime series “Cover Me,” and appeared in a low-budget movie, “Jumping for Joy,” before relocating to Hollywood permanently.
Besides “God Bless the Broken Road,” Pulsipher recently finished her recurring role on the USA Network series “Shooter” and in an independent film, “Once Upon a River.” She’s written a short film that she hopes to shoot this fall in Idaho.
And she aims to get home to Utah soon. “I love those mountains, they’re my favorite,” she said.