Nathaniel Buzolic: “The best things you can do as a Christian is represent Jesus well”
While he may not be a household name in Australia, Nathaniel Buzolic’s 3 million followers on Instagram are both avid fans of the TV shows he has been involved in and clearly like his openness in sharing his faith openly on Instagram.
An Australian of Croatian heritage now living in Los Angeles, Buzolic began his career on Australian television shows Home and Away, All Saints and Out of The Blue. He then gained a cult following on the US CW Network with shows such as Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries and The Originals, all of which are currently streaming on Netflix. More recently, Nathaniel worked with Oscar-winning director Mel Gibson on Hacksaw Ridge, which was released theatrically in November 2016.
The Originals wrapped its fifth and final series in 2018 and Buzolic came back to Australia as a guest of Oz Comic Con in Brisbane on 22-23 September and Sydney on 29-30 September 2018.
Insights caught up with him before his Australian visit and talked about his passionate love of Christ, how having faith works in the heady world of Hollywood and about what lies ahead after a successful run on television.
How does your faith support you in the competitive world of the entertainment business?
It’s helpful in enabling me to disconnect from a business that is based on how you look, how much money you make, how relevant you are and how many followers you have. When you look at the teachings of Jesus it is an absolute upside down kingdom where the person who is last is first, the person who serves is considered greatest in the kingdom of God.
I think you start to realise that the world doesn’t need another actor to be successful for it to be a better place, the world definitely needs to start listening to the truth of what Jesus said.
Ultimately what faith does is anchor you to something that is deeper and more meaningful than a lot of things that we are told are important that will eventually fade away.
My faith helps me disconnect from the business to realise it is just a job and it’s a way I can provide an income for myself and my family.
How did you come to know Christ, did you grow up in a Christian family?
No not really. My mum was Catholic and I went to a Catholic school but I definitely didn’t consider myself a Christian until I was probably 27 when I had run this course of life and starting hitting dead ends about the things that were important and where my value came from, and what my purpose was. And I think ultimately every single person is going to face these questions in their life, and if your philosophy of life can’t answer these questions then you are going to constantly be living in a state of fear, insecurity and anxiety. I think when you start searching for answers you are going to be looking in places where the answers still aren’t there.
For me, I got to a place where I challenged the Bible, I challenged what Jesus said, I applied it my life and I saw a huge difference. One of the greatest gifts that I have ever been given with this show (The Originals) is that I have had the privilege to travel the world and do fan conventions and more and more I have become confident to share my faith with thousands of kids.
What I’ve found is the common theme around these conventions is that there is so much brokenness in the room and there is so much brokenness in the world and people are desperately looking for an answer, a truth, a solution, something to anchor their hope in.
I have had an opportunity with the fans and they have gone away and I still get letters and emails from people. My message of my life and my acting career is never going to have an impact with someone on that level.
The message of Jesus is applicable for all people and circumstances. If you never share your faith you will never see the power of faith.
Looking at your Instagram feed its all about authenticity in your faith and outlook. In this era of echo chambers, hate speech and negativity how do you keep it positive and about your faith?
We are dealing with an audience that is definitely searching. I do have a very strong opinion about this new “religion” that the world has created with social media – it’s the “self love” religion. The message is being preached constantly that you’ve got to love yourself. But what I’ve seen over the last 10 years on social media is a rate of depression that is skyrocketing. Those two things are directly related because I think what’s happened is that the world is telling us we need to love ourselves and when we fail at that, depression gets even worse.
The moment when you need to love yourself most is the moment when you don’t love yourself.
You can scroll back through my Instagram and see how my life transitioned through this idea of what love means. You look at what Jesus says and it’s so counter cultural. If it is true then what we need to do is love God and love others. It’s good to let people see that not everything the world says is true. The reality is we live in a very broken world.
It’s a fascinating look at humnanity. When Instagram was first created, the original idea was to share your moments with your community. So it originally started with a focus on others and within a few years it became about self promotion, its about who has the blue tick, how many followers you have and how much money I can make from it. That’s what I find interesting about humanity, we can take a beautiful idea and destroy it with our own brokenness.
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Jesus never forced ANYONE to follow Him. He never threatened ANYONE to stay. To understand Jesus we must first try and understand what Love really looks like. Real love. Pure love. His love wasn’t fearful, forceful, desperate or needy & His love wasn’t a one time offer. If you read the scriptures you will see time and time again that Jesus was always going to be the one who patiently waited for ALL those who left and All those who were finally ready to return to home. A home that we could only ever find in the arms of the ONE TRUE GOD. Jesus knows what we All search for – Its truth, the foundation of Love. Why did Jesus teach with authority? Well, The one who knows the truth & the one who is the truth has nothing to prove or conquer among the those who only seek power and control. This is why following Jesus is different to any other offer the world has ever presented, any other idea and any other belief. Jesus will remain, just as truth and love will remain.
You are very open with how you talk about your faith publicly, how does this work in the entertainment industry?
I think it would be hard for anyone in any industry to represent this idea of who Jesus is well.
I think the institutions of Church have done a poor job of conveying the true message of Jesus. So I think for any person, whether you work as an actor on a TV show, or you work as a mechanic or a carpenter, you’re going to work and you’re always going to have people who have opinions or mixed messages about what they think Christianity is. So I think it’s a challenge for everybody.
I think one of the best things you can do as a Christian is represent Jesus well, not from a place of judgement or fear, but humility. When you really do read scripture and when you do talk to people – and I have had many conversations with people on set about Jesus – what you start to realise is that people who are so against it haven’t really had a chance to have explained who Jesus is and what he represents very well.
Even for me before I became a Christian, before I started really following his path I think I really missed the point of the gospel, which is that we need to understand we are broken we need to have a relationship with our Creator. When you come to that relationship, it is not about religion.
But this is all a huge challenge and it’s something I work on all the time. I spend hours and hours reading the Bible and it’s not easy. I think if anyone said ‘just read the Bible and you’ll be fine’ they’re lying. The Bible is full of poetry, symbolism and metaphors and you have to know when and who the authors are talking to and what the context around that really is before you can start explaining it and understanding it.
I posted something on my Instagram about this. I think to fully understand who Jesus is, first you have to understand what love actually looks like. When I look at the world, it’s really confused as to what love is, its become very selfish and conceited and self-focussed. I think we have kind of lost the definition of love, so there’s no way we can understand Jesus, because if he is God and he is love. We’re never going to understand that if we don’t understand the true nature of love.
There are a lot of layers that society has built up and put around this message, which as a Christian we have to start breaking down and the only way we can do that is with humility and love.
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+An opportunity to discover Jesus One of the greatest experience of my life was going to the Holy land and following in the footsteps of the person I wish to follow most – Jesus of Nazareth. I’m taking a group of people on a trip of a lifetime to the holy land in 2019, walking through the places where Jesus walked and presenting the stories in the places where these biblical events actually took place. We have limited numbers and are already half full, so if you would like to join me on this experience (in what I hope would be an account with the real Jesus for those that join) sign up via the link below https://thejesustrek.com/tour/nate/ More details on the site. 9 days/ 8 nights May 19-27 2019 If it’s His will, it will be your way. @thejesustrek @taggedbyjesus Much love
Do you have a faith community in LA that supports you in your faith and upholds you in prayer?
I have a community of friends who I’m in regular contact with who share both my passion and commitment to the gospel. So we regularly are praying and encouraging one another on this walk. I think community is one of the most important elements of this walk.
Every Christian, and every human for that matter needs a circle of support. Often those talks among friends about Christ help you grow and share with others at the appointed time.
What’s next now that The Originals Season 5 has finished?
Originals has filmed, done and aired in the US, so now it’s slowly phasing out of the show and starting something new in life. For the fans there is an opportunity to take part in a new series which is called Legacies. That has started airing, but none of the original members are involved in that at this point anyway. It’s a new and interesting stage for me in life because I have become so passionate about sharing the gospel and I’m still working as an actor so I am kind of at a crossroad. I have a huge trip in May 2019 taking people with me on a tour through Israel for nine days to the places Jesus was and I’m super excited and passionate about that. And I have photography that I am passionate about that I can delve into and share more stories. So I am at an interesting point in my life, whether I keep acting if I get on another series or if I find something new.
I am really excited about coming to Comic Con and another interviewer asked me what questions I like getting asked and I hope people ask me questions about my faith and what I believe so I can share it in a different way than the way they have heard it before.
I love sitting on stage and having people ask these questions and its always interesting because some people will really challenge you and I really enjoy that. It’s a privilege to be up on stage and give people a different way to look at Jesus and his story.