Dean Cain (Randy Simpkins in The Way Home) is a quadruple threat in the film world. He has written, produced, acted and directed in multiple films and television episodes, and finding a story he loves is something he's always looking for.
Playing Randy Simpkins
"If something comes up that I love as an actor," Dean said in a recent interview,"I'm very interested. I have several projects I'm very interested in as a producer right now, and a television series I may be very interested in.
"In this business, it's be flexible and open. Whatever the project is, it can hit a different passion. I could read a script and know I could direct it in a heartbeat because I see it, and I know how to tell the story. Other times, I might think, 'I'd hate to direct that, but I want to play that character because I really get that.;
"There are roles I don't really get, but people come to me for them, and I tell them I don't think I'm the right guy. I go on and meet with them, and sometimes it is something I get.
"I think anyone who says they have it wired, probably doesn't, and that's what's so wonderful about this business. You can never really have it 100% together, so I'm looking for anything that moves me any way: writing, directing, producing, acting, you name it. "
Playing Randy Simpkins
When Dean saw the script, he recognized an incredible story he wanted to be part of. "As a parent, you see a situation like this, and it's a very familiar feeling. Suddenly you turn your head, and you're living your worst nightmare. It's something you're always scared of, and that for me could not have been closer to home.
"I've never lost my child running around like that, but I have missed him for a second, so I completely understand that feeling."
Since the movie was filmed in around the Simpkins' home in southeast Georgia, Dean became well-acquainted with Randy Simpkins, his character in the movie. "Having Randy right there listening and watching in the scenes really put the pressure on. I couldn't be fake or miss something while Randy was sitting right there next to me checking things out. He was pretty forgiving and wonderful and straightforward in helping me. He was very, very supportive."
Though he's not lived through the story, Dean tapped into the emotions a parent with a missing child would feel and found a way to relate to Randy. "The things that Randy should have been doing, but wasn't, I've been trying to live my life that way from the get-go. I'm committed to my son, to being there, and that's something Randy took a little bit for granted.
"But I'm not married; I don't come home to a wife and kids, just to my son. I don't know if that makes it easier or a little more difficult. Some might say it's easier, some would say more difficult. I don't know any other way, but I can understand how you can take your wife and kids at home for granted. I get that idea. I've never been in that situation, so I haven't had that happen."
Even though he's portrayed many roles, there was something unique about the Simpkins' story that captivated Dean. "The thing that's so amazing to me about The Way Home is the community and the way it came together. For some reason, that sort of destroys me.
"It's so incredible and makes me feel so emotional, to see people dropping everything to come help you. It's great to have friends when you're doing really well and things are going great and wonderful. It's another thing to have friends there when you really need them, and you don't realize how much you need and appreciate them until you're in that situation of complete need."
The Simpkins opened up their entire house to the cast and crew for six weeks, something Dean found amazing. "The kids were going to school, playing football, and all kinds of other things. Those guys really opened up and welcomed us. Christel's mom was making food (really good food!) and it was a real family affair.
"That sort of wonderful family vibe transfers both ways. You see it, obviously, when you're there, and we felt it on camera while working on it, so you hope it translates when you see it on screen."
That family sense also made it possible for Dean to watch the film with his son. "I watched the film with my son and he really pays attention. After The Way Home, he's saying 'I'm staying close to you.'
"After seeing me on camera crying, it makes it very personal for him, and he asked me if I would do that if he were missing. I said, 'Honey, I'd do that all day every day if you were missing.'"
Dean's family values come naturally. When he was a boy, his parents were there most of the time, something he appreciated greatly and carries into his life now. "My family, my son, that's my number one priority. I have to take care of myself to take care of him. So I'll go focus and do my job and then get my tail back there to be with him.
"I try to get my work, my scheduling, with respect to what he's doing in school or with sports and other things. I hate to not be there. Most of the time my parents were there. My father and mother were rarely gone, and it was tremendously helpful to have that sort of support system, and I want that for my son. So I'll finish work, get on a plane and take off.
"When I'm at work, I want to work. I'm there, 100% committed, but when I'm done, I want to get out of there and get to my family. That's something I consider with every opportunity. What will be the cost if I go off and do this movie? How much do I really want to, versus what am I going to miss at home?"
This sensibility is what causes director Lance Dreesen and Randy and Christel Simpkins to describe Dean as "a regular guy," He recognizes the value of the team he chose to work with on this film and compares it to an athletic team. "I'm an athlete, and as an athlete playing football, which I did forever, you could be a superstar, but you're not going to do anything with that without the rest of your teammates. So you're really only as good as your teammates.
"As an actor, you can get great acclaim and adulation, but if you lose your sense of humbleness, it gets ridiculous. I just don't understand it in the least. We're all just people out here trying to be the best we can, and if you're going to believe your good press, you might as well believe your bad press too, and I'm not gonna."
[ Read our interviews with director Lance Dreesen and Randy and Christel Simpkins ]