By Josette Keelor
Actor Erik Estrada said there's an important message in his new Christian film "Uncommon." During a visit to the Northern Shenandoah Valley this week to promote the film, he plans to meet with area residents and educate children, families and church leaders on the importance of free speech.
A screening of the film will be shown at Abba's House at My Church, 23749 Old Valley Pike, Woodstock, at 7 p.m. Friday, part of a tour that started with the world premier in Lynchburg on Feb. 1. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m., and Estrada will attend to sign autographs and talk with viewers.
"I got to tell you, I'm digging it," he said in a Thursday phone interview.
Best known for his role as highway motorcycle cop Frank "Ponch" Poncherello in the TV series "CHiPs," Estrada is also an investigator with the Bedford County Sheriff's Department.
He said the Christian films he's made have been in an effort to protect children.
Last year he portrayed Sheriff Mike Brown in the film "Finding Faith," a compilation of actual events that Brown has investigated through his Internet Crimes Against Children task force, including one about a girl named Faith abducted by an Internet predator and held for three days before police rescued her.
"We're losing too many kids," Estrada said. "Education is the best prevention."
His current film, "Uncommon," was created by the Liberty Counsel, an international nonprofit litigation, education and policy organization.
It's about fictional high school students who write and produce a theater production after their school announces the theater, music and dance departments have been cut from the budget.
During their experience, the students find renewed personal faith in God while fighting a battle of political correctness within the school and community.
In the film, Estrada portrays a school janitor the students recruit to help them produce the play, and Liberty Counsel founder and chairman, Mat Staver, portrays himself in the film as the students' attorney when they experience legal trouble.
"So we're making films to educate -- to educate and empower the young people of the church," he said.
While on tour, Estrada plans to attend more than 200 church screenings, according to the film's website, www.uncommonfilm.com. He also has agreed to attend the first 10 stage performances of "Uncommon" available free to students who would like to perform it at their church, school or community center.
Pastor Tony Alan Bates, of Abba's House at My Church, said Liberty Counsel contacted him when they had a cancellation and were looking for a replacement location to host the film.
"We're honored that they reached out to us," Bates said. "It's going to be a great night, and we just invite everyone to come."
On Saturday, Estrada will leave Virginia and head to Texas, but he said he'll be back. Previously grand marshal of Winchester's Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in 2009, he said he plans to return when his daughter is old enough to be Queen Shenandoah.
Contact Community Engagement Editor Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137, ext. 176, or firstname.lastname@example.org