Ricky Schroder has a wild heart. The star of Silver Spoons and The Champ penned and directed Our Wild Hearts, his first family film starring his daughter, Cambrie. We spoke with Ricky exclusively at The Peninsula Hotel in NYC about growing up in the spotlight, how work and family life blend organically, and how he’s an ever-evolving dad.
Photos: Gabbeli Photography
Hair/Makeup: Yana Gorcheva (makeupbyyana.com)
Hair/Makeup: Delmar Maurice
Let’s talk about your new movie Our Wild Hearts on the Hallmark Movie Channel.
Our Wild Hearts is the story of a girl named Willow who tracks down the father she never knew. She shows up on my doorstep—I play the father in the film—and I never even knew that I had a daughter because she was kept secret from me. It’s about a father and a daughter getting to know each other on a ranch, and a wild mustang named Bravo who comes between them. My
character catches wild mustangs and then breaks their spirits to sell them to people to ride them. She’s not down with that.
We should mention that Willow is played by your daughter, Cambrie.
Our Wild Hearts is Cambrie’s screen acting debut. I was very proud to be the first director she worked with. She was in a music video I directed when she was younger. Ever since she was six, she’s wanted to act, but I’ve held her back. She’s studied a little and had auditions, but I’m glad that she never got a part. She’s 16 now; she’s a young woman. If she wants a career as a performer, that’s okay. She has very business-minded goals and there’s a way to integrate the two. She has a chance now to become a young woman and have that career.
What was it like working on the film together?
Cambrie got to understand her father better, and I got to understand my family better, which was the hidden surprise of this whole thing. My four kids and my wife were part of the cast and crew and worked hard on the film. They got to see what it was like to be in my shoes for a month, in pre-production and post-production, and to see what it takes to make a movie. I got to understand them better—I found out that their work ethic is amazing. Unless you work with someone, you don’t really know how they are. Are they giving 100% or really only 50%? Are they pitching in or standing and watching? So it was good to learn about my family from that perspective.
It’s cute because Cambrie resembles you the most. Is she similar to you in personality as well?
Of all the kids, she’s the most like me. Her focus, her work ethic and her calmness; she’s goal-oriented. She’s very much like me.
What I like about your family is that it’s not the typical
Hollywood family. You guys fly fairly low under the radar.
We live our lives. I didn’t want my kids to be child performers. In fact, my two sons have no interest in that side of the business. The girls do, but the boys, not so much. We live as a family. When we go to premieres, they get a taste of it. It’s not part of our family goals to be a famous family in the spotlight. This was a film that we made just because we wanted to do it together.
It’s like the ultimate quality time. I bring my kids along with me to cover shoots sometimes when it’s someone they love and it’s cool that you are incorporating your kids into your work, too.
It’s exactly like Bring Your Child to Work Day! [laughs]
Let’s talk about the actual filming of the movie. What was the process like?
As a family, we would sometimes commute in . I treated my family members as I would any other cast; with respect and kindness when they did their jobs. And when they didn’t, I would get on them and ride them as hard as I would anyone else. There was no slack. I expect a lot of my cast and my crew. I expect 12 good, hard hours of work. Not 14, not 11. I expect 12. And that’s how I was raised; that’s all you can expect of anyone. I ask my actors to show up prepared, to know their lines, but to also show up with a point of view or a perspective. It’s a very collaborative process. For Our Wild Hearts, my sons were involved in the camera department; they were also on camera. And my wife would work on the script with me. While I would love to work with my family on another project, I don’t think it’s something that we’ll do right away; if it happens organically that would be great. I want Cambrie to finish high school first.
Now, you’re a very outdoorsy family as well.
We are. We live on a farm. We have three miniature donkeys, 20 ducks, ten chickens, and two dogs. We have a great life; we live in Los Angeles but in the mountains. We’re close enough but we still feel like we’re away.
I would say that you’re one of the few lucky ones who started out as a child actor and came out fairly unscathed.
Well, I wouldn’t say unscathed. [laughs] There’s definitely some…scar tissue. How could you come out of it unscathed? I’ve worked during five decades, which is a mind-bend. But the thing that is really unique—and I don’t know if people will get this—is that I don’t remember a time before fame. I became famous at 8 for The Champ, and I don’t have any frame of reference before it. I look at the world through rose-colored glasses. Fame is my normal, which makes it not unnormal, if that makes sense. It’s not that fame isn’t special; it’s just my life.
But it’s interesting that you’re giving your kids what most would consider to be a very normal childhood.
I want them to find their own paths in life. That was done for me. I like where I’m at, but that was done for me. At some point, I had to choose to continue. I want to help them find their paths and helping them do what they love to do.
How would you describe yourself as a dad?
I’m an evolving dad. You have to be adaptable and you have to parent each kid differently. I used to put a lot of focus on things that I no longer do. I used to be much stricter with homework. I value different things now; I value kindness as opposed to geometry. My son had a major motorcycle accident when he was 15. That was one of the biggest things to help me evolve; it made me prioritize things in a new way. I want to help them find their happiness.
Do you find that your kids need you more as they get older? I do.
Absolutely. Your kids need you as much today as they did when they were babies but it’s in a totally different way. That’s why I’m redefining my relationships with my sons. They are adults so you have to find new ways to communicate—not as parent to child, but as an adult child.
You’ve been married to your wife Andrea for 20 years. How do you describe the success of your relationship?
You go through good times and tough times; it’s seasonal. But you go through it together. At different times you’re at different places. Ultimately, you have to fall back on intimacy; if you lose that physical connection, that’s when it can potentially go bad.
So basically you’re suggesting for people to get it on.
Yes, even when you’re mad, still get it on! [laughs] It brings you together in that special way that only husbands and wives can. Admit when you’re wrong, and for husbands who are trying to fix things, just listen to your wife. I finally realized that she doesn’t want me to fix it; I had to learn to just listen. I think it’s important for people to realize that your marriage is not over unless you want it to be over. You have to fight for your marriage; ultimately it’s the kids who suffer when there’s a divorce.
What are your future plans?
I’m writing quite a bit; I’m working on pilots and I’m writing TV movies. I still want to act. Acting is my core love but it’s hard to find good parts. And when you’ve worked on great scripts and with great actors, it’s hard to settle. So in between those great opportunities, I write. Hopefully I’ll produce more movies. I’d like to work with my family again.
But at this point, I’m really focused on my family. I’m trying to help my sons find their paths. I want to continue to help my wife transition as they leave. It’s a major loss. We had kids when we were 20 and 18; those boys are part of our DNA. So now as they are preparing to leave, it’s a bit of a grieving process. I want to help us get through that as a family. I want to help Andrea with her business as well. I’m making time to support her because she’s supported me for so many years. There are family goals and individual goals. And you have to support each other through all of it. It makes your family so much stronger.
For more info on Our Wild Hearts, please click here.