Making a marriage work is tough enough on its own. But factor in being famous Hollywood actors with a young child, and the stakes just got so much higher. For actor Michael Biehn and his wife Jennifer Blanc Biehn, though, they’ve managed to not only have successful acting careers, but even find a way to keep their family intact, too, despite distant filming locations or 12+ hour workdays. We spoke exclusively with Michael and Jennifer about their careers, their 8-year-old son, Dashiell, and why the family that travels together, stays together.
As we’re talking, you’ve both come off of filming multiple movies and some major travel.
Jennifer: Michael was doing a movie in Australia and our son, Dashiell, even had a role in it! The timeframe of the movie got extended and I ended up getting a movie in Sydney. They asked me if I could learn five scenes in one night, and I said, “Yes!” I had wanted to go back to work, so it was perfect timing. And then, Michael got offered a movie in Thailand.
Michael: When I’m working, I’m completely focused, and Jennifer has to take over. She takes care of Dashiell almost completely on her own because I’m working 12-hour days and when I get home, I’m exhausted. I get up the next day and do it all over again. Acting is probably the best thing I do in my life, but it’s still work. There are long days, and you have to get there and do your best. And I’ve been doing it close to 50 years now.
Jennifer: I’ve been a mommy for quite some time now and that was my biggest focus. I was going to go back to work right around the time of the pandemic and then everything was at a standstill. But now that things are back to normal, and we’re both working again, we bring Dashiell with us. My husband and I like to travel as a family; we don’t like being apart too much.
Michael: I have five boys, and Dashiell has been able to travel with us more than any of the other boys have had in the past. It does keep the three of us together, and I have to say that going through the pandemic for two years, we did pretty well together.
That’s so nice! A lot of marriages ended during the pandemic.
Michael: I heard that. My mother said that a child in the marriage can either bond it or break it. I think the same thing is true of the pandemic; it either makes it or breaks it.
It’s very cool that you both have been able to give Dashiell these amazing experiences.
Jennifer: He travels really well with us. As he gets older, I’m sure that there will be more opinions and conversations that have to be had. When he was much younger, we always traveled with him. As a mother, it was something that I wanted to do. I don’t like the separation that can happen with families in this kind of profession.
Michael: Dashiell was our miracle child. He’s 8 now, but in eight years, he’ll be 16 and more independent. When they hit 16 and can drive and have a job, it’s like, “See you later, Dad. And can I have the keys to the car?” It was heartbreaking for me when my sons became independent. It’s brutal, even though you know that it’s the way it’s supposed to be.
I think you feel that sense of time as a parent, and then especially so with your last child.
Michael: I don’t think I realized how much I enjoyed being a parent when I was younger. Now I do, and that’s why Dashiell goes almost everywhere with us.
Jennifer: We try to do it as much as we can around school schedules.
What are some parenting issues that you’re finding now that you didn’t experience with your older sons?
Michael: The biggest question now raising a child is all the technology: the phone, the Internet, the devices, and how much is the right amount of time for a child to have the device? I’m not even sure there’s an answer. When your child has taken a bath, eaten dinner, and done their homework, it’s difficult to tell them to stay off their device. I mean, I’m on my device; Jennifer is on her device, and I wonder how that affects communication and the family hanging out together, just telling stories and laughing. I think it can cause you to be less intimate with your children.
It’s tough to navigate. It comes down to each family, really.
Michael: Right. The thing is that Dashiell learns so much from his device and it increases his knowledge of the world. He’s a bright kid and he’s got a great memory, too.
Jennifer: It’s true. Dashiell’s reading is wonderful; he’s always had a great way with words. And he loves science, too.
Michael: When I was his age, I knew 2% of what he knows. The devices opened up an incredible world to him. I pay attention to what he’s doing, though, and there’s nothing, and I mean nothing, that I won’t talk about with my son.
I know that the American Academy of Pediatrics advises against any tech before the age of two. But not only can your child learn so much it, but it can put them at a disadvantage for the kids who are introduced to tech at an earlier age.
Michael: That’s exactly right. If you wait too long, they’ll be so far behind the curve, and it will be harder for them to catch up.
Jennifer: I agree. And for the most part, he’s playing video games. He loves playing Minecraft. He builds these incredible houses in Minecraft, and I’m like, “Are you kidding?” [laughs] It’s truly amazing.
Having actors as parents, are you seeing any inclination towards Dashiell becoming an actor?
Jennifer: Well, he has a really great singing voice. I definitely see that Dashiell’s a performer. His older brother is also a performer and is in college in Bristol, England for acting. For two years in a row, Dashiell has done the Variety Show at his school. We’ll see if this is something he wants to do. Right now, he’s interested in a lot of different things.
As actors and parents, have the roles you’ve chosen changed over time?
Michael: When I did Law & Order, I was there for eight days, and then Jen and Dash came. When my twins were younger, they couldn’t travel with me. Having children has never affected the roles that I’ve chosen, but now the roles that I take, I have my son with me. My twins saw me the least, but my 30-year-old son would come visit me on set. My 20-year-old son was with my second wife. He left America when he was 8-years-old to live with his mother in England. I missed out on raising him to a certain extent and maybe that’s why he’s turned out so good! [laughs]
Jennifer: I think that as a mom, I’m a little more conservative in how I represent myself in general, in film or real life. That said, I feel that I’m still hip and fun, and I love my jewelry! I change it out all the time but it’s an everyday vibe. I love to stack! [laughs]
What’s next on the horizon for you both?
Jennifer: I’d love to do a series. I have a movie that was written for me that we’re looking into.
Michael, you’re a great bad guy. Do you still love doing bad guy roles?
Michael: Here’s the thing. I played Johnny Ringo, and I was the antagonist in The Abyss. And they’re fun to play. Right now, what’s important to me is that if I do anything, it has to be something that I’m passionate about. I did a small role on The Walking Dead, and it was kind of a bad guy, one that you couldn’t tell if he was a good guy or a bad guy. It was exciting.
It gets the juices going.
Michael: It does! I really enjoy acting. Being an actor — it just always works out pretty well for me. [laughs] You never know when you take on a project how it’s going to turn out. Tombstone had so many problems and now everyone loves it.
You know, yesterday, I was talking to Richard Dreyfus. He’s about 8-10 years older than me. He’s a brilliant actor and I put him in the same category as DeNiro and Hoffman — he’s in that group. He was in Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind — movies that I grew up on. I look at him and he’s out there doing it, and I probably will be, too. I’m not the kind of person who plans. I just wake up in the morning and say, “Okay, what’s happening today?” Hopefully it all goes well!” [laughs]
And that it goes well with your family.
Michael: Yes, we’re definitely The Three Musketeers.