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Published March 23, 2012, 11:22 AM

Bismarck, N.D., native Shari Wiedmann stars in faith-based film 'October Baby'

STUDIO CITY, Calif. – Moviegoers who see the faith-based film “October Baby,” opening today at West Acres Cinema in Fargo, will likely recognize at least a few of the actors.

By: Roxanne Salonen, The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead

STUDIO CITY, Calif. – Moviegoers who see the faith-based film “October Baby,” opening today at West Acres Cinema in Fargo, will likely recognize at least a few of the actors.

There’s John Snider, or “Bo” Duke from 1980s “Dukes of Hazard” fame, and Jasmine Guy, who played Whitley Gilbert in another popular television sitcom of the same era – “A Different World.”

A third actor may ring some visual bells, even if only vaguely, to some North Dakotans who hung out with her on a teeter-totter here in the mid-1970s.

She also happens to be the aunt of American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and Jordin’s brother P.J. Sparks, football player for the University of North Dakota.

Shari Wiedmann, who sometimes goes by the stage name Shari Rigby, was born in Bismarck and spent a fair amount of time in Cooperstown, N.D., where she and her family lived before exiting the area altogether for sunny Arizona when she was about 10 years old.

“North Dakota – it’s cold there,” Wiedmann told The Forum from her warm, California perch. “But for me, it’s also my heart.”

It was in Arizona that she met her husband, Matt, a Fargo native who now works in his family’s agricultural-goods business, Wiedmann Bros. Distributing, formerly of Venturia, N.D.

The two come back to the state as often as possible; Matt and one of their two sons visited this summer, spending time in Fargo and Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Having this commonality has made life easier, she said. “We were raised with the same family values, and our heritage goes way back so that’s really amazing to have,” she said.

A subsequent move to California helped her find success as a model and actress in films and soap operas – including “The Young and the Restless” and “The Bold and the Beautiful.”

In 2009, a music video in which Wiedmann starred for the song “Slow Fade” by Christian rock group Casting Crowns took first place at the Dove Awards for gospel song short form.

But it was here in North Dakota that she got her first taste of the stage.

“The first play I ever did was in our little Lutheran church in Cooperstown,” Wiedmann said. “I played Mary, mother of Jesus. When my mother reminded me of that, I thought, ‘OK God, was that like a sign?’ I was 5 years old.”

Her part in the “Slow Fade” video put her in touch with the Erwin brothers, Jon and Andy, who produced “October Baby” through Provident Films.

In the film, Wiedmann plays Cindy, the birth mother of the main character, Hannah, who learns as a college student that she was not only adopted but is the survivor of a failed abortion attempt.

Neither of the Erwin brothers knew Wiedmann had had an abortion 20 years ago when they approached her about the part. Nor had they known she’d been working for a law firm at the time – just like in the script.

“When I got the script, I printed it out right away,” Wiedmann said. “My husband took one look at it and said, ‘Oh my goodness, (Hannah, the main character) looks just like you.’ And then halfway through the script, I realized it had been woven together for me (based on my life) 20 years ago.”

Wiedmann said before the film she thought she’d come to terms with her long-ago decision, but she’d underestimated the healing work that still needed to be done.

“Most of us who are post-abortive men and women, we don’t talk about it a lot, even within ourselves. I mean, I don’t know how many of us go around and say, ‘Hey I’ve had an abortion’… but there was a different kind of healing process that started happening when I got involved in this film.”

She said she hopes viewers of the film will come away with new insights that will prompt further discussion about abortion and its effects – not only the physical ramifications, but the spiritual and mental ones as well.

Though she wasn’t prepared for how much attention her part and personal story has gotten, Wiedmann said, she’s been praying to be a strong voice and loving presence to others who are in need of healing and understanding.

“What did God create you to do? For me, I would say, ‘To love on people.’ And in this particular circumstance, that’s really what he’s done,” Wiedmann said. “He’s healed me but he’s given me a voice to hug and love on people and say to them, ‘It’s OK.’ ”

Since statistics show that a third of women who’ve had an abortion consider themselves Christian, she said, the film should hit home with many of its largely faith-based viewers and encourage Christians to be “wise in the decisions we’re making so we don’t have a rippling effect (to deal with) for the rest of our lives.”

But the film’s message isn’t just for Christians, Wiedmann said, noting that at a recent secular film festival in California, a woman who identified herself as an atheist said, after viewing the film, “If this is a true story of this woman, she’s a victim and I need to look at why and question this.”

Wiedmann said everyone who views the film will be entertained in some way. “You’re going to laugh, you’re going to cry,” she said, adding that the film deals with everything from adoption to father-daughter relationships to young friendship and love.

“It’s amazing to me what my small screen time is turning out to be,” Wiedmann said. “It’s this awesome thing; God’s doing lots of great things with this film.”

Roxanne Salonen writes for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.