“ChiPs” television star and police advocate for protecting children on the Internet Erik Estrada will film his next faith-based movie in Rock Hill.
Estrada, 64, is best known for his leading role as ‘Ponch’ on “ChiPs,” an action-comedy sitcom that debuted in 1977. He later appeared on reality TV programs and recently on “Mira Quien Baila,” a Latin television dance competition.
On Saturday afternoon he was at the West End Baptist Church in Rock Hill, to announce his next movie, “Persecuted,” which will focus on what Estrada and his team say is a troubling cultural change in America that threatens religious freedom as church leaders are accused of hate speech for professing certain beliefs or sharing Biblical views.
Estrada works with JC Films to produce religious movies. Recently, he also worked with Liberty Counsel, a division of Liberty University, to make a ﬁlm about religious freedom in public schools.
Filming in Rock Hill will start in September and local residents could be used as extras. The production team is on a “shoestring budget” and it is partnering with an established network of local churches called “Rock Hill One,” said Bill Rahn, executive producer and director.
“You could take (“Persecuted”) and do it anywhere,” he said, but added that Rock Hill’s established church partnership is special.
Rock Hill One is a group built by several local pastors to “come together as the church rather than splintered cells,” said Pastor Joey Deese of Oakdale Baptist Church.
“Rather than competing, we are working together and look forward to helping with the new ﬁlm as one body.”
JC Films and Estrada are looking to make “culturally relevant films that change the culture,” Rahn said.
On Saturday, Rahn and others discussed what they see as an attack on Christianity in America. If not turned around, the country could become an unsafe place for Christians and force churches “underground,” said Dean Harris, executive producer with JC Films.
Estrada’s faith-based films are meant to be powerful, candid takes on problems he sees in America but they are family-friendly, he said.
Estrada is a deputy sheriff in Bedford County, Va., and works as an investigator of Internet crimes against children. Better education in schools on how to be safe online is desperately needed, Estrada said.
Estrada’s first movie with JC Films was “Finding Faith,” a story about a young girl who was abducted in Virginia after texting with what she thought was a 16-year-old boy. Instead, it was a 38-year-old child predator from Pittsburgh.
Through his police work, Estrada said, he’s seen all kinds of crimes against children. He hopes his films will help educate parents and kids alike.
In “Persecuted,” Estrada seeks to explain that “church is not a building; it’s the people,” said Jason Campbell, president of JC Films.
Estrada chose Rock Hill, after visiting Oakdale Baptist recently to promote another movie “Uncommon.”
People with Rock Hill One are “sincere,” he said, and will be instrumental in making “Persecuted.”
Anna Douglas • 803-329-4068