“For Me, It’s Jesus”: Actor Dennis Quaid on How His Role in ‘I Can Only Imagine’ Connected Him to His Faith Roots

dennis quaid

The movie “I Can Only Imagine” about MercyMe’s hit song by the same name is set to hit theaters on March 16.

Starring Dennis Quaid and J. Michael Finley, the film portrays a beautiful “behind the music”-style story that is sure to leave audiences inspired and filled with hope.

But what actor Dennis Quaid didn’t anticipate is how his character in the movie would impact his personal life in such a profound way. In the film, he plays the role of an abusive dad named Arthur who finds the precious gift of grace.

Wearing the persona of a tough-skinned, stone-cold man whose heart is softened by the forgiveness of Jesus, Quaid couldn’t help but be moved. So much, in fact, that walking in the shoes of Arthur throughout his redemption journey stirred in him a desire to finish a song that he began over 25 years ago for his mother, entitled “On My Way to Heaven.”

A devout Christian himself, the actor says the song is a “connection to [his] faith roots.”

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“I grew up in a Baptist church, went to Sunday school, and then I got baptized when I was nine and made the decision the same day as my brother,” he shared. “My brother and I, Randy, were both baptized on the same day.”

Quaid says he went through a time of rediscovering who God really was while he traveled the world in his late 20s, and it ultimately led him to one conclusion: Jesus.

“The question I had as I went around the world was ‘Who is God?’ I became a seeker really… I read the Bible cover to cover. For me, it’s Jesus… it’s the red words of Jesus. How simple it is. There really is redemption and that was the inspiration.”

Quaid says he wrote “On My Way to Heaven” for his mom because she’s always been his rock, who showed him what unwavering faith really looks like.

“Her faith is unquestionable. So solid. So I wrote it for her, but I guess it’s my story.”

The song went unfinished for 25 years because Quaid could never think of a bridge to complete it, but while filming “I Can Only Imagine,” the missing piece finally came to him in a wave of inspiration as he played the role of Arthur.

 “What moved me about finishing it really was my character of Arthur and how he found grace… That’s the beautiful thing about the good news that Jesus was talking about.”

Dennis Quaid gave the completed song to his mom on her 91st birthday, and needless to say, tears were shed.

Watch the official music video for “On My Way to Heaven” below, and be sure to check out “I Can Only Imagine” in theatres on March 16 to see the story that inspired the completion of this beautiful song that was over two decades in the making.

Kelsey Straeter
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Kelsey is an editor at Outreach. She’s passionate about fear fighting, freedom writing, and the pursuit of excellence in the name of crucifying perfectionism. Glitter is her favorite color, 2nd only to pink, and 3rd only to pink glitter.