To see Kirby Heyborne’s eyes light up, just ask him about his calling as Cubmaster in his Latter-day Saint ward.
“I’m going on four years now and we’ve got a pack meeting tonight,” the 34-year-old said with animation. “Some people dread it, but I love it. I love the kids. Every pack meeting, it’s just me up in front, being myself, having a fun time. We do the cheers and everything. I like the improv aspect of it.”
Entertaining the Cub Scouts was just one of several topics the actor-musician-comedian with shaggy blond hair discussed in a recent one-on-one interview with Mormon Times.
Heyborne is most commonly recognized for having starred or costarred in LDS-themed films such as “The Singles Ward,” “The R.M.,” “The Best Two Years” and “Saints and Soldiers.” The Sandy, Utah, native has spent the past eight years living with his family in Los Angeles. When he isn’t going to an audition or appearing in a film, Heyborne is usually at home, narrating an audio book, pruning rose bushes or spending quality time with his family.
Last month, Heyborne traveled to Northern Utah for a concert at Nibley City Heritage Days. Mormon Times was invited to meet with Heyborne at his hotel after the concert at 11 p.m. or at 9 a.m. the next day. When asked about it, he said, “I'm all hopped up so I have a hard time going to sleep. I’m funniest at 11.”
Nevertheless, Heyborne was just as engaging the next morning when he talked about his youth, his love of music, his faith as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his family and his career, before driving to the Salt Lake City airport for a return trip to Los Angeles.
Two role models
Growing up, Heyborne said there were two men who had a tremendous influence on his early life — his father, Bruce, and Ron Smart, his Young Men leader who later became his bishop.
As the third of five children, Heyborne came to appreciate his father’s good example and dry sense of humor.
“He was so funny growing up, a happy guy. I had such a happy childhood. He was laid-back, and I liked that and it influenced me,” he said.
Among memorable Scout camps and good leaders, Heyborne said Smart helped him to understand the gospel and gain a testimony.
“He’s an amazing man,” Heyborne said of Smart, who later served as a mission president in Oregon. “I remember his lessons on the Atonement when I was a priest. He helped me understand as much as I could as a 16-year-old boy about what the Atonement meant.”
When asked about Heyborne, Smart was just as complimentary. He spoke highly of Heyborne during his teenage years, recalling his leadership ability, his self-confidence, his pleasant sense of humor, his stage presence, his humility and a unique talent for making others feel special. The student-body president of Alta High School also consistently bore his testimony each month at fast and testimony meeting.
“Girls would do anything to go on a date with him, but would go out of his way to be nice to the girls who maybe weren’t the prettiest,” Smart said. “He was a talented kid, always a standout, but he was a friend to everybody and made sure all were included.”
The Dominican Republic
In his fictional movie roles, Heyborne served missions in Boise, Wyoming and Holland. In reality, he served in the Dominican Republic. What does he remember most about his best two years?
“There is not one memory, it just all bleeds together into one good memory of rice and beans, diseased dogs, burning tires, good friends and missing home,” he said. “I learned patience. I learned how to rely on my own testimony. It was a hard mission in every way a mission can be hard. I learned how to be strong in the church despite difficult circumstances. It was good preparation for a career in Hollywood.”
A degree in economics?
Following his mission, Heyborne started out studying music at the University of Utah and he excelled. But his father encouraged him to reconsider his course because “you can’t support your family with a music degree.”
He remembered liking an economics class he had and changed his major.
“I went from straight As to barely passing,” Heyborne said.
Although his heart wasn’t in it, he learned that in economics the data could always be manipulated and the only people who make money are the landlords, so he needed to own property.
“I learned that in order to survive, I needed to make money,” he said with a laugh.
A love story
During college, Heyborne married his high school sweetheart, Trish. They met in seventh grade and were close friends during high school. In addition to being attractive, she was cool and comfortable in her own skin, he said.
“While other girls would change to be around a guy, she is one of those who said, ‘I’m going have fun, you want to come, come. If not, I don’t care.’ Man, that was so attractive,” Heyborne said. “She became my best friend and was the perfect match for me.”
The couple has three kids, one son, 11, and two daughters, ages 8 and 3. Whether they are going to Sam’s Club or playing board games, Heyborne is happiest when he is with his wife. He says she doesn’t even get jealous when he has to kiss another woman in movie.
“My wife and I have a great relationship.”
Cancer claimed Heyborne’s mother toward the end of 1999.
“My mom’s death was hard,” he said. “She was so young and it never crossed my mind that she would not be around to see my kids or the successes in my career. Her passing made me aware of being thankful for every moment that I have. There are times I think, ‘She would have loved this moment. She would be laughing at this,’ and I try to slow down at those moments and really take them in.”
LDS in Hollywood
Inevitably the question of being a Mormon in Hollywood comes up, and Heyborne is ready.
“People complicate it. I think it’s the same as being an LDS doctor or an LDS journalist. It’s no different from any other profession," he said. "You are either going to do it or you’re not."
Heyborne says he holds a current temple recommend and does his best to be faithful to the teachings of the church. When people find out he’s a Mormon from Utah, they typically ask, "How was that?"
“As if I once had a disease. How was that? It was fantastic. I love my religion,” Heyborne said. “You have to work hard in this religion to be a good-standing member and it makes me a better person. The older I get, the more I find myself willing to share it with others. I approach it like this is who I am, I care about you and this is important. Since I approach it like that, it’s been so much easier.”
Since his youth, scouting has been a highlight in Heyborne’s life. He even played the role of a Scoutmaster in the 2009 film, “Scout Camp.”
He earned his Eagle Scout award. His service project included collecting food and clothing and distributing the donations at an Indian reservation in Arizona.
Now as an adult leader, Heyborne relishes the chance to interact with the boys as they play with pocketknives and pinewood derby cars.
“I love those moments when you are teaching a principle and they understand it and they open up their minds for the first time: 'Oh, that’s how that works,'” he said. “It doesn’t get old.”
When it’s time to give out awards, Heyborne goes Bill Cosby and tries to get the kids to say funny things because their responses are absolutely entertaining.
Heyborne also strives to invent cheers that will generate laughter at pack meeting.
“Some fall flat on their face,” he said. “Once for the pinewood derby, one of the cheers was, ‘Vroom, vroom, vroom, there it goes!’ We stuck with it through the whole pack meeting. By the end, the parents were laughing at how absurd it was.”
Ultimately, Heyborne credits the Lord for all the happiness in his life. When speaking to LDS youths, he encourages them to be faithful in living the gospel, to work hard and trust in the Lord's promises.
“It’s cool to be Mormon. Being a Mormon sets you apart,” Heyborne said. “Knowing that Heavenly Father loves me makes a huge difference. You don’t feel alone. Knowing he cares about me, that he will put me in the right places and will protect me, that he wants me to succeed, knowing those things makes a difference."
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