Barry Watson is graduating from Matt Camden on "7th Heaven" to the role of single dad on UP TV's new comedy, "Date My Dad."
- Posted on Jun 7, 2017
When Barry Watson landed a role on the hit family show 7th Heaven as Matt Camden, the teenaged son of a California pastor, Watson quickly became a 90s heartthrob. More than 20 years later, the actor is back on the small screen in a new family-friendly show Date My Dad, where fans can see a different side to the star.
In the UP TV comedy, Watson stars as Ricky Cooper, a widowed father of three young girls who conspire to push him back into the dating pool after realizing he’s not doing enough to take care of himself. Watson, who has three kids of his own, spoke to Guideposts.org about graduating to the role of dad in his real life and on TV, his time on 7th Heaven and why he still has to convince people that he really is the guy who played Matt Camden.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader
GUIDEPOSTS: How did Date My Dad happen?
BARRY WATSON: I’m a father now and I’d been looking for a single father concept show. I’m getting older; I can’t play the younger roles anymore. A couple years ago, I was having dinner with Barbara Fisher with the UP network and she pitched the idea to me. I didn’t hear anything for a year and then they sent the script over last summer and it was so much better than what she pitched me. It was so sweet and funny, a little bit of everything, and I loved that it wasn’t about this father who’s a bumbling idiot. I emailed Barbara that night after I got the script and said, ‘This is so great. You’re terrible at pitching scripts. I’m your guy.’
GUIDEPOSTS: It is really nice to see Ricky Cooper portrayed as a single, competent dad. TV comedy can be hard on dads in general.
BW: Ricky’s not perfect. He makes mistakes, but that’s all part of being a real parent and being a human being. Life is messy, but how do we learn from those mistakes? He just wants to make sure his daughters are okay and then we realize that he’s been so focused on taking care of his family that he hasn’t been taking care of himself and that’s where the girls come in to kind of push him out the door and get him living life again.
GUIDEPOSTS: Have you taken anything from your own experience raising two boys and a daughter?
BW: It’s fun because I get to bring in stuff from my own life but I actually get to experience things on the show that have helped me as a father in the future, especially with my daughter. I’m kind of going, ‘Oh, okay. Now I see what I might be in for in 10 years with my daughter.’
GUIDEPOSTS: That could be a good or a bad thing.
BW: (Laughing) Exactly! But I’ve walked away a little bit more prepared for the future.
GUIDEPOSTS: Have you learned anything new about women from being a dad to them on TV and at home?
BW: My daughter being born five years ago has taught me some things. All babies when they’re born, they manipulate. They have to, but the way my daughter manipulated me, it’s like she was thinking about this while she was in my wife’s womb. Months of planning had to go into it.
GUIDEPOSTS: How can I wrap dad around my finger?
BW: Completely. It felt like that. It still feels like that. I always joke with my wife, ‘If I could’ve just had a daughter in my 20s, it would’ve helped me so much in the world.’
GUIDEPOSTS: Do you still get recognized from your 7th Heaven days?
BW: Oh yeah. My favorite is when people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, you’re Matt Camden from 7th Heaven!’ And I’ll admit to it and then they’ll tell me no, I’m not really him. They want it to be me, but when I tell them it’s me, they’re like, ‘No, it’s not.’ Then I’m like, ‘Well how do I prove I’m me?’
GUIDEPOSTS: Did you know the show was going to be as popular as it was?
BW: I had no clue. I remember when I first did the pilot, I was really broke and this show came along and it was just good timing. That show was word of mouth and it just kept building and building and building. No one would ever admit to being a 7th Heaven fan when it was on but the ratings sure showed that more people were watching than admitted to watching.
GUIDEPOSTS: Were there any important storylines that stood out on 7th Heaven. It was a show ahead of its time in many ways.
BW: Something I thought that they tackled early on, we had a whole episode about Islam and a Muslim family and I thought that was just way ahead of its time, when it came to addressing people’s prejudices against other people’s beliefs, whatever they may be. I remember at that time, shooting that episode going ‘What are we talking about here?’ It wasn’t something I was very aware of either.
GUIDEPOSTS: Are there any parallels between Date My Dad and 7th Heaven?
BW: The thing about 7th Heaven that I think made it so successful was that when families watched it, each family member could find a character that they could relate to or hold onto and follow their story throughout the series. I’m really hoping it’s that way with this show. My hope is that people can just latch onto these characters.
GUIDEPOSTS: Any advice to the Ricky Coopers out there raising daughters of their own?
BW: Patience and good listening skills. (Laughs) Patience you never thought you had. Parents think so much of being a parent is lecturing their kids but I’ve learned that so much of it is just listening to them and hearing their voice.
GUIDEPOSTS: And maybe take it easy on the dad jokes?
BW: Yeah, I’m not very good at the dad jokes. Teenage girls don’t like those at all.
Date My Dad airs Fridays at 9:00 p.m. ET on UP TV.