Actor Jared Staley of Wilkesboro has his biggest role yet in the faith-based film “Overcomer,” which hits the big screens Thursday in over 1,500 theaters in 17 countries.

The 18-year-old Staley plays “Wesley Ford” in the new movie from filmmakers Alex and Stephen Kendrick, the brothers behind a string of Christian dramas such as “War Room” (2015), “Courageous” (2011), “Fireproof” (2008) and “Facing the Giants” (2006).

“Appearing in ‘Overcomer’ was a big milestone for me because it really shows that I’ve made progress in my dream to be an actor,” said Staley in an interview Wednesday.

His character appears in a comedic scene, thus lightening the mood and providing a break for the audience in an otherwise serious movie about a high school cross country coach who helps a female runner “attempt the impossible” in the biggest race of the year.

“Overcomer” marks a return to sports films for the Kendrick brothers. Filmed in Georgia, the movie’s tagline is, “What will you allow to define you?”

Staley is the only child of Jeff and Galene Staley of Wilkesboro. He was homeschooled since the seventh grade and in June graduated from North Carolinians for Home Education, concurrently completing an entire semester of college credit.

He is attending Wilkes Community College as a college-transfer student, with plans to continue studies at a university while pursuing his dream of having an acting career.

Staley is the on-screen co-host of the WCC virtual tour on the college website (tour.wilkescc.edu). He and Lisa Woods, WCC assistant director of financial services, provide commentary over 25 campus “tour stops.”

Staley began acting in late 2011 when he appeared on stage in the Wilkes Playmakers production of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and has since performed in many stage productions. Most recently, he played the title character of Jay Gatsby in the April production of “The Great Gatsby.”

He has undertaken on-camera, improvisational comedy and character study training at the Acting Out Studio, a performing arts school in Charlotte, since 2013. He does stage improv with the Teenage Handbook troupe.

According to his website, jaredstaley.com, in addition to acting, Staley enjoys playing video games, swimming, piano, guitar and hanging out with his friends. He has a second-degree black belt in karate.

Staley first appeared on TV in the Cinemax hit series, “Banshee,” in 2013. He later had roles in three episodes of the Cinemax show, “Outcast.”

He has several commercials to his credit, beginning with Kellogg’s Krave cereal; two Carolina HealthCare System commercials with Cam Newton, quarterback for the Carolina Panthers; two commercials for a law firm in South Carolina; and a national commercial for Kadunk’s Candy that aired on major kids’ channels.

In 2013, he won a Youth Excellence Award in the category of “Teen Male in a Commercial” for the Krave spot. The award was presented in Nashville, Tenn.

Staley has made four appearances in Sid Roth’s “It’s Supernatural,” a show with a weekly worldwide audience of almost 10 million viewers. He also had a guest starring role on the AMC acclaimed drama series, “Halt and Catch Fire.”

In 2017, he played student “Neil Walker” in the series, “Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda,” on the Investigation Discovery channel.

On his website, Staley references the Bible verse, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” He says he’s been a Christian for as long as he can remember, so working on the set of a faith-based movie was especially exciting.

“Everyone on the set was personable and really felt like they were working with you,” he said. “Even the directors, the Kendrick Brothers, treated everyone as if they were just as important as them.”

Staley said his next role hasn’t been secured yet, but he’s hopeful that a steady stream of auditions will land him a choice acting assignment.

“My main goal as an actor is to be able to make a living doing what I love and entertaining. A dream role for me would be one where I could bring life to a character in a way that no one else could.”

According to the “Overcomer” website, the movie will premiere Thursday on movie screens in Boone, Statesville and Hickory, among others. It stars Alex Kendrick and Priscilla Shirer. It’s billed as being for the entire family.

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