Fatherhood has led Taylor Calmus into his dream -- a television show in which he is the star. "Super Dad" is available to stream on Discovery Plus beginning Thursday.
"The show is about me coming alongside another dad to build a cool project for his kids," the Howard native said in a telephone interview this week.
Calmus could not have guessed the direction his life would take when he gave up the dream of an acting career after his son Theo, now 5, was born. He and his wife Heidi had been living in Los Angeles for about 6 years. She was working for a nonprofit and he was trying to make it as an actor.
"We were pretty busy," he recalled. Then, Theo was born, and Calmus started re-thinking his life.
"I knew I needed to do something because I wasn't making enough money in the entertainment industry as an actor," Calmus said.
At the same time, he knew he needed to be creative. To maintain his creative edge, he started making "Dude Dad" videos, three-minute clips about fatherhood. They struck a chord and began to attract followers.
Eventually, he was earning enough to give up side jobs and focus on the videos. However, he launched himself into a whole new arena when he challenged celebrity Chip Gaines to a build-off.
Calmus had no idea what was going to happen when he posted a video challenging the "Fixer Upper" star, who has developed the Magnolia brand with his wife Joanna, to build a playhouse for charity. Within a day, Gaines accepted the challenge and together they raised $1.49 million for St. Jude's Children's Hospital.
On the day they presented the check, Gaines proposed Calmus do a program for the Magnolia Network called "Super Dad." Calmus told his parents, Larry and Julia Calmus, but didn't talk about the opportunity until Chip and Joanna Gaines started announcing the lineup for their network last year.
Now, as the first season is being released, he's busy promoting the program. He is featured in a special edition of People magazine, which is on news stands now. At the time of the interview, he was scheduled for an interview on the "Today" show.
Calmus admits he had no idea what the program would look like when it was edited. "It has a lot more heart than I expected it to," he said. "It's very thoughtful."
For every 22-minute segment, the crew spends three days shooting footage after the groundwork is laid.
Casting selects the dads from among the applicants. Calmus holds a Zoom meeting with each dad to get to know him and his family. Chris Roberts, an LA friend, designs the playhouse.
Segments about his family are recorded at their Fort Collins, Colo., home before they travel to Knoxville, Tenn. There, he works with other dads to build the playhouses with cameras recording both the work and the interpersonal interactions.
"I make it my duty to make sure each of the dads puts a lot of sweat equity into this project," Calmus said.
He does this so the dads can have the bragging rights. In trailers for the program, he says he helps "other dads bring their kids' dreams to life and become their heroes in a whole new way."
Calmus considers each of the dads with whom he works to be a super dad. He said he learns something about fatherhood from each one and spoke of one dad who adopted two boys before he was married.
"He entered fatherhood in a whole different way," Calmus said. "He made this definitive choice that's what he wanted to do."
When the dad was growing up, his own father was absent, which was difficult. He wanted to offer those two boys a different life. The dad has since married and has two children with his wife.
Stories like that are part of what has made the "Super Dad" experience satisfying for Calmus.