‘Growing Pains’ star Jeremy Miller and doctor share how their 30-year friendship has stood the test of time

Growing Pains” actor Jeremy Miller had no idea he would make a friend for life when 11-year-old Brandon Lane Phillips came to the set one day with the Starlight Children’s Foundation, an organization devoted to make hospitalized kids' dreams come true.

Phillips, who suffered from a congenital heart defect, had but one wish: he wanted to meet his favorite sitcom star, the boisterous Ben Seaver, played by Miller.

Miller and Phillips' friendship has spanned more than 30 years.

The pair recently sat down with Fox News to discuss their new book, "When I Wished Upon a Star: From Broken Homes to Mended Hearts." They talked about their unlikely connection and the emotional surprises that have defined their friendship.

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Jeremy Miller as Ben Seaver on the hit '80s sitcom "Growing Pains."

Jeremy Miller as Ben Seaver on the hit '80s sitcom "Growing Pains." (ABC)

Fox News: Can you talk a little bit about the culmination of your friendship and how you got to this point?

Brandon Lane Phillips, MD: When I was 11 years old, I had a wish granted by the Starlight Children's Foundation because I was born with a congenital heart defect and growing up watching the Seavers on TV was one of my favorite pastimes. And when it came time for my wish, my wish was to meet Jeremy.

Jeremy Miller: It was a very cool experience for me. I was on the show and at the time I was having this dream life – which it was, believe me I mean the experiences I got to do were amazing. But as many people did, Brandon saw the kind of perfect family life I had on TV and imagined that my life was very similar, as most people did. And the funny thing is at the same time that Brandon was kind of watching our ideal family [and] wishing for that, I was wishing for the same thing.

I kind of came from a broken home as well and it was really cool to have this young man want to come and meet me. Brandon was the only wish kid who came to the set to specifically meet me and I just set out to make sure he had the best day possible.

Jeremy Miller starred as Ben Seaver from 1985 to 1992. 

Jeremy Miller starred as Ben Seaver from 1985 to 1992.  (Hollywood Museum/Getty)

Fox News: Did you guys hit it off right off the bat or did it take a little bit for you two to feel each other out?

Jeremy Miller: I think we really just hit it off the bat. I tend to be a very kind of open and gregarious person so I'm pretty sure I was all smiles going in, and Brandon and I started to converse very easily.

Dr. Brandon Phillips, MD: It was just a fun day. I grew up in a rural town and I got to fly out to Los Angeles to meet my favorite sitcom star. It couldn't have been a better day. Jeremy met us – met my limousine when we pulled onto the set and basically whisked me off to go have fun on the set and explore the surroundings. So we took a little bicycle tour of the studio lot and met back up and had dinner with the cast before watching a taping of the show. It was one of my favorite days of childhood.

Fox News: During the times where the two of you were out of touch, how did you manage to find each other again?

Jeremy Miller: Truthfully, I don't believe it was through any doing of our own (laughing) but we just were sort of placed in each other's lives, you know, at different times through seemingly random sets of circumstances. Brandon and I did keep in touch for a while after that day – but, talked on the phone a couple of times and wrote letters and stuff.

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But, yeah, there was a time where we did lose contact after the show had gone down and kind of went our separate ways. That was when I began dealing with a lot of my struggles with addiction and things like that.

And one of the things that I find very interesting and one of the things we talk about in the book is ... those parallels in our lives where Brandon was brought into my life at one time, where I was kind of there to give him hope and inspire him and have this great connection with him -- and then, through a complete ... coincidence, we end up reconnecting years later and it's at a time where I'm struggling and Brandon played a very key part in my recovery and my salvation.

Fox News: Through all of the serendipitous moments the two of you have experienced in your lives, how does this book come to fruition?

Dr. Brandon Phillips, MD: A few years ago, I was given a key to my city in my hometown in Louisiana and I had Jeremy come in for the event and we were offered the opportunity just to kind of speak, share the story about how we met, how we reconnected and kind of talk about what each of us has meant in the other's lives. And that evening, I kind of walked away from it that you know we really have a very unique story and I think people would benefit from hearing it and that's how we ended up writing the book.

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Fox News: Is there an underlying connection to the title of the book?

Dr. Brandon Phillips, MD: For me, I think the title of the book is also just kind of wishing upon the stars or basically saying a prayer to heaven. Because when I met Jeremy, what he didn't know was I had said a prayer to God: "Now if you love me, show me that you love me." And when I ended up on the set ... that evening, one of Jeremy's first questions for me was, "Where do you go to church?"'

This 1991 image released by ABC shows the cast of "Growing Pains," standing from left, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alan Thicke and Jeremy Miller, with Kirk Cameron, seated center left, and Joanna Kerns, seated center right, and Tracey Gold, seated left on floor and Ashley Johnson. 

This 1991 image released by ABC shows the cast of "Growing Pains," standing from left, Leonardo DiCaprio, Alan Thicke and Jeremy Miller, with Kirk Cameron, seated center left, and Joanna Kerns, seated center right, and Tracey Gold, seated left on floor and Ashley Johnson.  (Bob D'Amico/ABC via AP)

And then later that evening, one of his castmates pulled me aside and told me God had a plan for my life – not knowing kind of where I was in life or what I was struggling with, but I really left the set that evening feeling that, you know, God had a purpose for me being there and it's just played out over the last 30 years.

It's absolutely amazing just the way that Jeremy and my lives and intertwined over the years and the different connections that we have today. For me growing up in Louisiana and him growing up in Los Angeles, we still have kind of common people who've intersected with both of our lives at different times. It's really kind of an uncanny story in that aspect.

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Fox News: When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?

Dr. Brandon Phillips, MD: I've always said since I was 4 years old, I used to tell my parents that I wanted to be a doctor. I absolutely loved my pediatric cardiologist. Growing up, it was really a place where I just felt safe. He would call me his friend when I would go to doctor's visits to see him and just growing up I would talk about my desire to become a doctor and he always took it very seriously. In fact, he played a role in my training. So it's something I've kind of always known.

Fox News: Were there any low points in your friendship over the course of 30 years where you guys kind of relied on each other just to get through?

Jeremy Miller: I can say that, I mean for me – that was definitely the case when Brandon and I reconnected. I was really at the precipice of the downfall of my addiction – really the downhill part of it where it was really getting out of control. I was very good at keeping that kind of stuff hidden as best I could from the people around me. But Brandon did get a couple of views of that and was quite concerned. And you know, it's just amazing how two boys, two young boys both yearning for a family – 30 years later, we've become each other's family.

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I really did lean on Brandon and confiding in him in how much I was struggling and he really stepped up and vouching for me and helping me get sober. So it has been an amazing gift and blessing to have this extended family to lean on as well as you know my own amazing family.

Dr. Brandon Phillips, MD: Well, I first met Jeremy when I was 11. And, like I said, I was struggling with being a kid that hasn't an illness as well as just my family has separated when I was five. So meeting Jeremy just kind of gave me hope for my future – if I could come meet my favorite celebrity, to me I could do anything. And that day really just changed my life's trajectory.

Fox News: Have there been any talks to make your story into a movie or a show of any kind?

Dr. Brandon Phillips, MD: Everyone is telling us that. If someone is willing to do that we'd be more than happy to discuss it, but there's no official talks at this point. But that's what everyone kind of keeps telling us, especially those that read the book and see how truly intertwined things are. And really, it's all in, the details of the book and how everything came together that makes the story truly special.

Fox News: We can already envision the scenes playing out on a big screen.

Jeremy Miller: Truthfully, I feel the same way. Getting to work on the book and be a part of Brandon's story for me has been such an honor. And getting to learn more about the details of his story. As a fan of good films, I've thought the exact same thing. Getting to see the culmination of all these amazing serendipitous events. I just make such an incredible story.

Fox News: Is there anything you miss today in Hollywood that you saw when you were at your peak?

Jeremy Miller: The connection with my huge extended family we had on the show, we were a very close set. And the philanthropic things I used to get to do; working with the homeless and things like that, giving back you know. I still do on a smaller scale but that level of fame allows you a bigger platform for that kind of thing. But those are the things I miss the most about that time.

But looking at Hollywood now, what I miss most is the feel of the films and the TV and stuff. You know, we had a much more family-oriented time that was not such a realistic portrayal of life, and I miss that a little bit – the idealistic days. I mean, I'm a fan of great realistic television and film as well. But there's a little something missing from those great glory days of TV and film, in my opinion.

Fox News: What are some of the programs you turn to the most?

Jeremy Miller: If it's old school, I still rely on "M.A.S.H"' as my go-to. I'm an insomniac, so if I need to binge something old school that I want to relax too, "M.A.S.H" is still probably my favorite. New school, I like any of the good comedies and the drama and stuff. You know, like I said, I'm a fan of the realistic stuff, so "The Wire" was a brilliant crime drama and show.

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But you know, classic television – our era, "The Cosby Show," classic sitcom in the ‘70s. I mean, I grew up on "Happy Days" and "M.A.S.H" and all that stuff. So those are the times I remember the best. I'm a huge fan of the ‘90s stuff and I was a big fan of
"Roseanne" and "Married With Children" and all that stuff. But I miss those classic days.

Dr. Brandon Phillips, MD: Growing up, I spent a lot of time home alone because my mom worked nights. So, I watched a lot of TV shows and would kind of look at different shows and would kind of go, "I really wish my family looked like that show or when I grew up and have a family, I really want to be that way." So the shows that I have a strong family, really still have an interest to me. My favorite show that I'm watching right now is "Blue Bloods." I recently found it – I've been binge-watching it. But my favorite thing about it is the Reagan family of the show and how close-knit that family is.

Fox News: What are some things each of you do to keep your mind mentally sharp?

Jeremy Miller: Being in recovery that, is extremely important to me and my well-being. So I love to read. That's one of the ways I like to stay sharp as well as playing chess and poker. But time to myself to recharge, meditate a little bit. Pray. And also just kind of being mindful and aware of my emotions, my mindset, how I'm feeling and where I'm at during the day and making sure that I'm doing what I need to do in relation to that.

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If I'm overstressed or over-anything, then the first thing I need to do is, you know, jump into service and start thinking about how I can be helping someone else and that'll usually pull me out of whatever funk I'm in.

Dr. Brandon Phillips, MD: For me, it's just spending time with my family. I moved back to Louisiana a couple of years ago to be closer to my mom and my sister, so anytime I'm out of the office and not seeing patients, I always enjoy just getting to recharge with them.