I had a recent interview with multi-talented actor and director, Benjamin King, who plays the dad, Pete Rooney, on Disney’s Liv and Maddie. He’s appeared in films such as Lethal Weapon 4 and S.W.A.T, as well as in TV shows such as Judging Amy, Psych, and The King of Queens. I found him to be quite interesting and a wonderful advocate for the Inflammatory Bowel Disease Support Foundation (IBDSF), which he shares in this enlightening piece.
When were you bit with the acting bug?
Benjamin: I started acting at age 10 when I went to camp on the East Coast. I had never even thought about it. But, we just started doing these little plays and I thought it was so much fun. And then, I went to Beverly Hills High School and was in a really good theater department, and then I got my Bachelors of Fine Arts Degree in acting from UCSB, and came home.
You’ve had both dramatic and comedic roles, what attracted you to the role of Pete Rooney on Disney’s Liv and Maddie?
First of all, I have two young daughters Emerson, 7, and, Morgan, 10. I go to where the projects are the best, and the funniest. I read the pilot episode, which was called, Bits and Pieces, at the time. And we then morphed into Liv and Maddie. Our creators are so funny. And, I just remember laughing so hard when I read that pilot. I just thought, “You know what? I can see myself working for these guys, if they would have me.” I couldn’t have asked for a better fit in my life at this point. And, I just got to direct my first episode of “Liv and Maddie.” So to be able to do something, where I get to share everything I do with my children is just such a blessing!
What are some of the challenges of wearing the director’s hat?
As a director, you really have to consider all aspects of the show. As an actor, you’re focusing on your character and your relationship with the other characters, and making sure that you’re satisfying the director’s needs, as far as the vision of that particular episode. It was definitely a lot of work. But at the same time it was a lot of fun. I was using muscles that I had never used. It’s definitely outside your comfort zone. One of the wonderful things about our show, is I think we have maybe the best set of executive producers and crew that I’ve ever worked with, and I do mean that. They are so incredibly supportive. I was allowed to really experience every side, every angle of directing. And, they were so excited for me. Once you feel that kind of support, there’s really no way you can fail!
We’re extremely interactive with a lot of Liv and Maddie fans on Twitter. What can they look forward to this upcoming season?
Our episodes are more refined. We’re all more settled in our world – the stories that we tell. It’s a lot of new situations, but similar in that we all know who Liv, Maddie, Parker, Joey, Karen and Pete. Hopefully, it’ll be like coming back home for a lot of people. And shenanigans galore!
Health-wise. How challenging is it to work long hours for you?
I have an autoimmune disease called Crohn’s Disease. It is taxing. It is exhausting. But, my whole hope is that people who have inflammatory bowel disease can see that they don’t have to live their lives in bed or trapped in their houses. It can be a very painful disease, a very exhausting, embarrassing, part of our anatomy we generally don’t like to talk about. It can be very tiring. My modus operandi here is I want people to understand that they won’t merely live their lives, but thrive! This is a part of who they are, and I don’t want them to feel alone. So, that’s why I’m disclosing that I too live with Crohn’s Disease.
We have 1.5 million people in America, who’ve been diagnosed with IBD, which includes ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease, and 250,000 of those are children. So, I have a very unique opportunity to speak about my experience, my life and my health, in the hope that people will say to their kids or to themselves, “Benjamin is not just living his life, he’s succeeding in everything that he set out to do. He’s thriving!” I work on the Board of Directors for an organization called IBDFS.com (Inflammatory Bowel Disease Support Foundation), and what we do is link patients who share this disease in the hope that they feel less alone and part of a community of support. It’s very similar to strategies used with people who struggle with other chronic illnesses like Cancer.
When were you first diagnosed?
I was diagnosed when I was 15. I have been through many medications, conflicting diagnoses, and even surgery. Now I live without my colon, and with Crohn’s Disease. When I had my colon removed I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to fully return to my children’s lives in an active and complete manner. I lost 60 pounds, I had very little strength, but I did have fight in me. In addition, I had support, which played a huge factor in getting me back into what I would now consider a very active and full life where I actually feel like I thrive, not just survive.
I very clearly remember feeling that if and when I got back to some semblance of good health I would get involved, and stay involved in supporting people who are going through what I had gone through. My mentality was, if I can’t use what I’ve been through, and turn this horrible situation into a positive, then I would be missing a huge opportunity to do some good. IBDSF has been able to keep me active in the IBD community as well as provide me much needed comfort in times where I don’t feel so great. We utilize every means of technology, such as skype or iChat, or even just the telephone, to keep people connected to ensure that everybody who is a part of our network never feels alone. And that’s something that has benefited my life in ways I’m not sure I have words to do justice.
Watch season two of Liv and Maddie on the Disney Channel.
* Photo courtesy of Disney Channel.