Turning the lens on homelessness

Dean Cain’s latest project was filmed in Grand Rapids.
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Dean Cain visited Grand Rapids as part of the filming for "One Life at a Time." Courtesy Mel Trotter Ministries

Dean Cain, best known for his role as Superman/Clark Kent in the TV series “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman,” visited Grand Rapids in June to film “One Life at a Time,” based in part on the story of Mel Trotter, founder of Mel Trotter Ministries. The film is scheduled to release Oct. 10 to mark World Homeless Day. Cain plays Jason Campbell, father of Carson Campbell, whose life is changed when he is sentenced to work at Mel Trotter Ministries after breaking the law. Carson Campbell is played by Luke Schroder, son of actor Ricky Schroder. Cain spoke to Grand Rapids Magazine during his visit here.

GRM: What drew you to this film?

Dean Cain: I’ve worked with director Jason Campbell on a number of films about the human condition and/or issues of faith that have a positive message. We hadn’t done a film that dealt with homelessness, and it was being filmed in my home state of Michigan. As an actor you can make big-time movies and also make movies that can help people and make a difference. This film is about making a difference.

GRM: How has homelessness touched you?

DC: I remember a time when my family had to shack up with friends for a couple of weeks. I thought it was great, but I realize now how much stress my parents were under while we were homeless. Later when I was just out of college and doing some writing, I would sit with the homeless in Santa Monica and ask about their stories. Their stories were both fascinating and tragic. These people were someone’s son or daughter, mother or father. Homelessness is sort of a grand term that is hard to relate to, but it’s different when you meet Eddie or Susan and learn their stories.

GRM: How has your understanding of homelessness changed?

DC: I’d love to see homelessness eradicated in the United States, but I don’t think this will happen because some people want to live as they are. Before doing this film, I thought the number of people who wanted to be homeless was maybe 40%, but it’s really about 5% who want to be homeless.

I understand now that there are so many factors to consider. When I was young, I was idealistic. But when you’ve gone through life, you see how fragile the human condition can be. Bad breaks and bad decisions happen — there is such a fine line. I have a lot more empathy for people now about what has happened to them and why.

“I hope people have more compassion for those who are on the streets, and maybe ask who this person really is.”
Dean Cain

GRM: What do you think now when you see a person who is homeless?

DC: When I see someone panhandling, I don’t want to give him or her money. I want to give him clothing or food because money isn’t always the answer. It’s always a wonderful thing to give someone a hand up, not just a handout. There are so many ways to receive a hand up when a person takes ownership of his or her life. It’s freeing.

GRM: How has your faith played a role in the films you make?

DC: The most wonderful thing I can do is to help people, and that comes from my faith and love for humanity. Sometimes that means telling one person’s story, [like in this film]. I may forget about it for a while, but when someone comes up and says thank you for making that film because it changed my life, I’m so thankful I could be part of a film like this.

GRM: What do you hope this film does for those who see it?

DC: I hope people have more compassion for those who are on the streets, and maybe ask who this person really is. I’d like them to think twice about people who are homeless instead of not thinking at all.

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