We first fell in love with Sean Astin, watching him play Mikey in The Goonies. We then cheered him on in the critically acclaimed movie, Rudy, and we laughed through the Lord of the Rings trilogy watching him play the trusty sidekick to Frodo Baggins as Samwise Gamgee. Today, Astin is playing a character closer to home – and his heart – on the new Netflix show, No Good Nick. Portraying the loveable dad, Ed, Astin says is the closest character he’s ever played to himself. We sat down with the actor and father of three daughters to talk about being Dad, on and off screen.
Congrats on the new show, No Good Nick! It’s very unique compared to other family shows on Netflix. How would you say this show stands out?
No Good Nick takes a more dramatic, intriguing turn. It’s more of a thriller. The lead character is a 14-year-old criminal, breaking the law. It’s entertaining but a little disturbing. It’s made for binge-watching and it’s very plot-driven.
What drew you to the character, Ed?
I’d like to believe I AM Ed. I like that in this strangely unique show of intrigue, Ed gets to be typical. He’s dependable. Reliable. Upbeat. Happy.
According to the synopsis of the show, “The series will be highly serialized and show how each character is flawed in their own way. People make mistakes and can sometimes do the wrong thing for the right reasons.” How would you say this pertains to your character?
For all the reasons I describe Ed as being reliable and typical, as the show goes on, there are other aspects of his character that are revealed that are less than appealing or morally certain. It’s unsettling when these moments come about. I hate it when I see what Ed does and he’s not the perfect family dad — Ed and the “Edness” that I know. But, of course, the writers are correct in wanting to make it more specific. At one point in the show, all the stuff in our garage goes missing and Ed calls the police and insurance and his attitude is cavalier. You think he would be a rule follower.
You have three kids, as a parent how do you relate to sometimes making mistakes and/or being flawed?
Frequently. You know, I’m so disappointed in myself a lot for not being better. My life philosophy and sense of myself is that I am a perfect father. But I watch how I am with my kids and I am not present enough. I travel and am busy all the time. Not having enough time with them is a typical strain I deal with. The weekend comes and they want to do stuff, but I want to do nothing. My spirit has high standards, but my body doesn’t. My kids are articulate and intelligent, so I tend to relate to them like grownups. They are on high moral ground. Thank god for my wife and her ability to see the best in me and help me be better. I know I am hard on myself as a dad but it’s with good reason. But, I think people are people. We try to be the best part of ourselves.
Your daughters are 13, 16 and 22, so, you’re in the thick of teenage hood! What are some of the biggest challenges you would say parenting this age group?
The biggest challenge is weathering the mood changes! When Elizabeth is in a fantastic mood – giggly, bouncy, happy – I get to the point where I don’t trust it. Yes, this is the person I like, but I know the other person is coming soon after. And I know sometimes it’s because they are too tired, too hungry, have too much homework, but they can have sour turns in mood. Every now and then, they will tell me, ‘I’m just hormonal.’ My wife reminds me, “Bella is 13, Give her a break.” I think I have the same emotion all the time. If my daughters heard me say that, they would fall on the floor cackling.
What are the great rewards?
Just watching them. When things happen in the world and in the news and school and work, most times you can look at them and their impressions are so wise. They are wise beyond their years. That’s not to say they can’t be dumb and annoying and all the things that we can all be. I just enjoy their accomplishments. Like when my daughter was up all night doing an assignment and she texted me when she found out that she got 67 out of 68. How do you quantify the joy that brought me for those two minutes? The worst part and the best part of parenting is the same – watching them grow. Every minute they grow and they’re not the same person they were before. And while you miss them, at the same time, you feel lucky to see the person they are becoming.
As a dad to all girls, what message or piece of advice do you want to instill on your daughters as they transition into young women?
Dads want to make sure their daughters are safe. That they are prepared and can protect themselves. That’s the practical answer. But, more importantly, I want them to know their own power. Their own strength. They are incredibly powerful. The more they know that, the better they will be, and the world will be. They are capable of so much. If you want it and dream it, you can probably achieve it. Dreams can be grounded in reality. There is no reason why they couldn’t run the world.
On your website, you say ““People will root for anyone who shows them their heart.” I think in your bio on the site, this pertains to the characters you have played in TV and movies, but I think it’s a great message for anyone, really. How do you think this message can pertain to parenting teens?
It probably pertains to parenting more than anything else in the world. The human instinct is to root for others. If I said, ‘Ok, here’s a pill bug on the desk. This pill bug wants more than anything to make it across the room to get a crumb.” If it said, “I really want to get that bread crumb before I die,” you’d be routing for it. Human beings can invest their emotions in anything. It takes a little bit of courage to let people in. Whatever it is you’re trying to do, more likely than not, people will want to support it. We know it’s true when it comes to tragedies – shooting, floods, fires. During these big dramatic moments in life, people rally. It’s important to understand the truth of that quote in everyday life. It doesn’t mean you get everything you want, but people routing for you better than being against you.
You’re a vocal advocate on many issues including literacy, mental health awareness and civic engagement. Why are these issues so important to you?
It’s the way I was raised. My parents picketed through labour strikes. Everyone has a right to express themselves and be heard in the game of life. I’m trying to be humble. The older I get, the more I know that I don’t know. But I feel things passionately.
Mental health awareness is important when it comes to parenting teens these days. What would you like parents to know when it comes to their teens’ mental health?
You have to eat properly. Get regular sleep. Be physically active. Before I start talking about the emotional life of teens, those three basic things have to be met. I think beyond that, willingness to interact with the professional community is admirable. Not everyone needs to see a therapist but being open to the possibility and exploring when necessary is admirable. We’re all in this together. You can’t live someone else’s life for them. But a kind word here and there or a thoughtful gesture can change people’s lives with a little goodness and caring.
How do you check in on your daughters’ well-being?
We’re all in each other’s face all the time. That’s not to say that things don’t get said in arguments or in the heat of the moment, but we don’t judge each other. We can always recover because we have dialogue. We’re comfortable talking to one another.