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Hollywood, homelessness and '17 Miracles' shaped LDS actor's faith

Published: Thursday, Sept. 20 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Utah director T.C. Christensen knew he had to find a part for Jasen Wade.

The mysterious actor with light brown hair, blue eyes and ruggedly handsome features caught the director’s eye while reading for the 2009 film “Treasure in Heaven: The John Tanner Story.” Christensen was impressed.

“Pioneer films require a certain intangible that Jasen has, a rough quality that will let the audience believe this guy lived in the 1800s, slept outdoors and battled the elements,” Christensen said. “The way he carried himself, his looks, his skills, I had to find a place for this guy.”

Not only did Wade get a part in “John Tanner,” Christensen asked him to play the lead role in his next pioneer film, “17 Miracles.” From there, Wade became a paratrooper in the World War II film “Saints and Soldiers: Airborne Creed.”

It’s a long way from the Southern Utah stage where Wade started acting in the 1990s. It’s far removed from the frustrating years of trying to make it in Los Angeles. And then there’s the morning he woke up depressed and penniless in a Pennsylvania Walmart parking lot.

Wade’s journey to an acting career has been like a pioneer trek across the dusty plains — at times energized with daily bread, favorable weather and optimism, and other times fraught with starvation, early winter blizzards and desolation. Along the way, he has learned priceless lessons in faith, commitment and trust in God.

“That’s what got me through my dark days. It has everything to do with where I’m at spiritually,” Wade said. “I may not be the perfect Mormon, but … we just keep trying to move forward. It’s kind of a discouraging tale, but it has a happy ending, eventually.”

Roots

Wade was born in Spain, where his father, an officer in the Air Force, was stationed. When he was 4, his father opened a dental practice in South Ogden, Utah.

Wade graduated from Bonneville High School and was involved in student government. He recently helped organize his 20-year class reunion.

“No one told me when I ran for senior class (officer) that I’d have responsibilities for the rest of my days,” Wade laughed. “I’m kicking myself for that one, but we did it.”

Wade served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Moscow, Russia, from 1993-95. It was a time of political unrest and turmoil in the country, and the church was young. Wade witnessed the best and worst of human nature, but knew the Lord was watching over the missionaries.

“It was like being in a movie. It was fun and challenging, different than I ever thought it would be,” Wade said. “There were things you didn’t think you would be dealing with at 20, but you kind of rise to the occasion, somehow make a difference and help change lives. Then you come home and scratch your head — how did we do that?”

College indecision

After his mission, Wade started out studying psychology and history at Weber State, but his interest soon dwindled. The idea of becoming a park ranger was appealing, so he transferred to Utah State. But when he learned the process involved some law enforcement training, he bailed out and transferred to the University of Utah.

“I didn’t want to write tickets,” Wade said. “I wanted to be a steward of the national parks.”

This time he decided to major in Russian, but that faded as well.

“I didn’t feel like I belonged. I couldn’t find my place,” he said. “I was still looking for something.”

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