Child Star to Rancher: Actor Ricky Schroder

There were not a whole lot of good things that came from the decade of the 1980's. In no field is this more true than in the field of acting. A large number of child actors, even those from outside the 80's, fell out of favor as they grew older. Partially due to their aging, and partially due to their inability to manage success, a great many child actors burned out. Finding it difficult to find jobs as serious actors, many turned to alcohol or drugs, spiraling down into oblivion. With the advent and immense popularity of “reality television”, some of these former child actors are getting back into the spotlight. Every once in a great while, a child actor is able to continue a successful childhood career well into adulthood. One of these actors, who never succumbed to the pitfalls of fame and riches that so many others fail with, is Rick Schroder.

He was born Richard Bartlett Schroder, Jr., in Staten Island, New York on April 13th, 1970. His mother, Diane Schroder was an employee at AT&T, which is also the same company that employed his father, Richard Bartlett Schroder, Sr. Eventually working his way up to management from being a telephone repairmen, Rick's father had known his mother since they attended junior high together. After his older sister and he were born, Rick's mother quit her job to raise the children. A good-looking child, Rick's mother began taking him to photo shoots when he was only three months old. In his own words, he must have been a natural, because he started working right away, never having taken an acting lesson in his life.

He starred in many catalogs, and by the time he was six years old, he had appeared in 60 advertisements and commercials. Similarly, his sister Dawn would go on to be a model and actress, even appearing in the early 1980's television show The Facts of Life , as well as some other small parts in movies and television throughout the decade. Leaping from commercials to the silver screen, Rick played Jon Voight's son in the 1979 remake of The Champ . Rick performed so well in his first role, that in 1980 he was nominated for and subsequently won a Golden Globe award for Best New Male Star of the Year in a Motion Picture. What a remarkable achievement for a pre-adolescent 9-year-old. Many critics regard little Ricky Schroder as 'stealing the show', so to speak, and many admit that the most memorable part of the movie for them was Ricky's acting.

Lauren Bacall

After winning the Golden Globe award, Ricky embarked on a three-month publicity tour around the world. He toured the locales of Asia and Europe, even meeting the Queen of England and the Pope. Admitting later on that he had wished he had been older when he took his trip, if only to have been able to appreciate the experience more. Following in the footsteps of many other successful child actors, Ricky was a rising star – and he was rising fast.

Following his role in The Champ , Ricky was removed from school by his parents in the third grade to focus on his career. He moved to Los Angeles with his mother, but his father remained in New York and kept his job with AT&T. Every weekend, Rick Sr. would fly to Los Angeles to see his wife and son, but that lifestyle was challenging. There was a lot of sacrifice from his parents in order to allow Ricky to have a career, but it never seriously affected their relationship. He had an ever present tutor while filming television shows and movies, but it was the interaction with other children that he would come to miss. In his own words, “ I always thought I had a problem socially, because I was pulled out of school so early. I had a tough time talking to other kids and being comfortable with them.”

Perhaps Ricky's success can be traced to his parents involvement in his life and career. His mother Diane managed all of his business transactions until 1992. Even though in today's society it may sound cliché, but Ricky grew up in a household where his parents told him (and he believed) that he could be whatever he wanted to be. As a result, he learned to believe in himself and his ego as well as his self-esteem has never been linked to his acting career. Regardless of what happened along the way, Ricky was always supported by his family and knew that even if his acting career dwindled, he would still be in a loving family.

Possibly the acting role that he is best known for, Ricky starred in the hit television show Silver Spoons from 1982 through 1987 on the NBC channel. Playing as Ricky Stratton, he portrayed the spoiled child of his millionaire Edward Stratton, played by Joel Higgins. In a make-believe upbringing that was similar to his own at the time, young Ricky was trying to live as a normal child in spite of his special status. His success on the show earned him two Young Artist awards. Filmed in the style of other situational comedies of the era, Ricky found that he never really liked comedy acting very much. In a quote that reveals how Ricky is wise beyond his years, he states that “ I was never really comfortable doing comedy. Though it was good the first couple of years, there were problems, and it became a stifling experience. I was happy it ended.”

Like many other child stars, Ricky struggled with his identity as an actor when Silver Spoons ended. Prospective roles were few and far between, and mainly he was sought after to play the boyish looking teenager or blond-haired heart throb. Instead of succumbing to the perils that have befallen many other child actors, such as alcohol, drugs and crime, Ricky reinvented himself. He dropped the 'y' from his first name and ensured that his new label as 'Rick Schroder' did not derive itself from his former child persona. His mother enrolled him in Calabasas High School in Calabasas, California, to finish his senior year. Ricky found the environment alien to him, and he had trouble adjusting. The other kids and he didn't necessarily get along right away. Having spent his formative years with a tutor instead of in a classroom, simple things such as sitting in class all day and raising his hand to speak were foreign concepts that he had trouble adjusting to.

After graduating from high school, he enrolled himself in Mesa State College in Grand Junction, Colorado, which also happened to be where he was living. Still accepting jobs in various television movies during this time, Rick still struggled to establish himself as a serious adult actor. “There have been times I almost got a persecution complex. I felt like people wouldn't let me grow up. They always saw me as a smiling kid or goofy teenager, no matter how much I'd changed.” And changed he had – in college he majored in ranch management and at the age of 20, he purchased a 15,000 acre working cattle ranch near Grand Junction, Colorado. Rick loved the outdoors and wildlife in general, making comments to the fact that were he not an actor, he would be a wildlife biologist or a forest ranger. During this time of his life, it is difficult to say whether he was more of an actor or a rancher. He never left acting entirely; he would shoot a television movie once or twice a year, “just enough to keep my toe in door”, he would say.

It was during this period of his life that he attained his goal of being taken as a serious actor. He landed a role as Newt Dobbs in the television blockbuster miniseries Lonesome Dove. Based on the Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name, the show starred Hollywood megastars such as Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones. Lonesome Dove collected seven Emmy Awards and two Golden Globes, and most people associated with it had their fame extended. Rick was catapulted from child actor to adult actor, and has yet to look back.

While filming a television movie in 1991 in Canada titled Blood River , Rick met a student name Andrea Bernard. Andrea was a fan of Ricky's growing up, and soon Ms. Bernard became Mrs. Schroder on September 26 th , 1992. Andrea has been a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (commonly referred to as Mormons) her entire life, and although Rick was not a Mormon at the time, that did nothing to dissuade their love for each other. In fact, after eight years of marriage, Rick converted and joined his wife as a Mormon in the year 2000. Together they have had four children: son Holden Richard Schroder, born January 8 th , 1992; son Luke William Schroder, born August 1 st , 1993; daughter Cambrie Schroder, born September 14 th , 1997; and daughter Faith Anne Schroder, born August 8 th , 2001. Andrea is an interior designer and real estate developer, actively engaged in both pursuits. She is a recurring face on the Bravo show Top Design as an interior designer.

In interviews, Rick has credited his children and strong family values for making his life a happy one. Often, he and his wife Andrea will discover traits their children possess that can identified as coming from one of them. The discussions that ensue make them stronger and more loving as a family. That could be his secret; Rick was raised in a loving family that advocated values, and is now passing those same ideals on to his own children. It could be because of these values that allowed him to not fall into the traps that other child stars became victims of.

With the dawn of a new century brought new opportunities for Rick to succeed. In one of the few instances of a famous Hollywood actor proclaiming themselves as a conservative, Rick spoke at the 2000 Republican National Convention (RNC) in Philadelphia in support of (then) candidate George W. Bush. Rick supported Bush in that election and again in 2004, also supporting Presidential hopeful John McCain in 2008. Rick is careful not to label himself as a republican or a liberal, instead choosing to focus on supporting candidates whose ideals are similar to his own. He states that the older he becomes, the more tolerant he also becomes. “Today, I don’t align myself with any party; I take things issue by issue. I am a patriot to the core.”

In 1998, Rick Schroder replaced Jimmy Smits on the hit television show NYPD Blue , starring alongside Dennis Franz. Upon hearing of Jimmy Smits' departure from the show, Rick recalls informing his agent that he “had to have” the role of Danny Sorenson. Fans of the show were initially upset about what they viewed as a “child actor” acting in such a serious role, but his performance silenced his critics. Even though Rick's success on Lonesome Dove and a myriad other television movies were accomplished in his adult years, he credits his time on NYPD Blue with being his breakthrough role as an adult. 28 years old at the time, he credits the show with taking him from obscurity and into the spotlight since he had not been working many acting jobs at the time. Rick only made it three years on the show before he left voluntarily, choosing instead to return to his ranch to be with his family full-time. The pace and long hours of filming left little time with his wife and children – something which Rick could not abide.

During the next few years, Rick had a few roles in television shows such as Scrubs and a fewer low-budget and television movies. In 2004, the VH1 channel ran a special titled “The 100 Greatest Kid Stars” which happened to include Rick. For the show, the listing was assembled so that the lower the position on the list, the greater you were. The entries near the top of the list have already been mentioned throughout this article; they are the child stars who could not or did not handle adulthood well. Rick placed 18 on the list, which could be considered good or bad, if it had come from a reputable source. Still, even though it is VH1, 18 out of 100 is not a bad placing. Also, in the January 23 rd , 2005 issue of TV Guide , Rick was named #20 in their list of “TV's 25 Greatest Teen Idols”. Rick's success, however, both as an actor, father and husband, speaks for itself.

2004 was a year that changed Rick's life and his career – forever. He became a writer when he authored the independent film Black Cloud , which he also directed and starred in. Black Cloud is similar to another first of Rick's, it was about boxing, similar to his first movie role in The Champ . In the following year, 2005, Rick won a Country Music Association (CMA) award for Video Director of the Year for directing a music video titled “Whiskey Lullaby”. The video was for a duet by Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss, and it even featured Rick as a character as well as his youngest daughter, Faith. The same directorial experience garnered Rick another award for Best Music Video at the 2005 Nashville Film Festival in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 2007, Rick joined the Fox channel's megahit 24 , starring alongside Kiefer Sutherland for the show's sixth season. At the same time, he announced that he was changing his screen name back to Ricky He portrayed a Counter-Terrorism Unit (CTU) agent named Mike Doyle. Doyle is a dark character, and Ricky commented that he “felt like a killer inside” and that the character was very similar to Sutherland's character of Jack Bauer. The set of NYPD Blue was similar to that of the 24 set; Ricky remarked that it was relentless in its intensity although the set of 24 was more organized. Definitely a far cry from little Ricky Stratton's life in the mansion on Silver Spoons .

Descending farther down the road with his new title as Actor/Writer/Director, Ricky has directed two more movies, both made in 2009. Locker 13 is a short film, and Hellhounds is the most recent full length feature that Ricky has directed. Made for television, it marks yet another milestone in his impressive career. Between acting, directing, writing and parenting, it seems there isn't anything Ricky isn't doing.

In June 2009, at Andrea's strong urging, Ricky packed up the family and moved to Spain. They rented a home in Barcelona for a year, and celebrated Ricky's 40 th birthday in Marrakesh, Morocco. His wife had always wanted to live abroad, and also wanted their children to be able to gain a new perspective on their lives, one that could only be gleaned by immersing themselves in a foreign country. Initially reluctant to up and move the entire family across the world, Ricky says he was inspired to finally do it after taking his youngest daughter, Faith, to see the animated movie Up . In the movie, a man's wife had a dream destination she wanted to see, but by waiting so long to make time to do it, he missed his chance and it was too late. The time spent abroad allowed the family to reconnect with each other and become recommitted to the family as a whole. Since returning in June 2010, Ricky has gone right back to his job in the entertainment industry.

Rick is an active member of the National Rifle Association (NRA), and is very active within children's charity circles. He is a n auto-racing enthusiast and a past winner of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race in Long Beach, California. He is also a supporter of Racing For Kids, in which celebrities will race for money to be donated to fund health care for children. Also, Rick and his wife are active celebrity “Advocacy Ambassadors” for the child abuse prevention and treatment organization known as Childhelp. Some other famous ambassadors are Kathie Lee Gifford, Casper Van Dien, Jane Seymour, Kathleen Turner, and Betty White, just to name a few.

In summation, Ricky Schroder and his family have been a success in a field where most people crash and burn. Sure, he has never starred in a Hollywood blockbuster movie or a long running television drama, but he remains a famous and remarkable actor, director, and writer. A consummate family man, it seems that most of the things he does and is involved in are to the benefit and because of his family. In a debauched business surrounded by constant media attention, Ricky Schroder is shining beacon, in more way than one.

Here are some links to interviews done with Ricky Schroder:

Ricky's filmography (television shows are shown in bold ):

1979: The Champ

1980: The Last Flight of Noah's Ark

1980: The Earthling

1980: Little Lord Fauntleroy

1982: Something So Right

1982 – 1987: Silver Spoons

1983: Two Kinds of Love

1983: Faerie Tale Theatre

1985: A Reason to Live

1988: Too Young the Hero

1989: Terror on Highway 91

1989: Lonesome Dove (miniseries)

1989: Out on the Edge

1990: A Son's Promise

1990: The Stranger Within

1991: Across the Tracks

1991: Blood River

1991: My Son Johnny

1992: Miles From Nowhere

1993: Call of the Wild

1993: Return to Lonesome Dove (miniseries)

1994: Texas

1994: To My Daughter With Love

1994: There Goes My Baby

1995: Crimson Tide

1996: Innocent Victims

1997: Ebenezer

1997: Too Close to Home

1997: Detention: The Siege at Johnson High

1997: Heart Full of Rain

1998: I Woke Up Early the Day I Died (cameo)

1998: Dead Man's Gun

1998 – 2001: NYPD Blue (64 episodes)

1999: What We Did That Night

2001: The Lost Battalion

2002: Poolhall Junkies

2003: Consequence

2003: Scrubs (4 episodes)

2004: Face of Terror

2004: Black Cloud (directorial debut)

2005: 14 Hours

2005 – 2006: Strong Medicine (22 episodes)

2006: Robot Chicken (voice over 1 episode)

2007: 24 (12 episodes)

2008: Journey to the Center of the Earth

2008: The Andromeda Strain (miniseries)

2009: Locker 13 (director/actor)

2009: Hellhounds (director)

2009: Blood Done Sign My Name

2010: Get Him to the Greek

2010: No Ordinary Family (1 episode)

2010: Starting Strong (director)