Close X

Just Asking: Interview with Kirby Heyborne

LDS Living staff - January 29, 2011

Photo courtesy of Kirby Heyborne.

Kirby Heyborne—actor, singer, father of three, and husband of one—discusses his experiences as a performer.

*Editor's note: This is the full interview with Kirby Heyborne, with extra questions not seen in the print version of our January/February 2011 issue!

Do you have any crazy stories because of your LDS stardom?
When I move into a new ward, there’s always the looking over the shoulder, and maybe someone coming up and saying, “Why are you here?” Almost scared and nervous. I don’t know if they think I’m working on a project or what; they’re just confused.

What has been the hardest thing you’ve had to deal with as an LDS actor?
A lot of people think it’s “what do the secular industry people think of you?” But they’re totally cool, and they love that I’m Mormon. The harder thing is when people who don’t necessarily know me look at the work I do and think that is me, but that’s an assumption and it’s not true. I’m going to choose characters that are flawed and not me, and it can be hard for people to see through that to who I really am.

Which of your projects has been your favorite?
I don’t know if there’s a favorite. I love my job—period. It’s the greatest job in the world. Something that has impacted me for sure was Saints and Soldiers. Understanding and appreciating more the men and women that serve us in the military.

How did your life change after Single’s Ward?
I quit my regular job training agents on securities and mutual funds, and thought, ‘Hey, I can do this thing as an actor.’ So, because of Single’s Ward, I quit everything and jumped in with both feet.

Many of your most beloved characters have a distinct goofy factor to them. What draws you to those roles?
I love putting myself in awkward situations. They’re so fun. My 9-year-old son watched The RM really for the first time a few weeks ago, and he had to watch through his fingers—you know, his hands were over his eyes—because he understands that it’s a character, but it’s so similar to me. He kept saying, “Oh, no, Dad! Why did you do that? Oh no! Oh you’re going to fall! Oh that’s so embarrassing!” He’s not embarrassed for me, but for the character that he’s watching. I just love that. There’s something that’s so fun about painting yourself into a corner and trying to get your way out.

I once read that comedian Christopher Guest says people expect for him to always be funny, and how that frustrates him. Do you ever feel that expectation to perform?
All the time, yeah. And so, people then, when I’m being serious don’t take me seriously. I speak at firesides and stuff, and people sometimes find it’s kind of disappointing if I just do a spiritual thing, because they do have that expectation of me being so funny. I just blow it off and go along with it and try to make them laugh.

Afterwards they might come up to me and say, “Oh, that wasn’t really that funny.” And then I do something funny.

I’ve met Christopher Guest, too, and he’s the most quiet, semi-angry man in the world. It was like pulling teeth to even get him to say hi. We were in this hallway thing for a pilot thing, he was so the antithesis of funny.

If one of your children came to you and said they wanted to be an actor, what would you tell them?
I’d want them to do it in school—in their plays and in the community. I’m not going to let my kids actually do a major part in a film until they’re 18. It’s not the environment that’s scary—like they’re going to be exposed to drugs and alcohol and things they shouldn’t be exposed to—it’s just the attitude and the family view gets skewed, in that, in order for that to be successful for a kid, the whole family has to change their dynamic, and that kid is the most important member of the family, as opposed to being a family unit. Even siblings say, “Oh, it’s my brother that’s important.” So it’s not the environment, it’s the skewed reality. But I’ve had my kids come on set for a few hours and they’ve been in the background and stuff—that’s totally fine.

      -If they came to you when they’re 18, would you have any advice for them?
I’d sit down with them and talk to them about character and believability and about being connected through the Spirit to find a character—and that as long as you have that, you can stay grounded.

People ask, “how do you maintain standards in this horrible industry of sin?” It’s because I’m grounded and I have a family and I have people that I know support me. So make sure that they’re grounded first before they go off and get a skewed sense of reality.

Most people know you as an actor, but you also make music.  How does each skill allow you to express yourself differently?
Music for me is a very introspective and more personal thing. When you’re playing a character, it still is a version of you, but it’s not the whole you. When I’m playing music or writing a song, it’s very personal.

If you were told you couldn’t act or sing one more day of your life, what would you do?
I would love to be a teacher. For the longest time I’ve thought, maybe I would, I’d love to be a seminary teacher. I know that’s so appropriate for an LDS magazine, but it’s true. Hopefully, by the time I make that decision, we’ll be so rich, the Church won’t have to pay me!

I love teaching, and I love seminary. Some of the greatest things I’ve learned about the gospel were insights from seminary teachers.

The Huntsman Cancer Foundation is an important charity for you. Why did you decide to partner with them?
I’ve always thought, I want to make a difference, and I’ll do that as soon as I’m making millions of dollars and I’ll give big chunks to lots of different things. Then, I thought, I can do just a little bit, and that’s better than doing nothing. So with my latest album, I have a dollar for each CD goes to the HCF. And the reason I picked that is because Jon Huntsman Sr. is so amazing (and Jon Jr.; why not?) that there is no overhead—he pays for it all. So if you donate a dollar, the whole dollar goes toward the foundation, towards making a difference. My mother passed away from cancer, and I know a number of people that have battled with it, and I want to make is so that we can help people.

If you could do one thing different in your career, what would it be?
I don’t regret anything in the career choices I’ve made. I wouldn’t do anything different. What’s good, I feel, is that every film and every aspect of my career—instead of thinking, “is this it? Is this the best I can do?”—it’s enjoying every moment and thinking, “I can’t believe I’m so fortunate to be able to be doing this.”

What’s your secret for such boyishly blond hair?
[Laughs.] Genetics and summertime. Actually, as a kid, I was a towhead, and my mom—I don’t know why she would do this, we were just such white-headed kids—but even in the summertime, she would squirt lemon juice in our hair to keep it blonde. So we would go out and it would bleach it even more. So genetics, my mom, summertime, and a bit of lemon.

© LDS Living magazine Jan/ Feb 2011.
Comments 24 comments

mcrandall76 said...

12:06 PM
on Jan 29, 2011

Report Abuse

I'm troubled anytime I hear anything about Kirby Heyborne. After seeing Single's Ward and The Best Two Years, I was watching TV one day and saw Kirby Heyborne in a Miller Lite commercial. I was deeply touched by The Best Two Years in particular and when I saw Heyborne in that commercial, I felt that he was making a mockery of the church and serving a mission. I just wish that he would publicly acknowledge that he made a mistake, because he is in essence sending a message to LDS Living, BYUTV, etc, that it is OK to promote Miller Lite for money and still be considered faithful. We all have problems and I am certainly not perfect, but he is sending a message, at least as I see it, that you can promote the principles of the church in film and endulge in sinful advertising at the same time. Thanks for listening, Matt

ldsjonese said...

12:29 PM
on Jan 29, 2011

Report Abuse

I'm troubled anytime i hear someone complain about how Kirby stared in one beer commercial. I mean really? In all honesty it was a funny commercial. Its not like he actually drank it. For those of you that live in the mormon corridor.. Get a grip on reality. The man has to make a living some how. Utah mormons are SO judgemental...

epiphany said...

12:53 PM
on Jan 29, 2011

Report Abuse

I'm troubled anytime someone complains about someone being judgmental, then throws in "Utah mormons are SO judgmental..."

pattiraddi said...

01:36 PM
on Jan 29, 2011

Report Abuse

i totally agree with mccrandall. i was so disappointed i got rid of his movie. lds jones...is it ok then to be a pimp or dealer, as long as youre not the prostitute or take the drugs, if you need the money? seriously, what logic! i like kirby, he sounds like a sound member of the church, but i agree he blew it with his beer endorsement. and my kids, all teenagers, agree. they were as disappointed as i was. they were shocked and then bummed. sorry if its judgemental. i am not from utah.

epiphany said...

02:35 PM
on Jan 29, 2011

Report Abuse

I think these type of discussions are always helpful within the Mormon community, because it does cause each of us to pause and think how we might choose in a similar situation. Afterall, life is all about choices. But at the end of the day, we must also recognize that these are each very personal choices and the way you choose to conduct yourself within your profession, may not be exactly the same as what I might choose. And it is totally possible that we can both still be good members of the Church. It is the same argument that we often hear about "Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy", when some members of the church judge others who are playing professionial sports on the Sabbath, yet they spend their entire Sunday afternoon watching those same sports on TV. Agency isn't always about right and wrong, sometimes it's between good and good, and other times it is between good and "gooder", or sometimes the Lord doesn't really care which of the two or three choices we select. I know of a Stake President who regularly holds family basketball games in their driveway on Sunday afternoons. He is very close to his children. There are those who whisper that this is not honoring the sabbath. Yet, they are the same ones who sit alone in their dens reading or watching TV not interacting at all with their children, yet they somehow feel more righteous. When each of us stands before our Maker, we won't be able to point to anybody else and say "well at least I didn't do that..." Keep up the good work Mr. Heyborne. I love your art.

kilika82 said...

02:50 PM
on Jan 29, 2011

Report Abuse

Amen--to epiphany. I seem to remember some recent conference talks telling us to be careful of judging others. We need to work out our own salvation and not worry so much about working out each other's. I love Mr Heyborne and his characters and his movies, says a 48 y/o mother of 7 in Colorado.

fatmormon said...

05:48 PM
on Jan 29, 2011

Report Abuse

Well people, I have long ago stopped being impressed with titles in the church. Telling me about what a Stake President does or does not do means nothing to me. If a Stake President is flaky about the sabbath he probably came from a family that was the same way. What he does, however, does not impress me any more than what the guy in Nursery does, or whatever. These leadership guys are simply people who are generally faithful and reliable and said "yes, I'll do it" when asked-- period. He may also be well to do, etc. Faithful people that embrace gospel principles and teachings do so on a personal level. I hope we are all mature enough to never rationalize our weaknesses by saying, "Well, the Stake President does it." Or even more ridiculous and pathetic, "The Bishop, Elders Quorum Pres., Relief Society Pres., etc. does it." I have sat in way too many PEC meetings to give credence to that kind of nonsense.

gratefullgranny said...

08:45 PM
on Jan 29, 2011

Report Abuse

I`ve not been aware of Kirby Heyborne until this very minute. I`ll tell you the first thing that comes to my mind as you talk about him doing a "Beer Comercial" after doing wonderful LDS films is this. We as Latter Day Saints are taught to AVOID even the mere image of Not Good Things. It is a normal human thing to question where is heart really is planted. He can`t be teaching Seminary (someday) with that Beer Commerical still embedded in those now little kids thoughts,images and confused wonderments about him or any other Seminary teacher until they get the properness taugth and planted in their real heart of hearts.

birds67 said...

09:08 PM
on Jan 29, 2011

Report Abuse

Kirby is the nicest person. All of us have made our own mistakes. I was an extra on the set of "Sons of Provo", and he made a special effort to come and talk to us. I was really impressed by him. He seems like a very down to earth person and is very talented.

mom2-8 said...

10:19 PM
on Jan 29, 2011

Report Abuse

Kirby who?

anon said...

02:31 PM
on Jan 30, 2011

Report Abuse

I'd like to suggest that Kirby make a movie called "Kirby Repents". It could help with damage control over the beer commercial, and put the debate to rest. After all, we all believe in forgiving the penitent.

fatmormon said...

08:07 PM
on Jan 30, 2011

Report Abuse

Why hasn't he been brought before a Bishop's court for this??? I want to know the name of his bishop. Anyone out there know? Let's not stand by and let him do this to the church. Our children look to him as an example.

parentsx7 said...

08:24 PM
on Jan 30, 2011

Report Abuse

My kids and I have many of his movies as well as his beer commercial. We were disappointed in him. However, one sunday after church we were talking about our classes and what was taught. My 16 yr. old son said his Sunday school teacher knew Kirby and his family and the "down-low" on why he did the commercial. According to the story Kirby had been out of work for a while and he and his family needed to pay their rent and get groceries so they prayed for a job. He was offered the Beer commercial and he didn't want to take the job. He and his family prayed about it and they were inspired to do the commercial. God provides us with opportunities and it isn't always something we want. He is an actor, he pretends to be something. I am so disappointed to see so many " Saints" throwing stones at him. I for one will leave the judgement to Father in Heaven. Kirby keep praying and doing your job acting, my family will watch.

parentsx7 said...

08:27 PM
on Jan 30, 2011

Report Abuse

PS. I don't know if the story was true or not and it doesn't even matter.

skyhak172 said...

09:03 AM
on Jan 31, 2011

Report Abuse

We don't have the right to judge Kirby for anything he does or doesn't do. That is not our calling or right. The bottom line is that we don't have the key's to judge him unless we are his bishop or stake president. Let's Judge for ourselves if we will watch the material he produces (where we have the right and obligation to do so), but publicly putting him down is probably not the most "Mormon" thing to do. We are better than that. Think about it for a moment. Can you imagine in you wildest dreams John the beloved, Moroni, or Nephi talking about Kirby the way this forum has done? Putting him down, criticizing? Let's stand tall like our Mormon Heros and not lower ourselves with such talk.

schatzi said...

07:40 PM
on Jan 31, 2011

Report Abuse

The real issue...where in the world do Seminary teachers get paid? I was a Seminary teacher, make that an EARLY morning(aka 5:30 am) Seminary teacher for two years and it was a 'calling'. Do people really get paid to teach seminary?

retrocon said...

09:29 AM
on Feb 01, 2011

Report Abuse

I once saw Steve Young playing football on TV and it was a Sunday and he should have been in church so I'm going to throw away my old VHS tape where I recorded the BYU-Missouri game!

motherof7 said...

11:00 PM
on Feb 01, 2011

Report Abuse

Seminary teachers that teach in released time seminary (seminary taught during the school day)get paid. This occurs in areas of Idaho and Utah that I am aware of. The pay isn't great, but families have survived on it. They do have to go to school and graduate in seminary courses.

texaschick said...

07:52 AM
on Feb 02, 2011

Report Abuse

You know it is comments like this that stop the work of missionaries. Why would anyone want to be a member of the church hearing judgements like this? Take a look in the mirror. As the Savior said he who has no sin throw the first stone....

stevee said...

08:30 AM
on Feb 02, 2011

Report Abuse

Kirby is a great actor and I am going to leave him and anyone else in the performing arts alone and work on my own obedience, including that of "not judging other", I am horrible at that.

kenslew said...

09:53 AM
on Feb 04, 2011

Report Abuse

I appreciate the last several comments. As one who has met and spoken with Kirby, I know he is a good person. It saddens me when people speak publicly in such a negative way and without all the facts. For those wishing more background on his acting choices, an article was published a couple years ago that can be found here: http://www.mormontimes.com/article/11917/Kirby-Heyborne-actor-not-yet-millionaire

valsquared said...

01:21 PM
on Feb 05, 2011

Report Abuse

I'm sure kirby is a great guy. I wonder how his beer commercial compares to the farmers in my community who grow malt barely, which will eventually be used to make beer, or those who play in bands that perform in bars, etc. etc. I doubt Jesus would do a beer commercial, so it probably wasn't Kirby's brightest moment. But whatever, all of us have had not so bright moments, it's just that his is so public and ours are usually known only to us. Since it is public, it gives us each a chance to look at our own lives and discuss it with one another, maybe getting insights for our own lives. The only real value of analyzing the choices of public figures is to then apply what we learn to ourselves. It's purpose shouldn't be to demoralize or call to repentance, Kirby or other public figures. I'm sure the financial pressures were great, when he was wrestling with the decision to do the beer commercial. Just as it was with the L.D.S. farmer who struggled to sell his crops one year, but then was offered a lucrative contract to plant malt barely the next year.

bradyjohnson said...

04:08 PM
on Feb 25, 2011

Report Abuse

Just read these comments on another story about a guy named Scott Smiley. He works as a film director at the church and took time off to make an R rated movie. Classic! http://www.ldsliving.com/story/63521-is-trouble-brewing-lds-actors-get-super-bowl-exposure

weralllambsofchrist said...

07:10 PM
on Jun 06, 2011

Report Abuse

What no one in my family understood was the sentence under the title - Actor, singer, father of three...and 'husband of one'?!!! Exactly what is that suppose to mean? And people wonder why we are so hated.
Leave a Comment
Login to leave a comment.