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Jennifer Grey has opened up about how ‘terrifying’ it was to play Christian diet guru Gwen Shamblin in her upcoming Lifetime movie, saying she struggled to keep her weight up while portraying ‘the personification of anorexia nervosa.’

The ‘Dirty Dancing’ star, 62, looks unrecognizable as the frosted blonde church leader in the trailer for ‘Gwen Shamblin: Starving for Salvation,’ which premieres on Saturday, February 4. 

The television movie depicts how the registered dietician developed a cult following with her controversial faith-based ‘Weigh Down Workshop’ before she founded her Remnant Fellowship Church in Tennessee in the late 1990s. 

Shamblin, who preached about loving God over food, died in 2021 after her private plane crashed into a lake. That same year, she was the subject of the HBO Max docuseries ‘The Way Down: God, Greed, and the Cult of Gwen Shamblin.’

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Grey admitted that she ‘knew nothing at all’ about Shamblin when she first received the script. After Googling the diet guru, she watched the trailer for ‘The Way Down’ with both fascination and horror.  

Jennifer Grey, 62, opened up about playing Christian diet guru Gwen Shamblin in the Lifetime movie 'Gwen Shamblin: Starving for Salvation,' which premieres on February 4

Jennifer Grey, 62, opened up about playing Christian diet guru Gwen Shamblin in the Lifetime movie ‘Gwen Shamblin: Starving for Salvation,’ which premieres on February 4

Grey looks unrecognizable as the frosted blonde church leader (pictured) in the trailer for the television movie

Grey looks unrecognizable as the frosted blonde church leader in the trailer for the television movie (pictured)

Grey looks unrecognizable as the frosted blonde church leader (left)  in the trailer for the television movie (right) 

The film depicts how Shamblin developed a cult following with her controversial faith-based 'Weigh Down Diet' before she founded her Remnant Fellowship Church in Tennessee

The film depicts how Shamblin developed a cult following with her controversial faith-based ‘Weigh Down Diet’ before she founded her Remnant Fellowship Church in Tennessee

‘I felt so much heaviness around it. My first thought was, “Well, this is a terrifying prospect to play somebody so dark, who was a real person just recently on this earth,”‘ she recalled. 

‘And the next thought was, how can I be part of a story that really corroborates a very powerful voice in our culture, which is about [the importance of] body size and perfectionism?’

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Grey was concerned that by taking on the role, she would be promoting Shamblin’s dangerous teachings about weight and self-worth.  

‘I feel that as human beings living in this culture, we are all so vulnerable to the voice of Gwen Shamblin, which says there is a shape and size and number that we must hit in order to be worthy of love, worthy of God’s love, worthy of attention, worthy of success,’ she explained.  

One of her conditions for accepting the role was being able to use the film as a platform to counter Shamblin’s message that ‘it is best to be thin.’  

‘She was the personification of anorexia nervosa, which has one of the highest or second-highest mortality rates [among eating disorders],’ she said. 

‘I thought if I can do this and use this as a platform to raise awareness about seeking treatment, and to show the insanity and the misguidedness of her message, then I would be interested.’

Grey said she filmed a PSA for the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) that will run with the movie to combat Shamblin’s rhetoric. 

Grey (pictured) told Entertainment Weekly it was a 'terrifying prospect to play somebody so dark'

Grey (pictured) told Entertainment Weekly it was a ‘terrifying prospect to play somebody so dark’

The actress (pictured) was concerned that by taking on the role, she would be promoting Shamblin's dangerous teachings about weight and self-worth

The actress (pictured) was concerned that by taking on the role, she would be promoting Shamblin’s dangerous teachings about weight and self-worth

'She was the personification of anorexia nervosa,' Grey (pictured) said of the controversial church leader

‘She was the personification of anorexia nervosa,’ Grey (pictured) said of the controversial church leader 

The actress noted that she is grateful she has ‘never had an eating disorder,’ explaining that her body continues to change as she gets older but her ‘weight is very constant.’ 

She didn’t intend on altering her body in any way to play the diet guru, but to her dismay, the long hours she was working did lead to unintentional weight loss.  

‘My biggest issue is that when I’m working, I was doing two hours of hair and makeup, and then I was working 12, 14-hour days, and then driving to location,’ she explained. 

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‘I’m not really good at eating crap food, so my biggest challenge was to try to keep my weight up. I did not try to lose weight, but I was losing weight, and I was not liking it. I like my boobs and my butt! But what happens is as soon as I lose weight, I just get, like, really bony.’

Sarah Paulson will also be playing Shamblin in a scripted adaptation of the HBO Max documentary ‘The Way Down.’

Grey (pictured) didn't intend on altering her body in any way to play the diet guru, but to her dismay, the long hours she was working did lead to unintentional weight loss

Grey (pictured) didn’t intend on altering her body in any way to play the diet guru, but to her dismay, the long hours she was working did lead to unintentional weight loss

'My biggest challenge was to try to keep my weight up. I did not try to lose weight, but I was losing weight, and I was not liking it. I like my boobs and my butt!' she explained

‘My biggest challenge was to try to keep my weight up. I did not try to lose weight, but I was losing weight, and I was not liking it. I like my boobs and my butt!’ she explained 

Grey said she filmed a PSA for the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) that will run with the movie to combat Shamblin's dangerous rhetoric

Grey said she filmed a PSA for the National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) that will run with the movie to combat Shamblin’s dangerous rhetoric

Raised in the ultra-strict Church of Christ, Shamblin was a trained dietician who started her Weigh Down Workshops in the 1980s. 

The seminars were held in churches, and, as word of mouth spread, grew to more than 250,000 subscribers in over 14,000 churches in 70 countries.

She expanded her business throughout the 1990s with T-shirts, hats, and a slew of books, including ‘The Divine Diet’ and ‘What Would Jesus Eat?’

Rev. Rafael Martinez, a cult interventionist, explained in the docuseries ‘The Way Down’ that Shamblin and her diet book were a ‘massive media hit.’

‘The Weigh Down Diet: Inspirational Way to Lose Weight, Stay Slim, and Find a New You’ sold over 400,000 copies, and she appeared on everything from ’20/20′ to ‘Larry King Live.’ 

In 1999, Shamblin founded Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, to help people 'turn away from the love of food and toward a love of God.'

 In 1999, Shamblin founded Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, to help people ‘turn away from the love of food and toward a love of God.’

After divorcing her husband of 40 years, Shamblic got remarried in 2018 to former 'Tarzan' actor Joe Lara. They died in a plane crash in May 2021

After divorcing her husband of 40 years, Shamblic got remarried in 2018 to former ‘Tarzan’ actor Joe Lara. They died in a plane crash in May 2021 

She also embarked on national tours where followers would appear onstage holding up their larger clothes to celebrate their success with a cheering audience.

Putting a biblical spin on her approach, Shamblin taught people to ‘honor God within your body.’ She’d often say, ‘Every time you reach for food, 15 to 20 times a day, run to God instead.’

In 1999, Shamblin founded Remnant Fellowship Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, to help people ‘turn away from the love of food and toward a love of God.’ 

Hawking Jesus’ love as a diet plan made Shamblin fabulously wealthy. According to the documentary, she accrued $20 million in real estate assets all over the country. She drove a Porsche and lived in a pre-Civil War plantation home known as Ashlawn.

After divorcing her husband of 40 years, she got remarried in 2018 to former ‘Tarzan’ actor Joe Lara. One former member called him an ‘escort’ in the series.

Among the many expensive gifts that Shamblin lavished on her boy-toy were flight lessons. Lara was piloting a Cessna 501 when it crashed into Percy Priest Lake on May 21, 2021, immediately killing all seven passengers on board, including his wife.

Since ‘The Way Down’ first premiered in late 2021, the Remnant Fellowship has countered the negative publicity in a series of promotional videos that encourage inclusivity and emphasize their ‘family friendly’ values. 

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