Two BYU actors find success with the new ‘Saturday’s Warrior’

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BYU senior Morgan Gunter, right, plays Elder Greene in the upcoming production "Saturday's Warrior." BYU's acting program brings out some of the best in the business. (Saturday's Warrior)
BYU senior Morgan Gunter, right, plays Elder Greene in the upcoming production “Saturday’s Warrior.” BYU’s acting program brings out some of the best in the business. (Saturday’s Warrior)

The much-anticipated remake of the classic LDS film “Saturday’s Warrior” recently wrapped up filming, and two Cougars had starring roles.

Senior Morgan Gunter and freshman Monica Moore Smith will appear in the film as Elder Greene and Julie Flinders, respectively, and the gravity of such iconic roles was not lost on them.

“I grew up with ‘Saturday’s Warrior.’ I knew all the music, and I had lots of friends who loved the movie,” Smith said. “So when I got the role, tons of people messaged me saying that they loved Julie Flinders. I felt some pressure at first. I wanted to do my best with the character and do the story justice.”

Gunter and Smith both study acting at BYU, and like the BYU-grown stars who came before them, including Will Swenson, Erin Chambers and Aaron Eckhart, they appear destined for great things.

Gunter graduates soon and hopes to sign with an agent, but his recent marriage is his top priority. “I love acting,” he said. “I’m passionate about it and hope to pursue it, but my number one concern is that I can take care of my wife and our future family. My hope is that acting will allow me to do that.”

His mentors have the utmost confidence in his abilities. “He’s just a gem,” BYU acting professor Barta Heiner said. “Lots of people think acting is just fun, that you can just go up there and do it, but there’s more to it than that. There’s a discipline, and Morgan gets it. He understands the importance of not just acting, but acting excellently.”

Though Smith is a freshman, she has already built an impressive resume. With training at Utah’s Pioneer High School for the Performing Arts, she appeared in several projects including videos for the LDS Church.

Despite her experience, though, she was initially intimidated by the scale of “Saturday’s Warrior.”

“Being on set was a little overwhelming at first, especially because it was probably the biggest project I’d ever been involved with,” Smith said. “But honestly, I’ve never been with such a close cast and crew. It was amazing how much support there was from everyone.”

She used to dream of acting on Broadway, but her experience on a film set now has her considering other possibilities. “I’ve still got time to figure everything out, but now I’m getting more into film, which I didn’t originally intend,” she said. “So I’m definitely considering the L.A. thing, to see if I can be a positive force for good in the industry.”

Michael Buster, the director of “Saturday’s Warrior,” sang the praises of both BYU students he worked with.

“This movie has a lot of younger characters and so we required some younger actors to step up and fill big shoes,” he said. “We’re really lucky to have some of the kids from BYU, who have been trained and have lots of talent, come work with us.”

Though both aspiring actors are young, they’ve learned through their own experiences and through those who have taught them.

“The best advice I ever received came when I played a character that made different choices than I would have,” Smith said. “The advice I got was, ‘Don’t judge this person.’ Acting has taught me not to judge, and the key to acting successfully is empathy. That’s bled over into my real life, and it’s helped me surround myself with people who support and believe in me.”

Smith said to be successful, you have to work hard. She encouraged others to appreciate everything and be grateful for each opportunity.

“Take every chance you get to make someone else smile,” Smith said. “To me, that’s what acting is all about.”

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