[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Just in time for Easter weekend, there’s a new family-friendly movie available on demand and streaming. Hero Dog: The Journey Home is a (very) shaggy dog story about Royce (Steve Byers), a blind man on his way home who is guided through the wilderness by an Alaskan Malamute, Chinook, after they survive a boating accident. Chinook (played here by Iikona and then by Houston) was featured in Against the Wild (written and directed by Richard Boddington, who directs this film), which starred Natasha Henstridge as his owner, Susan. She returns in this film, too. Royce is her brother; she’s been taking care of his son, Max (Zackary Arthur) and daughter, Erin (Morgan DiPietrantonio), who end up joining the search for their dad when he goes missing.
Byers is one of our favorites here at TV Goodness, and this week, we caught up by phone to chat about the film. While he has done a few family-safe Hallmark romcoms, this is his first straight up family film, and he was excited to jump into the project. “The movie came along when I was actually working on Workin’ Moms. It was a cute script. It’s not alienating anyone. It’s very inclusive in terms of the age groups. You’re not gonna offend anybody,” he explains.
“I’ve done a lot of work over the years and most of it, I can’t show my kids. I read it and I called my agent pretty much immediately and said, ‘You know, this kind of thing doesn’t come across my desk very often and I want to do it for my girls.’ And it worked out. The timing was perfect, and this fell perfectly into place and we shot up north. That old adage of not working with children and animals didn’t hold true in this one at all. I fell in love with Iikona, who played the hero dog.”
That’s a good thing because he and Iikona have several scenes together on their own, and Chinook is supposed to be Royce’s eyes, watching out for danger and keeping him safe. “It was so rewarding. He was so great and we had a huge bond. There’s a scene in the movie where he really thought I hurt myself and he was very upset that nobody was helping me,” he recalls.
“He came running over as directed and started barking and barking and barking. There’s a small clip that makes it into the film where you can see, if you look really closely, that he actually bites my ears. The crew was there, standing around the corner and he couldn’t believe that no human was coming to help me.”
Last year, Byers guested on Hudson & Rex after having shot Hero Dog, and it was interesting to have the experiences to compare. “[I learned] there are different styles of training. Iikona’s trainer, Nicole Jamieson, had a much more familial bond with the dog. She was assisted by Dennis Epp, another trainer who actually specializes in horses and all sorts of big game. Her commands were very soft and she was more visual and Iikona was very food-motivated,” he explains.
That was worked to good effect throughout the film as Royce finds a bag of jerky on board the boat before they leave it. “Let me tell you, that beef jerky got us through the movie. Iikona heard my Ziploc bag rattle and he was at attention no matter what,” he laughs.
“There’s a scene where we were trying to get Iikona to jump out of the boat into sort of knee-deep water. And his trainer said he wasn’t going to want to do that. And we said, ‘Okay, well, we’ll give it a try,’ and there was no danger to the dog at all. I’m supposed to get into the water and Iikona is supposed to follow. And I thought, ‘I know what’s going to work.’ I just do a little rattle of the Ziploc bag and, ‘Boom’ he went in the water.”
While Byers and Iikona were thick as thieves throughout, a scene with a mountain lion was a bit unsettling. “I was a little intimidated because of course they bring her in with a chain, and she’s quite willing to come, but they have a chain around her. And then we go to shoot and she’s actually attached to sort of a peg that they’ve put pretty deep into the ground with, kind of like an airline cord, she’s restrained, but it’s not the chain that they had,” he points out. “I was really close to her. She was never supposed to be super angry, so I was never in any danger, but when you can smell them, you’re very close.”
Byers has a few scenes with Colin Fox, one of Canada’s most recognizable actors from genre classics like PsI Factor, and he had a ball with him. “Colin’s fantastic. He’s not there for a long time, but luckily, the way it was set up, we were able to have a few dinners together at the place that we were staying,” he recalls. “He tells amazing stories. And honestly I could listen to him for hours. I’d listen to an audiobook from him, for sure. He’s got that majestic voice. It’s awesome.”
Another actor in the film is Canadian John Tench, who plays the officer leading the rescue effort, and it’s fun to see him in a family film, too, because he’s often the heavy. He and Byers actually go back a ways to when they shared representation, and they co-starred together, but never worked at the same time, in Far Cry 5. “He’s usually the biker, but he’s so funny. He’s actually one of the nicest guys,” he says.
While the weather sometimes gave them fits, Byers says the project had some neat moments, too, like piling into a helicopter with the cast and Iikona. “There were so many great things that happened in a situation that was super challenging,” he shares.
“It’s a happy family movie. And I’m proud to have something that anybody can watch. A feel-good escape for a little bit from what’s going on in the world is therapy on its own. I think it’s important to be part of the therapy rather than being part of the noise that’s going on.”
Hero Dog: The Journey Home is now available on demand and streaming on Amazon, YouTube, and iTunes. It’s also available on DVD. In Canada, it’s available on Super Channel Heart and Home. For our previous interview where we talked a little bit about the movie just after it was filmed, click here.
Photos and Video Courtesy of Lionsgate.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Alison Sweeney Talks About What’s Next for Hannah and Mike After Carrot Cake Murder: A Hannah Swensen Mystery
[Warning: Spoilers for Carrot Cake Murder.] Everybody OK after that Hannah Swensen Mystery twist? Thankfully, our favorite crime-solving couple is still on speaking term, even if they’re on a break (hopefully not that kind of break). Most importantly, we already know this isn’t the last film in the series. No…
Counting Down to From Season 2
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] We’re just shy of two weeks away from Season 2 of last spring’s obsession, From, which premieres at 9 pm/8c, Sunday, April 23rd, on MGM+ (formerly EPIX). If you never picked it up last year, now’s your chance, and you can do it for free, catching…
Thank Me Later: Will Trent
[Warning: spoilers ahead.] I’m on record as loving and losing shows over at ABC so I’m usually very reticent to pick something up on the network until it’s been renewed, and I seriously hope I’m not jinxing it, but I took a chance on the deeply odd and very sweet…
Dennis Heaton Talks The Imperfects
Longtime readers at TV Goodness will know that Motive is one of my ride-or-die series, and as such, I am fiercely loyal to its creator, Dennis Heaton. He followed up that fantastic reverse procedural with Netflix’s The Order and is back on our streaming screens with The Imperfects, which dropped…
Kelly McCormack Talks Favorite Moments in A League of Their Own
[Warning: Mild spoilers for season 1.] Now that you’ve had a chance to watch A League of Their Own, here’s the rest of my chat with Kelly McCormack about her favorite moments of the season. Seeing the iconic Peaches uniforms for the first time wasn’t just a goosebump moment for…
John Griffin and Harold Perrineau Talk From Season 1 Finale
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] How are we doing, #FROMily? In case you missed it this morning, the very good news is that that cliffhanger will be followed by a second season, which was gifted this morning ahead of the linear broadcast of the finale. I always legitimately appreciate when we…
Elizabeth Saunders Talks From
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the things that makes EPIX’s From such a fun ride is the abundance of Canadian cast members. Elizabeth Saunders, who plays Donna, is a favorite from her turn on the third season of Mary Kills People [streaming on Global TV in Canada and Roku…
Corteon Moore Talks From “Broken Windows, Open Doors”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight’s episode of From had us all in our feels as we learned through flashbacks about the Sophie’s Choice Boyd had to make to save his son, and back in the present as Boyd said his piece with Ellis before heading into the woods with…
Pegah Ghafoori Talks From “All Good Things…”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode] Tonight on From, Fatima’s anniversary celebration turned into a Colony House of horrors when a misguided Kevin let his monster bae in and she promptly killed him and left the window open for her crew. While the party devolved into terror and sent everyone running,…
Shaun Majumder Talks From “Book 74”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight on EPIX’s From, Father Khatri made a bold move, kidnapping Sara instead of turning her in, and then recognizing her as a vessel for some big messages. That startling realization speaks to him on multiple levels–as a man of faith, a man trapped in…
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…
Leave a Reply