Shawn Stevens: Mormon Actor
Shawn Stevens is an actor and singer who had a successful Hollywood career appearing in 1980s television shows such as “Eight Is Enough,” “Buck Rogers,” “The Facts of Life,” “Fame,” and “Days of Our Lives.”
Stevens was born in Morristown, New Jersey, on April 5, 1958. His family moved to Burbank, California, when he was ten years old, which he believed was just for him because he loved to perform.
In his new home, he sang in his local Christian congregation. A member of his church suggested he audition for a part in a production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Glendale Centre Theatre, which was owned by James Nathan Hale and Ruth Hale, who were members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was cast in that first part, and continued acting with the Hales throughout his teen years. He also participated in his high school drama productions.
In 1976, now a high school graduate, Stevens toured 48 states with productions of “The Music Man” and “Oklahoma” lasting nine months. He was given the opportunity to act in a small independent movie filmed in Southern Utah. It was while he was filming this movie that he decided to attend a meeting of the Church of Jesus Christ. He had been impressed with the Mormon community of Kanab, Utah. He also met two members of the Church who became important to his career: Bonnie Larson, who became his personal manager, and Lyman Dayton, who was a film producer with films such as Where the Red Fern Grows and Against a Crooked Sky to his credit. Dayton invited Stevens to meet with the full-time missionaries. After only one afternoon being taught, he wanted to join the Church of Jesus Christ. He was baptized one week later at the age of 19.
By joining the Church, Stevens was disowned by his family and although he had numerous auditions, the only work he secured was the leading role in the touring production of “Saturday’s Warrior.” His mother told him things would be going better in his career if he hadn’t become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. But on the heels of her comment that week in 1979, Stevens was cast in a TV series “The MacKenzies of Paradise Cove.” That was the beginning of a several years of roles in films, specials, miniseries, and daytime dramas. He also was a guest on talk shows and game shows and signed a recording contract. He turned down many roles that compromised his standards.
Stevens married Kaylene McLaws in 1984. Soon after he was selected to fill the lead role in a Church missionary production called “Our Heavenly Father’s Plan,” directed by Michael McLean. The Church encouraged him and other actors to live exemplary lives going forward so as never to take away from their performances. Stevens began to be worried about being able to do that in the entertainment industry, so he shocked his agent and others when he moved away from acting and struggled for over a year as a bread truck driver. He tried other ventures and eventually started a studio catering business and worked with props and special effects. He and his wife raised four children.
Stevens sang briefly with the doo-wop group “The Diamonds.” After almost thirty years behind the camera of the entertainment business, Stevens is performing in a faith-based movie by T. C. Christensen. It is based on the 1986 Cokeville, Wyoming, school bombing and will premiere in 2015.