Kirk Cameron is showing me his kids' photos. We're in an interview room that just happens to be completely full of women, and he's pulled out his wallet to show us photos of his six kids, all school portraits, except an intriguing shot where one kid is duct-taped to a wall. Does it make anyone else feel old to know that Kirk Cameron, a.k.a. Mike Seaver from Growing Pains, is old enough to have six kids?
Cameron, who has recently starred in the series of Left Behind movies, is continuing his work in Christian-themed movies with Fireproof, a romantic drama about a firefighter who is a hero in his community, but finds his own marriage on the rocks. His father challenges him to postpone the divorce for 40 days and read a book called The Love Dare, which talks about ways to rediscover love through Christian faith.
Filmed in the small town of Albany, Georgia, with a crew that consisted almost entirely of volunteers, Fireproof is an independent film in every sense of the word. But it's also something of a phenomenon-- the movie opens today, and is already one of the top-sellers on Fandango.com. Check out what Cameron had to say below about balancing work and family, his decision to make movies that only further his specific goals in life, and how his faith fits into the whole picture.
With everything going on in your life right now, where does acting fit in?
Acting kind of has to come in-between everything else that's going on. I love to act, but boy, the other things that are going on in my life.... When acting fits in nicely to do the things I'm trying to do with my life, like tell a great story that has a great message. Like Fireproof, that whole movie is about restoring marriage. My wife-- I married my onscreen girlfriend from Growing Pains, Mike Seaver's girlfriend, and we've been married fro 17 years-- so marriage is very important to us. I've been fortunate that I can be selective enough to do acting when it's really furthering what I want to do with my life.
So the book that your father's character gives you-- The Love Dare-- is that based on a real book?
You'll find out that it is based on the father's experience in his own marriage. And the cool thing is that The Love Dare is actually a real book, that is in bookstores, and they've already pre-sold 500,000 copies. Bookstores have pre-ordered that many books based on seeing the movie in advanced screenings. They're predicting it could possibly be the top-selling inspirational, faith-based item of 2008. The idea behind it is God is love, and God is the author of love, and of trust, and healing, and relationships. To really understand what love is, you've kinda got to dig down deeper than just how you feel at the moment.
Being happily married for so long, was it difficult to relate to the material?
No. Well, first of, some of it was, in that I play a guy who's very different from myself. I can relate to a lot of the challenges of being married for 17 years and having six children and juggling work and family and everything else. But this guy is a real type-A, macho, I'm going to do my own thing, bully kind of guy. It was a very challenging role for me, because just the emotional range this guy goes through. This guy is a real jerk. I've never been that angry with my wife. But then there are all sorts of issues of forgiveness, opening up, sharing how you feel. There's all sorts of martial issues and fidelity issue that are dealt with that I think strikes a chord with anyone who's been married or is thinking about getting married.
How do you stay grounded? Is it family and friends support? Is it faith?
To me, God comes first, my family come second. If I fail at those two, I'm just playing games. For me, my family and my faith have been what's really been my anchor, and grounding me, and helping me navigate through a lot of the things that really destroy marriages in Hollywood, and in your own personal integrity. If I didn't have those things, I'd be like everybody else. I'm no morally superior person. But because I have someone like my wife, and my mom and dad who stayed together, they taught us basic good values.
I read that you have a clause that you don't kiss other people than your wife in your movies. Was that a tough decision to come to?
There was a great scene in the movie, it gets to the part where if he didn't kiss her , you'd just smack him. It was a great addition to the story, and yeah, I kiss my wife but I don't kiss any other women, regardless of the fact that I'm an actor. My wife came to the set, and she put on the dress the actress was wearing, and we shot the scene in silhouette. It gave us the ability to make a movie about honoring marriage above all things, and then be able to honor my marriage personally.
What's it like working with a crew that's almost entirely made up of volunteers?
The whole environment is great. Normally on a Hollywood set, you know who's above the line and who's below the line just by their attitude. But here, everyone was doing everything for free. They were using up their own vacation time to work on this film. Everyone's helping each other, because everyone knows, everyone needs help. They don't do this for a living.
Where did all the volunteers come from?
From the little town of Albany, Georgia. It was produced by these people who go to a church there, and the surrounding community. And the profits from the movie are all being poured back to a community sports park in their town.
Do you feel like you've been able to make a choice to stay away from paparazzi and press attention?
Yeah, definitely it's a choice. We live kind of away from where all the craziness is. We live out in the countryside of Los Angeles County, if there's such a thing.
Do you think you're teaching your kids lessons, with all your community involvement and faith?
We hope so. That's why we try to involve them in everything that we do. That's also why we don't play the whole celebrity game. We don't want to feed them that whole mentality growing up.
You've also kind of been there, done that with the celebrity status. Was it a good thing at the time?
I don't have any regret. I learned a lot. Because I was working at a young age, it kept me away from a lot of the stuff that my friends were getting into.I wasn't at school with all that peer pressure and the drugs and all that scene. Hollywood has its own version of that that sometimes can be even worse. I think that's why I wouldn't want my kids to go into the business, as kids.
Are your kids aware that that whole period of your life took place?
Not really. They never watched any episodes of Growing Pains, they don't know what that's all about. I don't want them to see the hairdos we had back then. The shoulder pads, the parachute pants.
Are you still in touch with your Growing Pains castmates?
Yeah, every once in a while. Jeremy will come over-- he's a chef. He's kind of the galloping gourmet. Sometimes he'll cook dinner at our house. We'll get together for a Growing Pains reunion, or we'll bump into each other at some kind event.
Are you surprised that it stands up over time?
I think people like it because it was simpler. Life was a little bit simpler, and you watched that show with your whole family. Back then you sat down as a family, and you watched what was on TV. That was a show you could watch with your kids. They don't make those anymore.
When you first met Chelsea did you know she was the one?
I think when Chelsea walked onto the set, every man on the set thought that she was the one. So I figured, OK, Alan Thicke will get to her first. But we struck up a friendship, and she was my girlfriend on the show. There was a scene that the writers had written into the script where Mike kisses Kate in an acting class i was really nervous, because I really had a thing for this girl. I figured she was so far out of my league, she's not going to want to hang out with some teen idol actor guy. But we started up a great friendship, and I kissed her on the show, and she didn't walk away after that. I guess it wasn't too bad. Then a couple years later we got married.