Sean Kanan plays the role of bad boy Deacon Sharpe on TV’s popular soap opera The Young and the Restless. The 44-year-old father-of-five has been heavily involved with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) this past year, lobbying on the topics of anti-bullying and sexual orientation inclusion.
The soap star opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about his 9-year-old daughter and 4 stepkids, the “similarities” with fatherhood in Hollywood and middle America, and his best tips on maintaining a strong partnership amidst 5 children: “we want to maintain our identity as adults as opposed to caretakers of children.”
CBS: Tell us about your 9-year-old daughter Simone.
SK: “She’s great, she’ll be 10 in August. She likes ballet and has started to take quite an interest in acting. I just went and saw her in a performance of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. She seems to have a bit of the acting bug. It’s OK with me as long as she makes herself a well-rounded person academically. I have a degree in political science and sometimes I’m really happy that I have that degree. Other times I wish I went to Juilliard. I wonder sometimes which would have served me better. So as long as she gets a well-rounded education and treats acting with respect and realizes that if you’re going to pursue it, it needs to be pursued properly, then I’ll support it.”
CBS: Is she into Facebook & Twitter?
SK: “No she’s not into any of that. Simone lives with her mother, so the majority of those guidelines are enforced by her mom. I get to see her frequently. She lives about a mile and a half away from me.”
CBS: What are some of your best tips for successful co-parenting?
SK: “Realize that you’re not there to be your child’s friend, you’re there to be their parent. And it’s not a popularity contest – your child might not always like you. As long as your child respects and loves you, that’s what it’s all about. And try to be consistent. I think children crave discipline because they see it as attentive and loving – as long as it’s administered in a loving way from a loving place – I think they need to know there’s a level of consistency so they can learn the rules. When kids are consistently confused by what the rules are because one parent says one thing and the other parent says another thing, that causes confusion for them. That’s when they get confused and get in trouble.
Another important thing is to tell your kids frequently that you love them. Show an interest in what it is that they do. Listen to what their interests are. Make them feel safe that you are someone they can go to to ‘unload’ and talk about what’s bothering them, and just what’s going on in their life.”
CBS: Tell us about being stepdad to your girlfriends’ kids.
SK: “That’s what the kids are calling me now and it’s kind of weird. A year ago I was very much living the life of a single guy. I had a big, bachelor pad home and lived there by myself with my dog. I could come and go as I pleased and then I met Michele and we fell in love. She has four children – Annie and Julie are 11-year-old twin girls, Gigi is 15 and Peter is going to be 18 next month. Michele lived in an apartment building and we talked about moving into a different unit in the same building with the kids. I suggested that we look for a house. Now we all live together in the house. For the most part, it’s really, really fantastic. I love the kids – they’re spectacular kids.
I think part of our success with this is that Michele and I don’t live the kids’ lives, they live ours. It’s not like one constant day of soccer practice, band practice – we don’t live like that. Michele and I do what we want to do but also support the kids in what they want to do. It’s like a benevolent dictatorship. I’ll give you a perfect example. Peter is getting certified in an editing program and Michele and I are producing partners through our own company. Peter now does our editing. He’s also working as a grip on the film that I’m starting. So we all tend to work together and spend time together, doing things that make everyone happy.
I think a lot of parents are full of crap when they say they love going to soccer practice or going shopping for the kids. You know what happens? Suddenly you’re in a marriage where the husband’s like, ‘Wait a minute, I’m No. 6 on the list, my wife is basically too tired to be an adult, there’s toys all over the place, the relationship has become totally de-sexualized, and they wonder why they wind up getting divorced. Michelle and I are really careful not to let that happen. We’re also really careful to stay in tune with the kids to make sure their wants and needs are met. But we also want to maintain our identity as adults as opposed to caretakers of children.”
CBS: But most of society can’t afford to hire nannies/housekeepers to do the soccer runs/household chores, etc.
SK: “Wait a second, let me tell you that a lot of people have the misconception that since I’m on a soap opera I’m a multi-millionaire. I am not a contract player in the soaps and I’m working 4 shows a month. Money is tight for me too. And I cannot really afford to hire a nanny. Michelle and I both work and I have to work other jobs outside of the soap opera. I’m lucky that my jobs are in the entertainment industry. But when you have five children, money is absolutely a concern.
I’m not sitting in a glass mansion hurling stones. The reality is, there are a lot of actors in Hollywood who can do that, but I am not living the life of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I have a great life, but I know of what I speak. It’s not like I have a troop of people to help me with this stuff. I pick the kids up from school. I run errands and do dishes probably just like every other father in middle America. I think most people would be surprised to know that there are more similarities than there are differences.”
CBS: So how do you make it all work?
SK: “Michele and I are a really good team. The kids are really self-sufficient. Peter drives the kids to school every day. We got him a car so he’s able to help out that way. Everybody pulls their weight. When everybody wanted to get this house I told them it was going to be a stretch and the life of an actor is never really stable. I said we’re all going to have to pitch in and make this work together. As such, everybody lends a hand and we make it work.”
CSB: What are some of your favorite daddy moment?
SK: “When Michele and I first started dating, I wanted to see what kind of sense of humor her son had. I said to him about the second week we were going out, ‘I don’t expect you to call me daddy right away. After all, it took your mom about a month.’ He started laughing right away so I knew that he and I were going to get along just fine.
One time I was having trouble getting my daughter to study. I said to her, ‘Repeat after me: I’ll super size that for you.’ She said, ‘What does that mean daddy?’ And I said, ‘Little girls that don’t do their homework wind up working at McDonald’s.’ As soon as I said that she said, ‘Omigod, I can work at McDonald’s?! That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever heard!’ So my parenting kind of backfired on me.
But it’s a constant learning experience. It’s a lot of fun. I really love being with these kids. They drive me crazy and get on my nerves sometimes but that’s life. I think along the way, it’s been so politically incorrect for parents to admit they’re human. Sometimes it’s difficult being a parent and sometimes it’s trying. It’s OK to say that. In saying that and not bottling it up keeps you from being resentful and you’re able to laugh at yourself and with your kids. And that’s a healthy relationship, I think.
I marvel at the parents who seamlessly go from one activity to the next, and they never voice that it’s trying sometimes. That’s not me! But I also have been told I’m a pretty darn, good parent. For me, the best validation is that I love these kids, they love me and we have a really fun time together.”
CBS: Although several soaps have been canceled as of late, Y&R is going strong! What makes it so successful?
SK: “Y&R is still going strong and was just renewed for another two years. I’m a little biased but I think we have one of the best casts in daytime. Y&R has been the No. 1 show for as long as anyone can remember. When you’re on the No. 1 show, you don’t have to worry quite as much about being canceled. Y&R consistently tells good stories.”
CBS: Do you like working on the soaps?
SK: “Yes, I very much like working on the soaps. When you’re doing daytime, you’re basically doing 60 pages a day. We do one take, that’s it, moving on. We turn out sometimes more than a show in one day. On the other hand, when you’re shooting a feature film, you’re probably shooting 5-8 pages a day.”
CBS: Tell us why you became an actor. Was it for the fame or for the art?
SK: “I went into acting for all the wrong reasons. Along the way, I ended up falling in love with acting. I think the people that go into acting for the fame either wind up either having an educational experience like I did which causes a change and you assimilate the right reasons for wanting to do it. Or you get weeded out. Fame isn’t what you think it is. I can be exciting and fun, but I would rather feel good about the work I do rather than having someone snap my picture.”
CBS: Tell us about being involved with the Anti-Defamation League.
SK: “I’ve been very involved with the Anti-Defamation League which is the premiere civil rights organization in the United States. It was founded in 1913. It’s very concerned with anti-Semitism issues, racial intolerance, bigotry and things like that. One of their other causes is bullying and cyber-bullying. I’ve become very involved with that because as a young kid growing up in western Pennsylvania, I was very frequently on the receiving end of a lot of bullying. And then I later grew up to become an actor in the role of Mike Barnes in Karate Kid III who was sort of an iconic bully.
One of the great things about being on Y&R is that it gives me a forum to bring attention to some of the causes I’m passionate about. I’m urging parents to listen to their kids when they say they’re being bullied and to take it seriously. The Anti-Defamation League has been instrumental in creating curriculum and programs for both parents and educators alike. I was recently in Washington, D.C. lobbying and trying to make a difference.”