Growing up as the son of one of the most famous — and most beloved — actors in the world can be challenging. Chet Hanks, the son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, can attest to that. Last year, after two years of sobriety, Chet spoke about the growing up in the “shadow of success” as he revived his struggling career with recurring roles on Empire and Shameless after some embarrassing mistakes earlier in his life, which he attributed to the pressures of growing up as the son of Tom Hanks.
However, another son of Tom Hanks, Colin (Orange County, Fargo, Life in Pieces), has been able to navigate growing up as the son of the Big star with much less difficulty, although it’s not been without its challenges. Being Tom Hanks’ son and having his career compared against that of his father’s “can feel like hitting your head against the wall,” Colin tells Dax Shepard on a recent episode of The Armchair Expert.
“When I was starting off,” Colin tells Shepard, “I was sort of lovingly naive, thinking that [being the son of Tom Hanks] wasn’t as big a deal as it is … that I would get the benefit of the doubt that I was my own person … and that doesn’t happen.” As Colin relates, being the son of a famous actor can help get your foot in the door, but it comes with certain expectations that are not always easy to meet.
Unlike Chet Hanks, who grew up full-time with Tom, however, Colin grew up in Sacramento where Tom Hanks and his mom, Samantha Lewes, met in college. After his parents split, Colin moved from Los Angeles back to Sacramento with his mom when he was around 8 or 9 years old. In fact, as a child of divorce, he mostly grew up in Sacramento, only spending every other weekend and the summers in L.A. with Tom. “It was just a fun sort of getaway. I went to summer camp, and we found stuff to do,” he told Shepard. There were also summers “where my old man had a job to do so we’d spend the summer in Indiana or Seattle, so the traveling ended up becoming a component, as well.”
Soon after the divorce, Colin tells Dax that Tom “found the person [Tom Hanks] was meant to be with, in Rita, my step-mom.” As Colin relates, Tom and Rita Wilson had met years before, “so she had been around pretty much right around the divorce,” so Colin didn’t spend much time with Tom as a single father.
The financial situation between Colin and Chet was also strikingly different. While Colin admits that he grew up with money, it was nowhere near the amount of money that people would assume. “I don’t know how much money my mother was getting in alimony, but what I heard was, ‘We don’t have the money for that. Your Dad has that. We don’t have that.’ So, it wasn’t like money was no object to Colin. “Money was always the object,” so trips and other materials items remained special to Colin, he tells Shepard.
In terms of keeping him grounded, it also helped that Colin didn’t grow up when Tom Hanks was “super rich.”
“There is a very definitive line in my father’s career where things just became stratospheric, and very different,” Colin tells Shepard. His father’s earnings increased substantially after “the Forrest Gump era.” Colin was already 17 years old by that time, so he had a “different kind of experience” growing up than his younger siblings.
Colin’s younger siblings also didn’t have to cope with the loss of a parent. Colin’s Mom sadly died when she was 49 years old of lung cancer, only five months after Orange County came out. Her death changed Colin’s perspective on work a great deal — it became a less important priority. As a result, a he tells Shepard, he refused to do “sh*t” movies like Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!. The downside was that he didn’t work for several years (his first major feature after 2002’s Orange County was King Kong in 2005).
Beside a foot in the door and his obvious support, however, maybe the best thing that Tom Hanks offered and continues to offer is “an example of not perhaps of the right way to handle fame, but a right way. To stay on the track a little better than other people.” That’s something that both Tom and Colin have both managed to successfully navigate in their lives. It’s also helped that Colin is also friends with a number of other second-generation actors with whom he can commiserate.
In fact, on the podcast, Colin shared an experience he had with Jason Ritter (Parenthood), the son of beloved Three’s Company’s actor John Ritter. Coilin and Jason Ritter were sitting next to each other signing autographs at an event, when they were approached by two women who came up and said, “We loved your Dads. They were basically just like, ‘We don’t know why you’re here. But your Dads are great.'”
Their Dads are great, but as their less famous sons Jason Ritter and Colin Hanks have demonstrated over the years, they’re pretty great, too.
(Via Armchair Expert)