James Van Der Beek lives an incredibly normal life

A whole generation grew up watching James Van Der Beek as Dawson Leery in Dawson’s Creek, and it is safe to say the iconic ’90s television character made the actor famous the world over. Though Van Der Beek has worked steadily since his breakthrough role, the Varsity Blues star actually lives a relatively chill life when he’s not acting. With a loving wife and a large family, the actor appears to be extremely content spending time with his nearest and dearest at home or on the road, rather than walking red carpets and attending glamorous parties.

From where he’s chosen to live to his commitment to being the best father he can be, the guy who won the Teen Choice Awards surfboard for Choice Breakout Star back in 1999 is probably one of the more relatable celebrities around today. Or at the very least, he doesn’t lead the “Hollywood life” you might think someone who’s been on TV for multiple decades would lead. Here’s everything you need to know about James Van Der Beek’s incredibly normal life. 

James Van Der Beek left Los Angeles for Texas

While many actors base themselves in Los Angeles, James Van Der Beek announced on Instagram on Sept. 30, 2020 that he was moving out of California with his family. Sharing photos he and his family took in the house, Van Der Beek wrote, “Sometimes a fuller life begins with an empty house. Leaving Los Angeles incredibly grateful for all the friends and memories we’ve made here. Onto the next big adventure!” While the Rules of Attraction star is sure to continue working in the entertainment industry, it would seem that he and his family are ready for a new challenge in a different location. The actor’s wife, Kimberly Van Der Beek, shared that they left “Beverly Hills to embark on a new adventure in Texas.”

In another Instagram post, James opened up about why his family had chosen to hightail it on over to Texas. “At the park in Beverly Hills near the house we just moved away from… you were not allowed to fly a KITE,” he explained. “Also not allowed at any park in #BeveryHills: Riding a bicycle, climbing a tree, throwing a ball against a cinder-block wall … when people ask why we’re moving our kids out of L.A. these are just some of the reasons.” Suffice to say, Van Der Beek is ready to experience a different and more laid-back way of life.

Fame scared James Van Der Beek

While it would be easy to assume that the star of Dawson’s Creek savored the success he garnered when the show became an instant, that wasn’t really the case. During a 2020 interview with Good Morning America, James Van Der Beek revealed, “I never wanted to be an actor as a kid. I wanted to be an athlete.” In fact, the Dancing with the Stars alum was so unprepared for super-stardom that he freaked out a little bit when it happened. “My reaction to fame was to run away from it,” he explained. “I didn’t know what to do with fame. I didn’t know what to do with recognizability.”

According to Dawson himself, being thrown into the spotlight was hard as a young performer. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Van Der Beek admitted, “I took myself way too seriously… The ego certainly is the biggest obstacle as an artist or performer, so any chance you get to destroy that is really healthy.” But after playing an over-the-top version of himself in Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23, it’s clear that Van Der Beek is much more comfortable with himself and his fame these days.

James Van Der Beek is the ultimate daddy

James Van Der Beek has a big family, and judging by his adorable Instagram posts, he’s extremely happy with his home life. The star has five kids with his wife, Kimberly Van Der Beek: Olivia, Joshua, Emilia, Annabel, and Gwendolyn. “I joke that having this many kids, you see your parenting mistakes in real time,” the actor shared in a 2020 interview with Fatherly. “So you realize that wagging your finger at them and saying, ‘Because I said so,’ doesn’t work because they immediately use it on each other. So, we’ve really had to dial in our conflict resolution and brush up on it and read books about it.”

The Labor Day star appears to relish fatherhood, and is firmly focused on his family. As he told Fatherly, “It’s amazing, the conversation and the bonding that comes out of just focused time spent with the kids. It kind of goes back to what I keep thinking to be true — what [kids] want is just connection. You know? Just putting myself in a position where we get to connect is always the goal.” James Van Der Beek? More like James Van Der BecameTheUltimateDad. 

Just call James Van Der Beek the road trip king

When it was time for the Van Der Beeks to move from Los Angeles to Texas, they made an excursion out of it. Rather than climbing into a moving truck, the family hopped in an RV and took a cross-country road trip to their new home, documenting their adventures along the way. Sharing some sweet snaps from the journey on Instagram, James Van Der Beek explained, “10-day road trip. 5 kids. 2 dogs. Plus 2 baby rescue puppies we adopted on day one. Because, unless your good friends try to talk you out of at least some part of your vacation… it’s not an adventure.”

The family’s trip to Texas isn’t the first time they’ve vacationed in an RV. In 2019, Van Der Beek shared a photo of himself wearing Christmas pajamas while filling up the RV with gas. As he told Fatherly, “We got in an RV this holiday and we just drove. We had no idea where we’d sleep or where we’d park at the end of the day — we’d just get a map and try to find some out of the way place in nature.” Van Der Beek went on to say that an unplanned trip out in the wilderness is his “favorite thing” to do with his family. “You put your phone down. In most places, your phone doesn’t even work. And you’re just present with them.”

James Van Der Beek's kids think he's cool

As a total family man, James Van Der Beek is pretty elated about the fact that his five children still think he’s relatively cool. The Pose star told Fatherly that raising children as a famous actor has been “interesting.” He went on to share that his kids are used to strangers asking their dad for pictures, noting, “We try not to make it a big deal.”  For the time being? “They seem to be cool about it,” he said. “Right now, they’re young enough where everything that I do is cool. So I’m just relishing that while it lasts.”

However, the actor seems to realize that his children won’t necessarily think that he’s “cool” forever. When Fatherly’s Lizzy Francis pointed out that Van Der Beek will eventually be “just dad,” the Dawson’s Creek alum replied, “And nothing I do will be cool.” What is clear, though, is that the actor is taking every single moment of being a dad incredibly seriously.

Dawson's Creek isn't a hit in the Van Der Beek home

While James Van Der Beek’s kids seem to handle his fame with aplomb, there’s one aspect of his career that they’re less clued-in on. Most of the world was introduced to Van Der Beek in his career-making role as Dawson Leery in Dawson’s Creek, but his children are a little uncertain about the show’s premise and name. As reported by Today in February 2020, Van Der Beek shared an Instagram Story in which he spoke with one of his daughters about the TV series that made him famous. “Why is it called Dalson’s Creek?” his daughter asked, coining a brand new spelling for the show’s title. “Is it because Dalson owns a creek and someone tries to destroy it?”

Playing along with his daughter’s hilarious summary of Dawson’s Creek, Van Der Beek replied, “Exactly. He owns a creek, and then somebody’s trying to blow it up and, so he has to use kung fu and ninja moves to try to prevent that from happening.” His daughter reportedly replied, “I can imagine you doing that,” before proceeding to do some kung fu moves of her own. Basically, if anyone wants to reboot Dawson’s Creek for the 2020s, Van Der Beek’s children have already developed a brand new, timely take.

James Van Der Beek has taken on an important cause

In 2020, James Van Der Beek joined forces with Always and Walmart in the fight against period poverty. Opening up to Fatherly about his involvement in the campaign, which aims to raise awareness about sanitary product accessibility, Van Der Beek explained, “I was really honored that I was considered enough of an ally to be someone who they reached out to… Period poverty is something that I, quite honestly, didn’t really think about until I had kids.” 

The What Would Diplo Do? actor elaborated on the topic during an interview with People. “One in five girls are missing school and extracurricular activities because they don’t have access to period products,” he told the publication in January 2020. “But this is not something that needs to be covered up or not talked about. I want to chip away at the stigma. There are girls who really need help.” With his advocacy, Van Der Beek has proven that he is proud to be raising young women, and that he truly wants to make a difference to anyone in the world struggling with this issue.

James Van Der Beek's 'superpower' comes in handy

While many celebrities seem to relish the glamorous lifestyles that fame affords them, James Van Der Beek appears to be extremely happy living a quiet life at home, and attending the odd restaurant now and again. In fact, according to the actor, the thing that he would miss if he wasn’t well-known is actually pretty understandable. During an interview with iNews, Van Der Beek revealed, “I don’t know what I’d do if I went to a crowded restaurant and I walked up to the hostess and didn’t feel like there was a pretty good chance I could still get a table. That’s my superpower. I would feel bereft if that superpower was taken away.” However, the former teen star was quick to note, “It doesn’t always work, I’ll go and see the person and judge their age range and think ‘Yeah not a chance.'”

Aside from enjoying getting a table at any restaurant, the CSI: Cyber star shared some advice for the teen stars of today, such as the kids from Stranger Things. “You don’t change overnight,” he told iNews, “but the way people treat you overnight [does]. Because of something that’s make believe, essentially.” Van Der Beek has his feet firmly on the ground and doesn’t seem to be all that swayed by the so-called celebrity lifestyle.

Prioritizing is, well, a priority for James Van Der Beek

The year 2020 has presented huge challenges for people all over the world, with the COVID-19 pandemic making self-isolation and lockdowns necessary in many locations. Speaking to Us Weekly‘s Moms Like Us podcast, James Van Der Beek revealed that he’s been focusing on what’s most important during the pandemic. “Just really learning to prioritize,” he told the hosts. “I think we’ve all come to this realization that we were all so busy before with stuff that didn’t really serve us and didn’t necessarily make us happy.”

Moving forward, Van Der Beek is planning to devote more energy to his family. The actor explained, “It’s just been a real lesson in being present and recognizing how much more I need to be present, with my kids and family, and what’s really important. I’ve been paying a lot more attention to what I consume in terms of food, media, stories, entertainment.” And when it comes to spending time online and digesting news stories and content, Van Der Beek has a new set of questions he’s been asking himself. The actor explained, “Does it enrich me? Does it make me happy? Does it give me an energy? And how do I feel afterwards?” Solid advice for everyone to live by.

James Van Der Beek's marriage hit a milestone

While the character Dawson Leery was never very lucky in love, James Van Der Beek has been married to his wife, Kimberly Van Der Beek, for a long time. In August 2020, the couple celebrated their tenth anniversary, and James commemorated the milestone on Instagram. He shared, “A year prior to [the wedding], I’d been famous, been wealthy, been married, been divorced, been less-than-wealthy, been single… and I was in Israel, on a trip with an organized group, when it hit me: I was done being single. I wanted a real relationship. A soul mate.” The actor was also looking for “Someone with whom [he] could build a family,” and the couple has since welcomed five children together. Near the end of the post, James called Kimberly “the best human” he knows. 

Kimberly also paid tribute to her husband of ten years in an adorable Instagram post. She captioned a sweet photo taken with her beau, “Life with you has been a beautiful and adventurous tale of love, strength, vulnerability and magic. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world. Happy anniversary.” It’s clear that the Van Der Beeks are very much in love all these years later. Dawson should be so lucky.

The Van Der Beeks are open about personal struggles

James and Kimberly Van Der Beek have welcomed five children so far, but their fertility journey has not been without heartbreak. In June 2020, the actor took to Instagram to share the devastating news that his wife had gone through another miscarriage. He wrote, “After suffering a brutal, very public miscarriage last November, we were overjoyed to learn we were pregnant. This time, we kept the news to ourselves. But last weekend, once again, 17 weeks in… the soul we’d been excited to welcome into the world had lessons for our family that did not include joining us in a living physical body.”

On an October 2020 episode of The Make Down podcast, Kimberly got candid about her own fertility story. She revealed, “I understand that I am very blessed to be able to birth five children. I’ve also had five miscarriages, two which were really harsh experiences.” She further explained, “It has changed my day-to-day quite a bit, because I’m in very much a healing mode right now.” By opening up about Kimberly’s miscarriages, she and James are helping to remove the stigma attached to the experience, and are making other people who are going through the same thing feel less alone.

A chance run-in led James Van Der Beek to love

In his anniversary tribute to Kimberly Van Der Beek, James Van Der Beek revealed that he met his wife completely by chance during a trip to Israel. The actor wrote on Instagram, “I was mid-revelation, rattling all this off to a friend of mine when a voice interrupted us, wanting to ask him a question. I was annoyed. Who the hell was stepping all over my moment?” However, James’s annoyance quickly dissipated once he started talking to the woman who would turn out to be his future wife. He continued, “I turned around… it was @vanderkimberly. Three days later, I asked her what she was looking for in a relationship. Her answer: ‘I’m not looking for a relationship.’ Six months later we were living together.”

Prior to walking down the aisle with Kimberly, James was married to actor Heather McComb. The Dawson’s Creek star tied the knot with his first wife on July 5, 2003, but the couple separated in April 2009 and finalized their divorce on March 31, 2010. According to People, James met Kimberly in the summer of 2009, following his divorce, and the couple went back to Israel the next year to get hitched. While their first encounter may have been accidental, their relationship has truly stood the test of time.

Don't worry, James Van Der Beek is in on the joke

James Van Der Beek’s acting career has been nothing short of prolific, and his contribution to the world of memes remains unmatched. Yes, we’re talking about the iconic crying Dawson meme. If you’ve spent any amount of time on the internet, you’ve almost certainly seen the screen grab or the GIF of Van Der Beek’s Dawson’s Creek character in the middle of a hearty sob. 

Even though it would be easy to assume that Van Der Beek isn’t a fan of the much-circulated meme, the truth is quite to the contrary. During a 2020 interview with Page Six, the star shared that he does not “really hate it,” noting that “you never know what’s going to stick” when you’re an actor. He continued, “So I think when anything sticks it’s a compliment and I think it’s used so hilariously. It’s used to mock people, it’s used for weird ’90s quirks. I get a kick out of it actually when I see it.” As he joked to Entertainment WeeklyIt’s my favorite thing about the whole show.”

In fact, Van Der Beek is so comfortable with his viral ugly crying GIF that he recreated it for Funny or Die with the project “Vandermemes” in 2011. The lesson here is, if Van Der Beek can get over the ridiculously popular (and wonderfully ridiculous) crying Dawson meme, the rest of us can survive anything.

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