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ICYMI Cameron Mathison Interview

Entertainment Tonight for WATCH! MAGAZINE Photo: Cliff Lipson/CBS ©2017 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved Credit: CBS

“I was living a pretty selfish existence pre-children, that’s for sure,” muses Cameron Mathison, now the doting dad of two — son Lucas, 14, and daughter Leila, 10 — with wife Vanessa.

Fatherhood wasn’t exactly on his radar when he started courting Vanessa. “When we first met, we were, like, full-time, part-time partiers,” he chuckles. “I was a maniac, and she was my partner-in-crime! I remember her telling me once that she felt like her job on Earth was to be a mom, and I was floored by that because she was a successful model with an incredible business sense and had lots of stuff going on. I remember that conversation well, how serious she was.” For Mathison, it sped up the timeline of their relationship. “First it was like, ‘Guess I’m buying a ring!’ And then it was like, ‘Guess we’re having kids!’ ”

The duo tied the knot in 2002. “If I was going to propose, I was ready to go,” he explains. “Six months later, we were married, and we got pregnant two weeks later. Now, whether I was truly ready — well, if you ask me, it’s a different answer than what you’ll get if you ask Vanessa!” When baby Lucas arrived in April 2003, the realities of fatherhood set in fast. “He had some complications and had to be in the ICU for a bit,” Mathison recalls. “All of a sudden, I had this little, beautiful stranger come into the world and become the most important thing to me. It’s the best thing that ever happened to me, but at the same time, it was a surprise — ‘Wait a minute, it’s not about me anymore? What’s up with that?’ ”

He took the shift in stride (“I remember the journey I took in the first couple weeks, months, of his life, what a powerful bonding time it was, and it almost brings tears to my eyes thinking about it”), and a few months after expanding his family, Mathison returned to ALL MY CHILDREN, which he’d exited the previous year. “I left, Mark Consuelos [ex-Mateo] and Kelly [Ripa, ex-Hayley] left, Josh [Duhamel, ex-Leo] left and they offered me a really nice contract to come back. I loved that job, and I had this other little person in my world that I want to take care of in the best way possible, so it was a pretty easy decision. Being a new dad, having a regular gig was an amazing thing.”

And continued to be when the Mathisons became a family of four in 2006. “Vanessa was pretty happy with just one child, and I kind of had to push to convince her to have a second, and she’s amazing,” he says of Leila. “Having a little girl … it’s just so special. It’s something that I secretly — or maybe not so secretly — really wanted. And she’s just this little angel, this little beam of light. They’re both really happy kids. I’m very lucky.”

Now that the children are a little older, “I really make an effort as a dad, not only to spend family time with them, but also to have one-on-one alone time with each of them. They have so many cool interests. Lucas is big into his band and photography and super-cars, and we do circuit training classes two or three times a week. Typically, I am in charge of dropping him off at school, so we get alone time in the morning. Leila loves to swim and I’m also a big swimmer. I’ll take her to the driving range and she’ll take golf lessons while I hit balls. Sometimes she’ll just ride around with me in the cart, which is great for one-on-one time.” Both kids inherited his love of skiing. “Lucas and I will do father/son ski trips, and Leila calls herself my little ski buddy; she likes it when I ski with her down some of the tougher [trails].”

With Lucas newly a teen and Leila not that far behind him, Mathison has noticed a bit more friction in their sibling dynamic. “They used to be crazy-close and they even shared a room for the longest time, but now it’s getting to an age where they’re bickering more. It’s hard for me to see. They just give each other a hard time. They’re not really fighting, but it seems like there’s less brother/sister love and support and more, like, ‘How can I piss her off?’ ”

Fortunately, Vanessa is a pro at managing the chaos, both of the Lucas/Leila variety and the complex scheduling that goes along with his duties at ENTERTAINMENT TONIGHT, where Mathison has been a full-time correspondent and weekend co-anchor since 2015. “She’s amazing,” her hubby praises. “She’s such a hands-on mom and helps me out so much with my work and my travel. She’s kind of like my part-time assistant,” because unlike the fairly regular schedule he was accustomed to at AMC, “There’s no schedule to my life now, ever! My life [at ET] is really busy and crazy and different and she’s just so there, so thoughtful and loving and supportive and able to keep us all in line. I say ‘us all’ because in many ways, I’m a little kid.”

While his hosting gig may keep the family on its scheduling toes, the celebrity access it offers has afforded him myriad opportunities to score “cool dad” points with his offspring. “That happened a little bit at GOOD MORNING AMERICA back in the day, but it’s, like, off the chart with ET,” he raves. “Leila is a big DANCING WITH THE STARS fan, and she’s gotten to go behind the scenes as my special correspondent. She’s worked with me on red carpets like the Trolls movie with Anna Kendrick, James Corden and  Justin Timberlake. Lucas is my man on the Star Wars red carpet. He got to see all those movies before any of his friends. I took him to the premiere of Guardians of the Galaxy. Vin Diesel, Chris Pratt and Sylvester Stallone were there. He had a buddy with him and they were freaking out. For Lucas, that was the ultimate, and for Leila, Justin Timberlake was through the roof. He got on his knees, he showed her a secret handshake, he did a little dance move with her. My ‘cool dad’ stock definitely goes up when I have those opportunities. Otherwise, I’m just a regular dad [laughs].”

Sharing the perks of his profession with his kids has made his ET success all the sweeter. “Like I said, before they came along, I lived a pretty selfish existence,” he reflects. “I pretty much did whatever I wanted, but it really wasn’t that fulfilling. That shift of focus from oneself to another, in this case to my son and daughter, was the most powerful thing in the world for me. It gives me so much more joy than sitting around thinking about what I’m going to do next, what’s my schedule, when’s my next golf game. You can have incredible meaning in your life without being a parent, but for me, becoming one was the beginning of understanding pure joy.”  

The Next Generation

Mathison has maintained close ties to AMC pals like Rebecca Budig (ex-Greenlee; Hayden, GH), Alicia Minshew (ex-Kendall) and Josh Duhamel (ex-Leo), all of whom now have kids of their own. “Because we moved out of New York, I don’t get to see Alicia and [daughter] Willow as much, but it’s always amazing when I do. I love seeing Rebecca as a mom. We get together for breakfast and sometimes she brings [daughter] Charlotte and it’s just so sweet. She’s a perfect little Gerber baby, so beautiful. I’ve actually never seen Josh with [son] Axl, but I just saw him and we talked about Axl. Man, that’s the ultimate example of how life changes because we used to play golf together all the time, and I said to him, ‘I know how it is, man; you finally get a half a day free, and you’re not going to say, “Oh, honey, I’m going to go play golf.” ’ He’s like, ‘Yeah, if I get a half day off, I’m going to be hanging out with my boy!’ We’ll see each other in different ways, but yeah, we’ve had a similar experience with the whole reprogramming of your priorities, and  them shifting in the best possible way.”

Just The Facts:

Birthday: August 25

It’s A Family Affair: Mathison wed Vanessa Arevalo on July 27, 2002. Son Lucas came along on April 20, 2003, and daughter Leila completed their quartet on July 7, 2006.

Daytime History: Mathison played AMC’s Ryan from 1998-2002 and 2003-11, when the series ended, and would be more than open to reprising the character on GH. “I’d love to do a four- or five-episode arc or something like that. Although it would be weird to have Ryan Lavery in town, because Greenlee Smythe [the character’s wife, played by Rebecca Budig, now GH’s Hayden] is there, but she’s not Greenlee. We’d have to do, like, a fun double take.”

Bared Necessity: On a recent installment of ET, Mathison performed with the Chippendales dancers. “I wasn’t super-nervous. It’s been a while, but I have some experience ripping off my shirt in a room full of women thanks to ALL MY CHILDREN.”

Coast To Coast: Mathison made the permanent move from New York to California following AMC. “My first month living back here, I had both kids at the park and I was thinking, ‘It’s 85 degrees in December and we’re playing ‘tackle Daddy’ on the grass. California is crazy!’ ”