by Edwin L. Carpenter, Editor, The Dove Foundation
Dean Cain, who has had an impressive list of credits over the years and starred in various Dove “Family-Approved” movies including Ace of Hearts, is probably best known as TV’s Superman in Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. Dean was born in Mount Clemens, Michigan, a short distance from The Dove Foundation headquarters in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He was recently in Detroit to make a film called The Homerun Showdown.
Dean recently starred in The Way Home, a DVD movie which received a five-Dove rating. It is the true story of Randy and Christal Simpkins and the heart-wrenching period when their two-year-old son Joe suddenly disappeared as the family was about to leave on vacation. The subsequent search for Joe and the outpouring of community support elevated the movie to great story telling, which Dean says is the key to the movie being embraced by audiences who have already seen it. The DVD officially will be released on October 26 and I recently spoke with Mr. Cain about the film and his role as Randy Simpkins.
We kicked off the interview by mentioning Mr. Cain’s prolific list of credits.
Dean: God knows I have been working a lot. I don’t mess around. I work. That’s part of it. I’m there to do my job and get it done and that’s kind of what I go for.
Dove: It looks like a lot of things coming up for you in the near future.
Dean: A tremendous number of things, which I think you’d be interested in because a lot will be family fare, which I enjoy.
Dove: We noticed you do a lot of family projects.
Dean: The reason I do so many family projects is because I’m a family guy. I have a beautiful child. I make a lot of projects because I like the stories. If I like the story and if I like what’s being said, maybe a message that’s going through, or it could even just be a character, depending on what that is, I’m interested in doing it. Because I have a child, I’m constantly paying attention to the things that are going on in his life and as such, I’m paying attention to the kind of movies that I’m making just because they’re interesting to him. I want him to be out there watching these movies with me sometimes. Not every movie I make will be that way but a huge number of them will.
Dove: You mentioned working in Michigan recently on “The Homerun Showdown”. When will that be coming out?
Dean: You know I don’t know the answer. I’m an actor you know, we do our job and then they let us know when it’s coming out and we go talk about it. Another film coming soon is The Gift, which I co-wrote with my father.
Dove: That must have been special, to work with your dad.
Dean: Yeah, I love that. My dad’s great to work with (he’s a director).
We’ve done a number of projects together so it’s really been a fun process.
Dove: The Way Home is fantastic! People cry while watching it. You give a tremendous performance in it. When you lose your son and you have that breaking moment in the film, a lot of people can relate to that moment.
Dean: It’s a heart attack. It’s unbelievable. Any parent goes ‘Yep, I understand that feeling.’ It’s tough when it really takes place (a child being missing) over a much longer period of time and it’s the real thing, when the child is actually missing. Now you know you’re in big trouble.
Dove: How can they stand underneath that kind of stress and pressure?
Dean: I couldn’t do it. I would have a heart attack. It’s the worst possible place, to have to be in that head space all that time. That was no fun (acting out the scenes). I didn’t enjoy pretending on that one and I did not have a good time dealing with that at all.
Dove: What was it originally that appealed to you about this story?
Dean: Really, honestly, it was the story, as simple as that. The story sounded fantastic. I read the script and you know, it’s difficult to read a script when you’re tearing up and I was tearing up a lot. I said, ‘You know what? I’ve got to go make this project. I know It’s going to suck to make because I’m going to be in that head space for that period of time but it’s going to touch some people’s lives and it’s going to touch some families and that’s what I’m here for anyway so let’s go.’
Dove: We’ve heard actors say when they do scenes like this they get headaches sometimes and don’t feel well.
Dean: You feel sick to your stomach, you throw up, any of that sort of stuff can happen.
Dove: In the Special Features on the DVD, you speak with your counterpart, the real-life Randy Simpkins. When you went to make this film, did you attempt to mimic Randy’s mannerisms or did you just look at the character in the script and go with what was written on the page?
Dean: That’s a really good question. The truth of the matter is, because Randy and I are so different, I did not try to imitate anything that Randy did. When I played Scott Peterson, I had much more of– looking at his mannerisms and tried to do what he did. There was much more of that in that particular role; not so much in this one. This one was all sort of there and I asked Randy what he was going through emotionally and mentally. He was very, very candid with me about the things that he went through. Then I just tried to put those on the screen, which I got to tell you, is not an easy thing to do.
[Dean was proud of the result of the finished product on the screen. He added that the cast he worked with was fantastic and that he had not worked with them before. The cast includes Lori Beth Edgeman as Christal Simpkins and Sonny Shroyer as Ed Walker, a key character in the film who helps search for little Joe.]
Dean: Everybody was great. Because it was such a small film, because it was done in such a unique way, we shot it at the Simpkins’ home. Christal’s mom would make us food. I mean it was just ridiculous! It was just like a whole family undertaking.
[Dean said he and the cast have reminisced about their time together and their enjoyment of working together to make a very good film.]
Dean: The thing about this story is the way that everybody just dropped what they were doing and got together and went for the greater good of this child and said this is the most important thing; everything else can wait. When you’re doing really well and everything’s going great in your life it’s wonderful to have friends but when you absolutely need it and you’re even afraid to ask for it and everyone shows up it’s one of those things like in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’. It all just happens and they’re all there for you and it just blows you away. We knew we hit a scene well if we looked up and Randy (Simpkins) was crying.
Dove: What was it like working with Pierre Gagnon (Little Joe)?
Dean: He was great. I don’t know how a little boy at that age—I mean, I grew up around this business, in this business, I couldn’t have done that. There’s just no way! He was just fantastic and such a little card!
Dove: Not knowing the background and how the true story would end made it very interesting to watch the DVD to see what happened.
Dean: I’m glad you had that feeling because that really puts you in the head space that they were going through which was unbelievable. The only comments I get about this movie is, ‘What a wonderful film!’ That’s what I want to hear and it makes me happy to hear it, because I love the way the family comes together and the way everything happens in this picture. I’d like to believe that if it were to happen here (his home) the same sort of reaction would take place with my friends and family. A lot of movies are based on true stories. THIS IS THE STORY! There was almost no moment in this project, only two tiny little things that we’re aware of that weren’t actually what happened. It’s amazing.
Note: It is obvious that Dean Cain enjoyed doing this movie and everyone can see why on October 26, the DVD release date, when they can purchase a copy of The Way Home. As Dean pointed out, it’s all about the story.