Michael Landon Jr. has a new series on the Hallmark channel called “When Calls the Heart.” The 49-year-old producer spoke to FOX411 about the series, his faith and growing up with his famous Dad.
FOX411: We imagine you grew up idolizing your Dad so when he left you must have been devastated.
Michael Landon Jr.: In my eyes my father was perfect and everybody around me was affirming that as well. Listen, we all go through that to a certain degree. It was heightened and exaggerated for me when you have the perfect father on TV. The hard part was when it separated itself. I had the most amazing childhood. I'm grateful to my father and mother for my childhood.
FOX411: Did you go through a stage of not talking to your father?
Landon: Oh yeah there was all sorts of bitterness and resentment and anger and being erratic. Racing my car and flipping it. Stupid, crazy behavior.
FOX411: But you reconciled.
Landon: Yes at the end of the day if my God's forgiven me for all the things I've done in my past, why would I not be charitable and do the same thing for anybody else in my life. At the end of the day it's a necessary mark for anybody's wholeness - you have to forgive.
FOX411: You became born again at age 19.
Landon: I was lost big time. My parents separated and divorced when I was 16. My world came crashing down. I was floundering. I was completely lost and bitter and everything that was built up in terms of my life and what I thought my life was, the perception of family and togetherness came crashing down. So I was very bitter, turned to drugs and alcohol and started throwing my life away.
My mom was a wreck as well and she ended up going to church. She turned her life around, so obviously seeing what kind of shape I was in she tried to get me to come and I had no interest in it whatsoever. Then finally just to appease her I went. I couldn't tell you what that pastor said but he definitely spoke to my heart and after rejecting, not wanting to go and finally going, two hours in I raised my hand and turned my life over to God.
FOX411: So will you only work on Christian themed projects? No “American Hustle” for you?
Landon: To me it's not as much about the content as it is the intent of the storytelling. If the intent isn't going against my world view then the rating of the film isn't the main thing I'm thinking of.
FOX411: Tell me about the show.
Landon: It's based on the second best-selling series of books by Janette Oke. She's an author who has sold well over 30 million copies and she's huge in the Christian fiction romance area. This particular series is set in 1910. It's about a young teacher who is accustomed to high society life in the big city but she chooses to take on a teaching position in a poor coal mining town and forgo the comforts of her privileged life in the hopes that she can make an impact in the community. And like all of Janette Oke's work there's always romance so there's a handsome Mountie.
FOX411: Was it hard [growing up with] the name Michael Landon Jr.?
Landon: Obviously, you walk for a while in the shadow of your father. This doesn't just go for juniors, it's anyone whose father is successful. You have to get past the sense of entitlement and all the different things that come with it so you end up working really hard, honing on your own craft, creating your own content and your own vision. Listen I grew up in Beverly Hills on seven acres in a mansion with all sorts of help. It was unbelievable.
I had some tough knocks thank God. My mom kicked me out of the home, cut me off financially. I was not happy at the time, having come from an extremely extravagant lifestyle but thank God they did that to me.
FOX411: You must have been like, “Wait a minute I'm Michael Landon Jr.!”
Landon: Oh yeah. There were some very humbling moments. I remember working at an Italian restaurant called Giuseppe's and there'd be a spilled drink and the owner would call me over, tell me to clean it up, and as I was walking away he would tell all the patrons at the table, “That's Michael Landon's son working for me.” But I thank God for that.
FOX411: What was your favorite show of your father's?
Landon: “Little House,” hands down.
FOX411: Because you were in it?
Landon: I was only in one episode! I had seven lines!
FOX411: We’re teasing.
Landon: It was because of the time we got together as a family. It was a bonding experience and I was so proud of my father and the work he did. When he was ill, the amount of letters that poured in thanking him, it was overwhelming. He touched so many people's lives in such a good way. How many people are able to say that now?