From onscreen playboy in Beverly Hills, 90210 to chainsaw-wielding hero in Sharknado,
actor Ian Ziering has held a range of roles in his decades-long career. And much like
his Sharknado character, Fin Shepard, who faces a freaky, shark-infested tornado head
on to save his kin, Ziering is first and foremost a family man.
"The superhero daddy gene kicks in very early, even before your baby's born," Ziering says, musing on his real-life feelings of protection. The New Jersey native elaborates, "Once your wife tells you she's pregnant, [she becomes] even more priceless. You do everything you can to provide."
I recently caught up with the actor to get the scoop on his fun family life.
Father to Mia and Penna — who share the same birthday and respectively turn 3 and 1 on April 25 — Ziering takes a proactive parenting role along with his wife, Erin Kristine Ziering. When asked about his favorite way to bond with the girls, Ziering says, "I love to sing with them. We sing all the classics like 'ABCs,' 'Wheels on the Bus.' I like to inspire Mia's imagination. I'll start singing a few lyrics, and then I'll have her fill in the blanks. By doing that, she gets to guide the story. It's usually something silly."
To my delighted surprise, Ziering starts to sing a line for me to complete. Although I'm momentarily flustered (preferring to write, rather than sing, words), it speaks to Ziering's friendly character that he would be willing to share this game with a stranger.
Perhaps it's Ziering's warm and candid nature that helped him earn the title 2013 Daddy of the Year via father-oriented company Daddy & Co., which offers lifestyle products for papas. By embracing this title, Ziering was able to inspire other fathers in myriad ways — such as encouraging regular family dinners — to be involved in the lives of their children.
"Nowadays, people are working more and more," Ziering says, "We've gotta find ways to connect with our kids and be present." He notes that even when he's traveling, he stays in touch with his family through Skype. "We have a visual connection," Ziering says.
Bonding also comes in the form of reading to the Ziering kids right before bedtime.
"Penna doesn't understand a word I'm saying," Ziering explains, "but she sees the pictures and hears me reading. It's really by osmosis they learn something first."
Reading is an area with which Ziering actually struggled as a child. To compensate for having dyslexia, he relied on humor and playing the class clown, and he excelled at presentations when it came to school projects.
"I was never made to feel that [it] was a bad thing: having dyslexia," Ziering says, "We're all different in different ways. My parents were always supportive in everything I tried."
His parents' encouragement and his affinity for performance likely started Ziering on his transition from class clown in front of a small audience to an actor who now boasts Broadway and big and small screen credits.
When it comes to fostering self-esteem and supporting his children's interests, Ziering plans to be just as encouraging as his own parents were.
"I would tell them to do what my dad always told me to do: that was to always do your best," Ziering says of how he intends to instill confidence in his daughters while they grow, adding "As long as you always try your hardest, that's as good as it gets."
To share a tangible level of involvement in Penna's and Mia's lives, Ziering and his wife have created e-mail accounts for them.
"Whenever we're out taking pictures, we just forward [them] to their inbox," Ziering says, explaining that as the girls get older, "They'll have a little folder they can open up and see all the joy Erin and I are experiencing. I think that's going to be another layer of love [for] them later in life."
One snapshot Ziering expects his daughter Penna to cherish is of him wearing signature Daddy & Co. "I'm The Daddy" medical scrubs at her delivery. Of proudly sporting the outfit, Ziering says, "It made me feel part of the process. The nurses put me to work." He adds that the doctor even joked he could use another pair of hands.
"It's just so endearing," Ziering says, hoping Penna will one day reflect on the photo and proclaim, "My dad's so cute!"
Of course, Ziering doesn't always conjure the word "cute," such as when he's covered in faux blood, fending off flying sharks. For Syfy camp favorite Sharknado (which has a sequel slated to be released in July), Ziering got quite hands on with his stunts.
Laughing, he shares that he rappelled off a bridge, which "was a lot of fun," and that he also did a fair share of swimming and jet skiing, but the most fun part of the flick for him?
"Chainsawing out of the belly of a shark."