How The Devil’s Advocate Became My Genesis to Doing What I Love

I’ve loved TV since I was a young girl… But not just any TV. I loved toy story and Rugrats as much as any ’90s kid, but what really caught my attention was always a little more complex. At that time, Adelphia ruled Florida where I was born and raised. There was no Netflix or Hulu, and the only thing Amazon sold were books. Looking back, it was a strange time in history because digital cable was a new concept and American families were given access to hundreds of different channels not previously available. By the age of 7, Nickelodeon was losing its appeal.


As a baby movie buff, I was fortunate to be a product of the early 2000s. The “new golden age” of television was beginning, and the character-driven dramas that would spawn a new breed of protagonist were popping up everywhere. The flawed “anti-hero” replaced the perfect “hero,” and that anti-hero looked more and more like the everyday individual every day.

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My father encouraged my love for television because he loved it too and he really loved horror and gangster drama. So I also loved horror and gangster dramas a lot. It became a point of contention between my now-divorced parents, but my father’s policy was that I could watch the film if it was on a single cable. Basic Cable aired publicly, so anything obviously inappropriate for children was faded out or skipped entirely. My mother didn’t agree at all with this policy, but my father allowed it because watching television was my favorite pastime. Dad and I devised a system: when Mom was home, I could have Nickelodeon programmed as my “last” channel, meaning if she came in while I was watching Scream on TBS, then I could subtly press “last” and it would instantly switch back to Nickelodeon. This system worked (most of the time).


Because… Al Pacino

One of my favorite movies was 1995 The Devil’s Advocate. The Devil’s Advocate is a supernatural horror about a young lawyer (Keanu Reeves), Kevin Lomax, from Florida, who is brought out of the dark by a powerful lawyer (Al Pacino) in New York City, which offers him the chance of a lifetime. Kevin has never lost a case, even against impossible odds. As time flies and Kevin’s life unravels, he begins to realize that all is not as it seems and that powerful attorney John Milton may have a dark secret he’s keeping.

I was raised Catholic, so I was born with conscientiousness (not to be confused with Catholic guilt). The movie scared me insanely, but I loved the adrenaline of fear, so I became obsessed. It wasn’t just the fun of fear though, it was Al Pacino himself. He was charming. In fact, he was so charming it was captivating. I was already a fan of Al Pacino through The Godfather trilogy, but The Devil’s Advocate had everything. It was the crossroads of horror and gangster films that I came to love.

Moreover, he is so humble that if he were the channel of evil incarnated in a physical, human form, you might not see it coming. Pacino was already a household name, a living legend, and a popular actor by this time The Devil’s Advocate was published. The idea that he should be evil is almost not even disturbing; he still makes you like it. I loved that and wanted to learn to be personable.

I started devouring everything I could from Al Pacino. It was hard at first, but my mother’s limitations on what I was allowed to see shrunk as I grew. Blockbuster was like my church. As the other kids watched Zach and Cody I watched in middle school dog day afternoon. Then, as streaming networks became a household presence, I could see his lesser-known films such as The panic in Needle Park. It didn’t end with Pacino, however. It inspired the greats of my parents, grandparents and my own generation; movies like sweets, perfume, and She wronged him.

My genesis into a new career

Of course I wanted to be an actor. My parents had a different opinion. When I realized there was a way to reach me, my father and I watched The Devil’s Advocate again, but this time I was encouraged to view the courtroom scenes as a stage and the jury-picking scene as a means of distinguishing others. My mom and dad successfully tricked the Jedi spirit me and I decided to become a lawyer. The law is powerful. I’ve heard lawyers describe knowledge of the law as a superpower among men, and it is. You can be influential when you know something specific that most others don’t, and when that thing you know is something people are afraid to talk about. Also, I thought it would be a profitable career.

So I studied law. And it bored me to death.

Two degrees in fast-forward, a miserable career, and 20 years later I realized that despite the stage that is the courtroom and the stories that surround the many forms of justice, there were never enough stories to make me happy. I wouldn’t say I liked law, but I liked the drama and the stories around it. I had matured and being charming was no longer important to me. I learned that charm comes from confidence and gain comes from doing things consistently.

I was forced to think about what made me happy, which I never really did. I had no idea what made me happy. I pursued fine dining to learn more about wine, acting for a while, casting, talent agent, contract manager, and 25 other jobs (no exaggeration), and none left me less disillusioned than law practice.

The end of the street

What I didn’t realize from a young age was that films are just projects. For those who follow movies in any way, it’s work. You have to be passionate about what you do. The late, big one Chadwick Boseman once said of acting, “You can only do it if you love it, because it’s not all the glitz and glamor that people think it is. It’s really a blue collar job. You work overtime, you sweat, you get hurt, you are. As an athlete, you are all it takes, and you draw from things that most people don’t typically delve into. I observe The Devil’s Advocate for years and missed what was really going on in it: Al Pacino, Keanu Reeves, and Charlize Theron spent long days making this film and doing what they are passionate about; they acted. So I reevaluated.

I’ve blogged for years to document wines I’ve liked, performances I’ve felt affected by, and travel experiences. I wrote 10-minute plays and short stories while pursuing different careers without engaging with what was right under my nose. I loved writing, telling stories and admiring stories; I more than loved it. I was excited.

I say that The Devil’s Advocate is my genesis because it is so. The Devil’s Advocate was the reason I went to law school and loved movies. I cannot deny what the law has taught me, albeit the hard way: that you cannot pursue what you are not passionate about and expecting to find satisfaction. I also can’t deny what movies have taught me: that you have to be relentless in pursuing your passion and then tirelessly find a way to make that passion a part of your everyday life.

The Devil’s Advocate is 25 years old on October 17th and man I wish I could thank him for everything he has done for me.

https://collider.com/devils-advocate-my-genesis-al-pacino-keanu-reeves/ How The Devil’s Advocate Became My Genesis to Doing What I Love

Sarah Ridley

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