Andrew Shue: From 'Melrose' to moms
This 'Melrose' alum chose family over stardom
(PEOPLE) -- It's the day before Andrew Shue's 35th birthday and the former "Melrose Place" star is feeling reflective. "Any time you hit the fives or the zeros you start to realize that you're getting older," Shue says in the laid-back tone that recalls his role as nice-guy Billy Campbell on the prime-time soap.
He may be getting older, but there's a youthful, "I'll let you in on the joke" quality to Shue that makes him seem familiar. "To celebrate (my birthday), my wife said, 'Maybe we'll just have dinner with the kids. You want oatmeal?'"
Those plans are just fine with Shue, whose priority these days is spending time with his wife, Jennifer Hageney Shue, 37, and their two sons, ages 3 and 5. A protective father, Shue will not disclose the boys' names. To be involved with his family, "I've been really enjoying having a normal schedule that I can count on," he says.
On a typical day, he commutes by train from his Westchester home to his office in Manhattan, where he works on ClubMom, an organization he co-founded two years ago with lifelong friend Michael Sanchez, 35. ClubMom offers free membership to mothers who can get savings on and rebates from purchases with participating companies such as JC Penney and KB Toys. The company makes money by taking essentially a "finder's fee" from member companies for connecting its 2 million-strong membership with them.
So how did one of TV's hottest hunks end up running a mom-friendly company? Shue says he was influenced by his father, Jim, an entrepreneur with an interest in politics. Jim's guidance led to Shue in high school developing a program called Students Helping Seniors, in which youths perform chores for older adults and form friendships with them. That planted the seed for Shue's love of community service work.
His family experience also led to his particular interest in moms. His parents split when he was 5, and he grew up watching his mother, Anne, struggle to manage the home, Shue and his three siblings, and her career as a bank executive. His focus on moms solidified when Shue became a father himself, he says.
"Men are very clear about what they want to be doing," he says. "I think it makes it tougher on moms, who deep down want to be taking care of their kids, but also want to have a life for themselves and pitch in to the family financials."
Along with his parents' divorce, another defining experience for Shue has been his relationship with his siblings: sister Elisabeth, now 38 and an Oscar-nominated actress ("Leaving Las Vegas"), and brothers John, 33, and William, who died in a 1988 swimming accident at age 26. After his parents split, "it was hard," Shue recalls, "so the siblings really focused on each other." That closeness made his brother's death all the more difficult.
"Most everybody has some very traumatic event that takes place in their life," says Shue. "Whether it's an accident like that, or it's dealing with alcoholism or drugs, we don't have guaranteed, perfectly scripted lives . . . It's been an amazing hardship to lose the leader of our family."
He looks back fondly on his six years as the nice guy with the Ivy League looks on "Melrose Place," for the close-knit cast and the opportunities stardom afforded him. "I was extremely fortunate," he says. "As much as I was never the kind of person who watched a nighttime soap opera, those kinds of shows provide a great escape for people."
In 1997, Shue surprised audiences by playing Billy's opposite, portraying an abusive husband in the Francis Ford Coppola film "The Rainmaker." Though he considered further pursuing a career on the big screen, he decided instead to move back to the East Coast in 1998, where he could focus on his family and Do Something, a nonprofit enterprise he started with Sanchez in 1993, which helps fund youth groups nationwide that aim to improve their communities.
But he still keeps ties to the entertainment industry -- he is co-producing an IMAX movie about soccer, and is writing a feature-length screenplay, influenced by his brother's death.
"After going through the loss of my brother, I struggled a lot with the question of what do we do all this for? If we could just die in a bizarre accident, what's the purpose in all of the effort, the toiling, the striving, the trying to make the world a better place, when it can be immediately snuffed out?" he says. "That question has always resonated with me. I'm trying to tell a story that says our connection with others we deeply care about is really the most important reason for living."
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