Imagine the impossible! For Sam Humphrey it was starring on the big screen alongside his personal hero, Hugh Jackman. Because Sam has an unusual disability.
In the musical blockbuster The Greatest Showman, Jackman plays P. T. Barnum, an entrepreneur who made his name with a circus featuring a number of unusual people. It’s a story about embracing our differences and accepting who we are. This message is neatly summed up in one of the film’s biggest songs: ‘I’m not scared to be seen. I make no apologies. This is me.’
Sam Humphrey plays Charles Stratton, one of Barnum’s first employees, who transforms with Barnum’s help into General Tom Thumb. It’s a big break for the Auckland-born actor, who came directly from a small part in Neighbours to debut in one of this year’s summer hits.
Talking to Vision’s Matt and Alex, Sam admitted that, as a teenager, he was scared to be seen. He struggled with his self-image and his on-going health issues. But he went through his own transformation which changed everything.
Sam is 127 centimetres tall, the height of an average eight-year-old. He suffers from a rare genetic condition called acrodysplasia. ‘In simple terms,’ he said, ‘it means that my bones don’t grow to the rate of a normal person, if you want to call it normal.’
On screen as General Tom Thumb, Sam may appear even shorter than he is. ‘They did CGI my legs in the film,’ he explained. ‘I was actually on my knees for the entire shoot.’
The 23-year-old actor is the only cast member who shares his character’s disability. ‘I think everyone has something different and unique about them. But that was all make-up, and prosthetics, and things like that. I was the only one who had some sort of disability, that I know of, in the film.’
Sam said it was amazing to work alongside superstars like Zac Efron and Zendaya. ‘I had a personal connection with Hugh, because Hugh has been my personal inspiration and hero since I was eight years old. And he’s the one who actually started my acting, and inspired me to pursue acting, as a hobby and a career.’
Jackman has often spoken publicly about his faith. Though they didn’t have too many chances to talk about it, Sam is aware of the huge impact it has on his life and work. ‘In one article, he mentioned that he gives thanks to God, every take or every shoot, before he goes on set.’
Sam says this role has given him a lot more opportunities to talk about his own faith. Many people felt a connection to his character’s journey, because as he points out, everyone is suffering their own personal struggle. I think this film tends to bring a lot of acceptance to people and helps them to accept who they are.’
I didn’t care who saw me. The only thing that mattered to me was God.
Interestingly, when he was auditioning for the role, Sam didn’t see a connection between himself and the character he was playing. It was only while performing that striking transition, between the uncomfortable Charles Stratton and the confident General Tom Thumb, that he saw a reflection of his own experience.
‘Growing up, as myself, I’ve been very shy, and I’ve had self-confidence issues, and I’ve had self-esteem issues, and I really didn’t like who I was, mainly because of my height, and a lot of the health issues and things I grew up with.’
Sam had been raised in the church, but it wasn’t until his teenage years that he made his own decision to reach out to God. ‘I was a Christian, but I didn’t feel like I was really living that. I was kind of scared about being open about my faith, and I was kind of scared about what people would think of me.’
But when Sam asked for help, God answered with the miraculous. He said it was like a lightbulb snapping on in his head. To him, it felt as instant and life-changing as the moment in The Greatest Showman when P. T. Barnum remakes Charles Stratton, by teaching him to accept himself.
‘It was such a transformation moment for me. I didn’t care what anyone felt about me. I didn’t care who saw me. The only thing that mattered to me was God. It was what He thought about me. It was how He saw me. It was from that point then that I gained my confidence, and a lot of my self-esteem issues went away.’
When Matt asked Sam what the Gospel was to him, he described it as a personal relationship with God. His troubles and fears didn’t disappear, but his perspective changed.
‘I still worry about a lot of the things I used to worry about, but I can go through it knowing that God’s with me, and that I will make it through it, no matter what. None of that stuff really matters, when you have God with you.’
‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ Romans 8:35 NLT
Paul asked the great question: ‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ When you don’t know why God loves you in the first place, it’s easy to doubt His love at times. You want to know how He feels about you when you act like a jerk, when you snap at anything that moves, when your thoughts are gutter-level, and when your tongue is sharp enough to slice a stone. You ask, ‘How does He feel about me then?’
And what about when bad things happen—does God care then? Does He love you in the midst of fear? Is He with you when danger lurks?
In other words, ‘Will He ever stop loving me?’ That’s the great question, isn’t it?
Perhaps you crossed the line this week. Or you started drinking and kept at it until you couldn’t walk. Or you had some business that took you where you had no business being. Or you blamed God for the end of a relationship you weren’t ready to give up. Did you drift too far? Did you wait too long? Did you slip too much? Were you too uncertain?
‘Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?’ No, absolutely not. Paul reassures us: ‘I am convinced that… neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power… above or… below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God.’ (Romans 8:38–39 NLT)
No, there’s not a single thing can separate us from His love. Nothing.
SoulFood: Mt 5:4, Is 51:1–16, Ps 30, 2 Cor 1:3–7
word4today an adaptation of The Word For Today is authored by Bob and Debby Gass and published under licence from UCB International Copyright © 2020
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
the people in whose heart is my law;
fear not the reproach of man,
nor be dismayed at their revilings.
8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment,
and the worm will eat them like wool,
but my righteousness will be forever,
and my salvation to all generations.”
9 Awake, awake, put on strength,
O arm of the LORD;
awake, as in days of old,
the generations of long ago.
Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces,
who pierced the dragon?
10 Was it not you who dried up the sea,
the waters of the great deep,
who made the depths of the sea a way
for the redeemed to pass over?
11 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain gladness and joy,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
12 “I, I am he who comforts you;
who are you that you are afraid of man who dies,
of the son of man who is made like grass,
13 and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker,
who stretched out the heavens
and laid the foundations of the earth,
and you fear continually all the day
because of the wrath of the oppressor,
when he sets himself to destroy?
And where is the wrath of the oppressor?
14 He who is bowed down shall speedily be released;
he shall not die and go down to the pit,
neither shall his bread be lacking.
15 I am the LORD your God,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the LORD of hosts is his name.
16 And I have put my words in your mouth
and covered you in the shadow of my hand,
establishing the heavens
and laying the foundations of the earth,
and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”
4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
30:1 I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up
and have not let my foes rejoice over me.
2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help,
and you have healed me.
3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol;
you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.
4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints,
and give thanks to his holy name.
5 For his anger is but for a moment,
and his favor is for a lifetime.
Weeping may tarry for the night,
but joy comes with the morning.
6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O LORD,
you made my mountain stand strong;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.
8 To you, O LORD, I cry,
and to the Lord I plead for mercy:
9 “What profit is there in my death,
if I go down to the pit?
Will the dust praise you?
Will it tell of your faithfulness?
10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me!
O LORD, be my helper!”
11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5 For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. 6 If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. 7 Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.