Fred Thompson has had a multifaceted career. He’s been a U.S. senator, an attorney, a presidential candidate — and a TV actor. His latest project will bring him to the big screen, where he’ll play a Catholic priest bent on helping his biological son escape political persecution.

The fictitious story in “Persecuted” focuses on John Luther, a prominent Christian evangelist who is framed for the murder of a teenage girl after he refuses to endorse a bill in Congress that would usher in legalized religious persecution in America.

Luther, played by actor James Remar, has his life turned upside down when he evades police in a search for truth, going from a revered pastor to a man on the run from the law.

Fred Thompson, Gretchen Carlson Star in Persecuted | John and Charles Luther

Actor and former U.S. senator and presidential candidate Fred Thompson will play a priest in the new film “Persecuted.” (AP/David Goldman)

Thompson, 71, plays Dr. Charles Luther, a Catholic priest who is John Luther’s natural father (the film doesn’t explain how he fathered a child). The actor recently told TheBlaze that he was attracted to the free speech themes in the script.

“To me it was an interesting combination. It dealt with some intriguing, substantive ideas about the First Amendment and church and state and things of that nature,” he said. “In this case a powerful politician — more than one actually — pressuring a minister to tailor his messages. … Kind of a good old-fashioned Washington thriller.”

Thompson added that he was particularly interested in playing a priest, which was a new role for him and “an interesting challenge.”

While rooted entirely in fiction, Thompson said that “Persecuted” does hold a pertinent message for audiences — mainly that Americans must be vigilant about protecting their free speech.

“Constitutional rights and pressures … can be threatened from different sources and lots of things that are insidious come in nicely wrapped packages,” Thompson said. “Here we had a powerful senator and the president too really trying to promote something, they called it fairness but essentially a requirement that all religions must be taught equally or something along those lines and wrapped it in the garb of fairness and equality.”

Fox News host Gretchen Carlson also appears in the film; she plays a television anchor.

Watch Carlson discuss her role below:

While not necessarily equating the fictional plot to real-life political drama, Thompson said the Roman Catholic Church’s battle with the U.S. government over contraception deals with legislation that “intrudes” by requiring something that violates the church’s beliefs.

Thompson, who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, said it’s paramount for Americans to protect their rights.

As for his own political career, Thompson said he’s done running for office, but that he still has great concerns for America.

“One of them has to do with our fiscal situation. We’re on an unsustainable course in terms of bankrupting ourselves,” he told TheBlaze. “And as our society gets older with more elderly and fewer working-age people, it’s going to get worse. We all know this but don’t have the courage to do anything about it.”

Thompson also said that the nation is becoming more divided — something he believes is unhealthy.

“Persecuted” comes to theaters July 18.

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