Previously Known For: Growing Pains and Like Father Like Son
|Currently Known For: Evangelism, Fireproof, Saving Christmas and The Firefly Foundation|
“I sometimes found myself more comfortable around my TV family than I did with my own parents and sister.” Recognized as the “It Boy” of the ABC network throughout the 1980s and 1990s thanks to his role as the charismatic Mike Seaver on Growing Pains, Kirk Cameron still has the same charm and good looks but he’s certainly miles away from his early fame. After getting his start in commercials for McDonald’s and Count Chocula cereal, Cameron slowly made his way to television where he won over audiences in a handful of afterschool specials before he snagged a starring role in Growing Pains in 1985. After the series wrapped in 1992, Cameron’s 15 minutes of fame dwindled as he settled down and started a family with actress Chelsea Noble. Boasting a family of six children and praise for recent projects like Fireproof and Saving Christmas, let’s drop in on the 47-year-old Growing Pains star and learn more about his journey from child star to Christian evangelist!
Making his grand entrance into the world on October 12, 1970 in a suburb of Los Angeles, California known as Panorama City, Kirk Thomas Cameron might’ve been born on the outskirts of Hollywood’s glitz and glamour but he wasn’t raised in the business. In fact, Cameron didn’t know much about acting or show business until a friend of the family encouraged his mother to take him and his sister, Candace, to a talent agency with the hopes of snagging a few television commercials that might help pay their college tuition. Doing exactly that, Cameron’s charm was just what casting directors were looking for when he snagged minor roles in commercials for brands like Polaroid, Count Chocula cereal, and McDonald’s before appearing in a handful of afterschool specials on ABC.
Cameron made his debut in the television movie Goliath Awaits and the series Bret Maverick in 1981 as he watched his sister snag roles in popular series like St. Elsewhere, T.J. Hooker and Punky Brewster. Then, after four years of one-episode appearances and a string of made-for-television films, he finally caught a huge break when he was cast as Mike Seaver in Growing Pains. The series made Cameron an overnight star as he earned two Golden Globe Award nominations for his performance and became ABC’s “It Boy” and teen idol as he graced the covers of popular teen magazines like Teen Beat, 16 and Tiger Beat. “This was before email, so I’d get 5,000 to 10,000 letters a week,” Cameron said of his fame on the show. “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.”
With his sister joining him on the series shortly before she was cast as DJ Tanner on Full House, Cameron was living the dream when he appeared in a Pepsi commercial during the 1989 Super Bowl, guest starred on Full House, and met his future wife—Chelsea Noble—on the set of Growing Pains. Amid his success on television, he made his feature film debut in Like Father Like Son and won roles in Listen to Me and The Willies before tying the knot with Noble in 1991 and wrapping up Growing Pains in 1992. By then, his born-again Christianity had already ostracized him from his former costars as he set out to create a new life outside of Growing Pains. “I definitely kind of made an about-face, going toward another aspect of my life,” Cameron later admitted after reuniting with the cast for The Growing Pains Movie and Growing Pains: Return of the Seavers in 2000 and 2004, respectively. “I shifted my focus from 100% on the show to 100% on my new life and left 0% on the show—and even the friendships that were a part of that show. If I could go back, I think I could make decisions that were less inadvertently hurtful to the cast…”
After wrapping up the series in 1992, Cameron spent the rest of the decade working on made-for-television films like A Little Piece of Heaven and The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes before trying his luck with his own television series called Kirk from 1995 to 1996. Despite his high hopes for success, the series was short-lived but Cameron refused to give up and made cameos in Touched by an Angel and Family Law before shifting his interests to more Christian-based projects. He worked with the Left Behind series and starred in Left Behind: The Movie, Left Behind 2: Tribulation Force and Left Behind: World at War before appearing in the 2008 blockbuster, Fireproof, which became the highest grossing independent film of the year after earning over $33 million at the box office.
Amid his success with Left Behind and Fireproof, Cameron was confident enough in his beliefs that he launched his career as a Christian evangelist and founded The Way of the Master ministry in the new millennium. Taking the ministry to radio and television in 2003, he’s spent the last 14 years as the host of the series in addition to joining his wife to co-found and run The Firefly Foundation and Camp Firefly, both of which raise money for terminally ill children. Of course, his philanthropy has frequently taken a backseat to his more outspoken opinions on marriage and homosexuality, which is exactly why he’s often on the receiving end of Hollywood’s harsh criticism… even so, he remains grateful.
“I enjoy my relationship with Hollywood and I’m so thankful for the platform it provided me. Without Growing Pains, you and I wouldn’t be talking,” he said during an interview. “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 it, and it’s a space I enjoy living in.”
Today, the 47-year-old father of six continues to promote his Christian beliefs through his foundation, a variety of film projects, and speaking engagements around the country. Recently giving fans a sneak peek into his life at home in the 2017 project, Come Home, Cameron has certainly moved on from his teen idol days but that doesn’t mean we’ll ever forget him as the loveable and charismatic Mike Seaver!