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Kirk Cameron was a teen phenom while playing Mike Seaver on Growing Pains, the ABC sitcom that ran from 1985 to 1992 and was where he met his future wife, Chelsea Noble (she played his girlfriend in the late seasons). Nowadays, Cameron is an evangelical Christian focusing on faith-based projects, and he didn’t make many friends in progressive Hollywood when he spoke against same-sex marriage during an interview with Piers Morgan on CNN four years ago.
The father of six just signed on as host for 30 episodes of The National Bible Bee Game Show from Enthuse Entertainment — which has yet to find a TV home — and he’s preparing to introduce his six children (ages 13-19) to show business for the first time. He spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about politics, religion, Donald Trump and bias in Hollywood.
What’s this Fathom Events show you are planning?
The topic is marriage and family, and it’s likely to be called Come Home. It’s with me, my wife and our six kids, so it’s the first project where we’ve opened up our family, faith and marriage. We’ve been private about our family, so I don’t drag the kids into all the hoo-ha of show business. But this time, we’re opening up our living room, kitchen, everything, and it’s the first time me and my wife, Chelsea, are working together on-camera since Growing Pains. It’s one-night-only through the Fathom system.
Your kids never wanted to be in show business before?
None have yet wanted to be an actor. It’s the fear of every parent that their child wants to be an artist. It’s such an exciting and great career, but it’s fraught with land mines.
Speaking of which, how’s your relationship with Hollywood? I know there are those who speak ill of you.
Who are they? What are their names? (Laughs.) I enjoy my relationship with Hollywood. I’m so thankful for the platform it provided me. Without Growing Pains, you and I wouldn’t be talking. It launched a career, and I met my wife on the show. I’m shocked that after 30 years, people are still interested in what I have to say, and I have Hollywood to thank for that. And now I get to make movies like Fireproof, which helped launch a genre of films like Courageous, God’s Not Dead, War Room. It’s a genre all Hollywood wants to get into, and it’s a space I enjoy living in.
Hollywood doesn’t share a lot of your conservative values on abortion and same-sex marriage and such. Do you see bias against you?
Everybody has to deal with bias. If you draw a line and say, “Hey, I’m about truth,” well, those who aren’t will have a bias against you. If you say you’re about faith in God, you’ll have people stand up and cheer, then you’ll have others who won’t. That’s the way the world works. You have to know what it is that you are willing to take it on the chin for.
Are you taking it on the chin from some in Hollywood?
I take it on the chin here and there. Just Google my name. But I never look to get into political debates. I like to stick to issues of love, hope and what made this country a place where free speech and free religion are possible. Ironically, it’s that freedom that allows people to come after me when I share my honest feelings about things. I embrace the whole system.
Do you know if you lost offers over your politics or Christian beliefs?
People ask me that all the time, but I can’t find a downside to my differences with some in Hollywood because here I am talking to The Hollywood Reporter 30 years after Growing Pains, and I have my own company (CamFam Studios) where I’m making projects I’m passionate about. Plus, my wife hasn’t left me after 25 years, which is like 250 in Hollywood years!
That said, what’s your advice to others just breaking into Hollywood who share your faith or politics?
You have to be true to your higher values. As an actor, you’re playing someone other than who you are, but as a human being, you need to be who you are. Find people who love what you love and then work together, and there are plenty of them in every vocation.
If actors just coming to Hollywood followed your advice, would it cost them work in mainstream projects?
Yes, but that could be a good thing. While I may not know what they are, it’s very likely I have not gotten roles because of who I am and what I want to stand up for. But that’s a great thing because how many times do doors close where you look around the backside and say, “Wow, I’m really glad I didn’t go through that door because this other door opened over here”? It’s why I’m doing the Bible Bee and other projects I believe in. Find people who think like you think, and go make a difference.
Ever get any hate mail from someone in Hollywood?
Ahhhh (long pause). Nothing from anyone notable that I could frame and put on my wall. But go to my Facebook page, and you’ll see plenty of intolerance. Some of the most intolerant comments are from people calling me “intolerant.”
You were a guest on the original Full House, which starred your sister. Any plans to appear with her on the new Fuller House?
I think I played my sister’s cousin once on Full House. But I have not been asked to be on Fuller House. You know how it is with relatives; you don’t want to overstay your welcome, and you wait to be invited. But she’s having a great time, and it’s already queued up for a second season. I often think what they might do if they wanted to remake Growing Pains. It’s been so long they’d have to call it Aging Pains. No one has floated the idea past me.
Besides your wife, do you ever speak to your Growing Pains co-stars?
Not that often, but the one I’m most in contact with is Jeremy Miller, who played my little brother, Ben. He’s such a great guy. He’s got a great family, and he’s a fantastic chef now. It was a wild career move.
How about Leonardo DiCaprio?
I have not gotten a call from Leonardo in many years. My wife and I went to dinner with him 20 years ago, so I haven’t seen him since he was crawling through the icy tundra. It was great, but I don’t remember the conversation. We knew when he was on Growing Pains that, clearly, he was a super-talented guy. Some people don’t even remember he was on Growing Pains. He was the little homeless kid that was hanging out in the janitor’s closet that I took into the family. Things worked out well for him.
Yes, they did. But at the time, you were the heartthrob, the teenage idol. Do you miss those days?
I can never forget them. I teach at marriage conferences across the country, and every time I’m there, the girls who had Mike Seaver posters on the walls bring them to me. They’re resurrecting these Tiger Beat posters from the 1980s and putting them in front of me to sign. Sometimes I think they’re stuck in a time warp. While I don’t miss those days, I absolutely love that I have that history with my fans.
You get a lot of fan mail back then?
This is before email, so I’d get 5,000 to 10,000 letters a week. How do you answer that many letters? We did it at home in our garage at first, with my mom and dad and sisters, then we asked for volunteers. So some of the little old ladies from church volunteered, and it was awesome.
Whom do you support for president?
I don’t want to say, but I saw a funny meme about Bernie Sanders based on the Dos Equis beer commercials. It was a picture of Bernie saying, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, it’s somebody else’s.” That kind of cracked me up, so that might tell you who I’m not voting for.
Can you explain to me the evangelical love for Donald Trump?
Oh, boy. I don’t want to speak for all evangelicals, but I have a lot of friends who think he can mix things up and get things done. … We’re in an exciting and definitive period of time. People are thinking, “What haven’t we tried?”
Are you aware of an underground conservative group in Hollywood?
Well, I don’t want to say yes and expose them.
I don’t need you to “out” anybody, I’m just asking why such an underground group is necessary.
Not that I’m saying there is such a group, but if people want to be off the radar, it’s because they feel they may be discriminated against because of their values, which is so ironic in an industry that touts itself as being nondiscriminatory, almost to a fault.
Why should people watch Bible Bee?
It’s an exciting competition, and the Bible itself is printed at the rate of 100 million new copies every year. It’s by far the No. 1 printed book. Despite that, there’s a very small literacy rate, even among Bible-believing families. It’s the secret-sauce recipe for life that young people should understand. It puts people in connection with God and helps them make the world a better place, so that’s why I’m excited about the show.