Kirk Cameron, who rose to fame as Mike Seaver in ABC's "Growing Pains" from 1985-92, switched from atheism to Christianity in 1990, married his on-screen girlfriend, Chelsea Noble, in 1991, and is dad to six children -- four of them adopted.
Despite his Hollywood background, he had to audition for the role of Caleb Holt in "Fireproof," which opens Friday in theaters nationwide.
The movie is the latest from Sherwood Pictures, a nonprofit ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. It previously put out the popular "Facing the Giants" and the lesser-known "Flywheel."
"Fireproof" is the story of a fire captain who is called a hero in public but who is facing marital burnout at home. Caleb's lack of love, time and interest for his wife, Catherine (Erin Bethea), is accompanied by her budding romantic attachment to a co-worker, and both have been so hurt that neither is interested in working on the marriage. (Check out the lighthearted "He said/she said" video link with this story for a glimpse of the marital problems.)
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But don't think the plot is dry or predictable.
"It's a fun movie. It's action-packed," Cameron said in a phone interview Monday from Beverly Hills. "I hope that more people make movies like this that have strong stories with redeeming messages."
Here is what the 37-year-old actor had to say about his family, his faith and the movie:
Q: You have four adopted children, ages 11, 10, 9 and 8, and two biological children, ages 7 and 5. Has being an adoptive family given you any special insights into the way God adopts people into his family?
A: Adoption is wonderful -- what a great picture of God's love for us. You can say to your adoptive children, "We chose to love you." That's how it is with the Lord. Jesus said, "You didn't choose me, but I chose you." It's worked out great. My wife is an adopted child herself, so it's a natural part of our family.
Q: You donated your pay from "Fireproof" to Camp Firefly, a ministry you run with your wife. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
A: It's held in Georgia. It got started about 19 years ago. We met a lot of kids through the Make-A-Wish Foundation who came to see us on the set (of "Growing Pains"). Our hearts just went out to the whole family. So we began taking six of these families with terminally and seriously ill children and give them a weeklong paid vacation, away from hospitals and doctors and everything else. It's the best week of our lives every summer.
Q: Did you observe firefighters to get ready for this role? If so, what insights did you gain about their lives and work?
A: Yes, I trained before and during the movie with some firefighters in Los Angeles and Georgia. I got to do some of the fun stuff from sliding down the pole into the trucks to being able to handle all those hoses and navigate through a burning building. I gained a whole new respect for firefighters. They're really heroes. They put themselves on the line all the time, sometimes in ways they don't bring home because they don't want to bring stress home to their wives. It often leads to a lot of relationship strains. The divorce rate for firefighters is up around 75 percent.
Q: Since you've been married for about 17 years, you've surely experienced some of the challenges of marriage. Was there a particular scene in "Fireproof" or character trait in Caleb that you especially related to?
A: One of the traits I could particularly relate to is this is a guy who doesn't believe in God. Throughout the movie, he talks to his father about his new- found faith. I remember that in my own life -- being a doubtful skeptic about God. And finding it takes a whole lot more faith to be an atheist than it does to come to true faith in God.
Q: Would non-Christians enjoy the movie or will they be put off by the strong Christian message?
A: The movie's for anyone, whether you have faith in God or not. It's about love, trust, hope, healing. Plus, it's just a great movie. You're going to laugh and cry. It's a very masculine movie, with the firefighters, but it's also a chick flick. And the main character is not some religious guy.
Q: What's the personal message you're taking away from the movie?
A: There are a couple of themes in the movie: Never leave your partner behind. That's the firefighter's adage and the way it ought to be in marriage, especially in times of fire. Another theme is don't follow your heart; lead your heart. If you follow your heart, it can be deceptive. Anyone who's been in that kind of relationship knows the problems with that. And I've got a copy of "The Love Dare" book that's in the movie and I intend to use it. The movie is full of principles of what it means to love someone.
Q: You started at age 10 in Hollywood, and you have a couple of children about that age. Would you let them start that young?
A: No, I wouldn't. The Hollywood industry is a twisted place to grow up. It was bad when I was there, but even more so now. If the kids want to be actors when they grow up and get out of school, I'll certainly help them. But not as kids. I don't think it's healthy for them.
Q: Would you like to be in another TV series? Is there anything out there that is clean enough to watch with your family?
A: Maybe someday there would be a television series that fits with my family. Right now, I have a wife, we're considering homeschooling, been doing my TV series ("Way of the Master," a Christian show broadcast in the United States and elsewhere) and the movie. Right now, I'm looking forward to a bit of calm after busy-ness.
Q: What activities do you enjoy as a family? And do you and your wife have a date night?
A: We try as much as we can. Finding baby-sitters for six children can be a challenge. We live in L.A., so we love to go to the beach. We love to go hiking in the mountains. We live in a rural area and we love to be outside, play with nieces and nephews, have family time.
Q: What do you hope people take away from "Fireproof"?
A: I hope people will go because it's a great movie. I'm hoping at the end people will say, "I felt there were times when I felt like I was looking in a mirror." I hope they pick up a copy of the book, "The Love Dare," and start practicing the things in it. Anyone can pick it up and see a huge change (in their marriage). I believe that one person fully submitted to God and his word can turn a marriage around."
Bee staff writer Sue Nowicki can be reached at 578-2012 or firstname.lastname@example.org.