Alan Thicke Interview: TV Legend Talks Hallmark's "Stop the Wedding," Raising Robin and "Fuller House"
Image attributed to Alan Thicke
Alan Thicke is a Canadian actor, songwriter and game and talk show host best known for his role as Jason Seaver, the patriarch in the ABC sitcom Growing Pains (1985-1992). The show ran for 7 seasons with a total of 166 episodes aired. He is the father of singer, songwriter, record producer, Robin Thicke.
Other television appearances include The Alan Thicke Show, Thicke of the Night, The Love Boat, 7th Heaven, Joey, How I Met Your Mother, I’m in the Band, Celebrity Wife Swap, Scream Queens and Unusually Thicke (reality show). Thicke’s book, How to Raise Kids Who Won’t Hate You has been a popular sequel to his amusing How Men Have Babies: The Pregnant Father’s Survival Guide.
“I’d like to think I’ve tried just about everything. I don’t think there’s anything I haven’t done. There are several things I’d like to do better. The great thing about the entertainment business is that you never know. There’s always that opportunity just around the corner of some other challenge or thing you get invited to do; then you can raise your game. I think there’s no ceiling that way.”
Thicke stars alongside Rachel Boston, Niall Matter, Lini Evans and Teryl Rothery, in Hallmark’s original movie, Stop the Wedding, which premieres on June 11, 2016. He will also make an appearance on the Netflix original series, Fuller House, during its second season.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Alan, in Stop the Wedding, you play a handsome celebrity stud who’s been married several times. What can you tell us about the movie?
Alan Thicke: Well, I like that description, handsome celebrity stud. I like that. But yes, this character has been married a few times. I’m referred to, I think, in their PR as a mature actor, which is a nice way of saying older, fading, or whatever else that may describe this guy, which makes him suspicious in the plot. I’ve been married four times, and I’m having a whirlwind romance literally a month or so, with a widow, so both my family and hers are suspicious that there might be some ulterior motive there. Therein lies the stuff to stop the wedding.
It turns out that my character has a handsome son who’s a doctor, and the widow has a lovely niece who’s a working girl in search of love. At first, of course, when those two meet, they can’t stand each other, so you know exactly where that’s going to go.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Right into a romance?
Alan Thicke: That’s right. By the time there’s a happy ending, those two are going to like each other more. The Hallmark movies typically are going to resolve the ending. It’s going to be family fare. You’re not going to see the walking dead at the wedding reception. There will be no shootouts, and people won’t die of horrible diseases. Everything will come to a lovely conclusion.
The brilliance of Hallmark, as far as I’m concerned, and I’ve done a number of their movies, is that they have a wonderful formula. They always manage to surprise you and introduce a lot of twists and turns, usually comedic, before they get you to the end. As predictable as their endings may be, the path to get there is always pretty entertaining. I have great respect for them. They know exactly what their audience is and how to trick them.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I did a recent interview with Marilu Henner who also has a new Hallmark movie premiering this weekend with Candace Cameron Bure.
Alan Thicke: Oh, yeah. I played Candace’s father last year in one of these movies. I think I’m just a tradition with them, a good luck charm. They use me in at least one Christmas picture a year. I’ve now played every Christmas character, I think, except Prancer and Vixen. Now they’ve dragged me into the summer fare, the June movies, and that’s been quite fun. This is my first go-round with them doing that. But once again, they just understand how to put these things together, and they’re highly successful. This was great fun to do.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And the movie is based on a book by novelist Stephanie Bond.
Alan Thicke: Yes, they know their stuff. I haven’t met Stephanie, but she must’ve done a nice job to get their attention and get a lovely movie out of it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Had you worked with Rachel Boston prior to this movie?
Alan Thicke: I had not. Of those cast members, I had worked with Teryl Rothery. Teryl is in this movie, but the others were all complete strangers.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Why did you want to go into the entertainment industry, Alan?
Alan Thicke: Well, my family was from a small gold-mining community in the far north of Ontario, Canada. My dad made a point of making sure that I worked in the gold and uranium mines every summer so that I understood how important it was to get an education and maybe one day have a chance to leave that small town. He was very good in guiding us in that direction and instilled some ambition in us that made us want to go somewhere else. At high school, I performed in all the variety shows and drama clubs and that sort of thing, emceed programs in town.
Before I left town, I had a little rock and roll band, and we played at parties, so I was doing a number of things I was interested in that I thought might be a path out of town sooner or later, and it was. I worked at the CBC in Canada for a few years and then came down to try my luck in the States.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You began by producing shows like Fernwood 2 Night?
Alan Thicke: Yeah. In the heyday of variety television, I was behind the scenes. I was a writer, and that was for about 10 years. That was for some of the favorite variety shows of those days. I wrote for Flip Wilson, Glen Campbell, Mac Davis, Olivia Newton John, Richard Pryor, Bill Cosby, Sammy Davis. I wrote for all those variety shows and names that aren’t even with us anymore, Paul Lynde, Bobby Darin, Johnny Cash (laughs). I got around in those days.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): And I watched many of those variety shows, especially in the 1970s.
Alan Thicke: Good! Then you understand.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Absolutely! Nothing was better than the variety show format in those days. People sort of related to Jason Seaver as “everyone’s dad” during the 7 years Growing Pains was on. Were you typecast when the show ended?
Alan Thicke: There’s a certain amount of typecasting, but I enjoyed the role. I enjoyed what the character stood for and what the show aspired to do, which was to entertain and also be somewhat of an example as to what we all would hope our family dynamic could be. I was proud of that.
If I had one thing I had to leave on my tombstone, and it had to be “Jason Seaver,” I’ll take that. It was a role not too far away from my own life experiences and my own values. It has been good to me in all these subsequent years.
It’s true that I play a lot of dad and now grandpa parts, but I also get enough of the other stuff that I get to spread my wings a little bit. But “Jason Seaver” certainly was my stock and trade and the image that has stayed with me. I’m comfortable with that. Better than a slasher, serial killer.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You will be guest-starring on Fuller House’s second season. Is this a cameo?
Alan Thicke: No, it’s an actual role in an episode that’s kind of funny and interesting. I don’t play Jason Seaver. I play another kind of guy altogether. I’ll leave it as a bit of a surprise except to say that I come into the household as somebody’s date, and it is a shock and a surprise to everybody.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Tell me about Unusually Thicke.
Alan Thicke: It’s an unscripted sitcom. The third season goes on the air in September on the Pop network. The reason they describe it as an unscripted sitcom is that we have a storyline, so we know what story we’re trying to tell, but there’s no dialogue. There’s no script for it.
They put us in a scene knowing we have to accomplish something in that scenes to take us to the next scene, but they don’t tell us what to say. In that sense, it’s reality because we’re making it up on the spot, but we know what the overall story arc is intended to be.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): If you were raising kids today, what would be your number one concern?
Alan Thicke: I think nowadays it’s staying ahead of social media or at least trying to keep up with it. Social media has such an influence and is such a voice for young people that we have to be aware as parents what they’re exposed to, what they’re hearing and to make sure our voices get heard.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Robin said in a recent magazine interview that, as a dad, you were not as strict as he is. He said that he takes all the intelligence and love and conversation you gave him, and he throws a little more discipline in there.
Alan Thicke: (laughs) I always made the mistake of over-trusting, you know. You think that you’re trying to set an example, and you lay down the perimeters, and you expect teenagers to make the right decisions. They do occasionally, but some of it gets away from you. In that sense, yes, I would say my guilt was not so much in not being a disciplinarian, it was in being too trusting. They would occasionally sneak something by me.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Have you and Robin remained close over the years?
Alan Thicke: We always had a very loving, connected relationship, and we still do today. But, it’s true. I could’ve watched them on the occasional Saturday evening a little closer than I did. I should’ve asked more questions (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’ve been a musician, a composer, an actor, game shot host. What would be something you want to do that you haven’t done yet?
Alan Thicke: I’d like to think I’ve tried just about everything. I don’t think there’s anything I haven’t done. There are several things I’d like to do better. The great thing about the entertainment business is that you never know. There’s always that opportunity just around the corner of some other challenge or thing you get invited to do; then you can raise your game. I think there’s no ceiling that way.
I suppose the one thing that I’ve never really been tested at is any deeply dramatic role. I always get offered the light comedic or romantic comedy roles, and occasionally I get something dramatic where I play a bad guy even. But in terms of a full-length movie where I get to play something serious, I haven’t been challenged that way, and I don’t even know how I would do, but I’d be willing to give it a try.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Is there anything else you’d like to discuss?
Alan Thicke: There’s something I’m into and proud of that’s worth mentioning. It’s a source website for research material on controversial issues, and it is, in fact, one of the number one sources for all the CNN and Fox news pundits during this election year. It’s a website called procon.org. Pro/Con means they present the pros and the cons of any important issue, and that could be gun control, abortion, immigration, you name it. It’s especially important in this election year.
They’ve been a well-kept secret in American education. They’ve been around for 11 years and have had over 100 million views on the website, but now because it’s an election year, they want to reach out and be interactive and have a presence on social media. They’ve always been a very academic website where teachers, students and pundits know where to turn for fact-checking, but now they want to be more mainstream, so they brought me in to spread the word.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Can people go there to find out more about the issues that are important during this election?
Alan Thicke: Yes, and if you wanted to find out the pros and cons that have been written or researched about zoos, you can find that out there. We recently had this controversy in Cincinnati where the gorilla got shot, and people started commenting on whether we should even have animals in captivity. There’s a whole Pro/Con argument about animal welfare in zoos.
You can educate yourself or write a thesis if you’re in school. If you wanted it to be a political issue for your platform, you’ll get all the info you’ll need right there. That’s what they do. They provide the pros and cons on all sorts of controversial subjects, and it’s a non-profit educational research website supported by foundation donations like Google and Microsoft. They all donate to this project to make sure the research is continued and up-to-date.
The website is still in that very dry academic state, but our goal, in the next couple of months, is to lighten the load and make it kind of fun, let people comment and have it be interactive. It’s smart. I promise you’ll learn something about something, whatever you are interested in.
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