Kirk Cameron: "Still Growing"
by Angela Walker
Actor, author, philanthropist, and father. These words all describe Kirk Cameron. As a teen idol on the popular series “Growing Pains” from the 1980s, he was the American heartthrob whose life was as clean off-screen as on-screen.
Married to actress Chelsea Noble for 17 years, they chose to adopt their first children “so they would always know they were [their] first choice.” Kirk just finished writing his autobiography “Still Growing,” so we talked about his book, his movies, and his family.
CC.com: What prompted you to write your autobiography? Some might say you’re kind of young to do that – not even 40 yet.
Kirk: Even thought I’m only 37 years old, I’ve had more than a lifetime worth of things happen to me. I’ve lived a lot more out of the ordinary than most people do, and wanted to share that.
And over the last ten years, so many people have written things about me and my life, but it’s all had their spin on it; from “Hollywood-type” stories about my life to co-stars that said I tanked “Growing Pains,” to the fact that I’ve been public about my faith in God.
So I wanted a chance to tell my story in my own words. I thought it would be fun to take readers back to the 1980s, the days of big hair, big shoulder pads, and big acting. Of course, I was guilty of all three of those. We can all probably remember the days of parachute pants, white Reeboks and acid-washed jeans. I wanted to give people a fun trip down memory lane and also put them in my tennis shoes.
I was working on a set, getting 10,000 fan letters a week, acting in front of a live audience. I was the target of a pedophile stalker and fired my mother as my manager, got married and started a family. I hope people have a good time reading it. I’ve gotten some great comments already from people who have really enjoyed it.
CC.com: You talk about your “wild side” in the book, but it was pretty tame. Do you suppose people expected you to be wilder than that?
Kirk: People ask me all the time, especially Christian radio disc jockeys, to “give us the scoop.” They ask questions like, “When’s the first time you dropped acid?” I tell them I did it once, when I dropped it on the jeans because acid-washed jeans were all the rage. That’s really it.
I’m a guy, and there are certainly things that I’d rather not talk about, so I didn’t put them in the book. But it is what it is.
CC.com: Your parents went through a period of separation, and then reconciled. What is your relationship like with your parents now?
Kirk: My mom wrote a book called “Full House of Growing Pains,” and she talks about what it’s like to have kids in the industry, and also talks about her separation from my dad. I have a great relationship with parents now. When I was a teenager, it was kind of awkward and weird. You don’t want your parents around when you’re 12 years old.
With my mom as my manager, that made it even worse. When I turned 18 years old, I needed to see my career move forward and to have a manager with more experience than my mom. And I was an adult, so it was time to fire my mom, so to speak, as my manager. That was awkward because she was my mom. But we got through it.
CC.com: Your new movie, “Fireproof,” is about marriage. You and Chelsea have been married for 17 years. How do you keep your marriage alive and vibrant?
Kirk: It’s work. I really encourage everyone to go see “Fireproof,” because it deals with so many issues that marriages face today. I think that everyone watching it will see themselves in some of the situations shown in the film.
With Chelsea and I, we’re both Christians, and we believe marriage was designed and created by God. We also believe that if we follow His instructions, it will work. The key to that whole thing is something called “death to self.” Christ was the ultimate example of that; He gave up His life for the church. That’s what I try to do with my wife.
I realize that my job in our marriage is not to make sure that she meets all my needs but for me to take care of her, love and nourish her and help her to bloom. If I don’t and just look out for my own needs, she’s going to wilt and wither. And she has the same attitude toward me.
In order to keep that frame of mind, you need to be in partnership with God. You need to be in a vital, committed relationship with the Designer of marriage, the Designer of life. The key is to have a vital, connected relationship with God and to follow His instructions.
CC.com: In your book, “Still Growing,” you mentioned that as a child actor, you had a dislike of auditions. Is that still an issue for you?
Kirk: Well, after a couple of hundred auditions under your belt, you’re more comfortable, but I’m always a little nervous. After I read the script for “Fireproof,” auditioning it was a no-brainer.
It’s a great movie about marriage, and focuses on a fireman who’s on the brink of divorce. He gets things right with God and tries to win back the heart of his wife. It was a challenging audition, but it was well worth it. It worked out great.
CC.com: What was it like to work on the set of “Fireproof” with the Kendrick brothers? How does it compare with working on the “Left Behind” series?
Kirk: Working with Alex and Steven was a real inspiration. They’re the real deal. They’re trying to make movies about things they are personally passionate about and vested in. So whether it’s “Facing the Giants” or “Fireproof,” they’re subjects that really hit home with people, and connect with them where they are.
Marriages today are in a crisis. People don’t know how to make them work, and kids are suffering for it. Everything suffers for it.
It was wonderful on the set. Every day the whole cast and crew would get together on their knees, praying for the day’s work. There would be people in a different room, praying during difficult scenes, asking God for his favor.
They’re good guys and guys with personal integrity. It was great.
The biggest difference with Left Behind was a story difference. “Fireproof” is a heartfelt film people can relate to, more than an action-thriller movie. I think that the message of the Gospel is much more strongly woven into the movie “Fireproof” than “Left Behind.”
There was a huge difference in working on the films in that “Left Behind” was made by a cast and crew that were mainly not Christians. I couldn’t really even name even 3 committed Christians working on it other than my wife and myself.
On “Fireproof,” it was a volunteer cast, all from Sherwood Baptist Church, so it was a very different experience on the set.
CC.com: How do you prepare for a role like that?
Kirk: This role was really a challenge for my acting ability. There are some very emotionally intense scenes in this film. The emotions range from rage and anger to brokenness and humility and despair. So I worked with a very good acting coach who helped me prepare before the shooting and also on the set.
Physically, I put on 15 pounds of muscle and did my best to be a “manly man firefighter.” Of course my brother-in-law helped “pump me up.” He put me on a fast weight-gain diet and I was working out like a madman.
It was a fun and challenging role.
CC.com: How did the timeline of the filming fit in with your work on the book?
Kirk: I was writing the book while I was working on the movie, so it was really a challenge to get them both done while working on the movie.
CC.com: Besides writing a book and acting in films, you also work with Ray Comfort on “Way of the Master.” What projects are you doing together?
Kirk: We have about 35 – 45 episodes that play on Christian networks, and we have still more we’ll be producing. This fall we’re holding “Way of the Master” Conferences, and we’re on radio every day.
And in addition to that, Chelsea and I host a camp every called Camp Firefly. The website to check that out is www.campfirefly.com. We pick 6 families with sick children and we go up to this camp. They get the chance to be a family again. They get to make memories, the parents have a date night where they eat a nice dinner at the camp’s restaurant, and everyone has a great time. The children who aren’t sick have a chance to play themselves;
We got interested in this because the “Make a Wish” Foundation would bring kids to the set of “Growing Pains” and introduce them around. Chelsea and I were very moved by these kids, and wanted a way to help ourselves. So we began to think about how we could impact their lives, and what that would look like.
So we came up with the idea of having a camp where these kids could be around other kids that are sick like them, and that their whole family could come to. We’d have a support system for them and provide a time of fun and relaxation for the whole family.
We found this great location and came up with some fun things to do, and that became Camp Firefly.
CC.com: Given the opportunity, what words of advice would you give someone that wants to follow in your footsteps?
Kirk: I’d say form your own personal convictions before you step into the professional Hollywood arena. You’re going to be facing so much pressure to assimilate into the system, and like a parasite, your love for success could drain you of your virtue, your morality and your faith unless you have already made up your mind about who you are and what you’re there to do.
So have your personal convictions and stand on them with both feet. Don’t let go of them or you’ll get swept up into the sea that has already washed a whole bunch of people down the drain. Just look at Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and so many others who, if they’re not dead, their life’s a mess.
With your feet planted on your convictions, you can make it.