Dale Midkiff won the hearts of audiences with his portrayal of the loving patriarch on Hallmark Channel’s Love Comes Softly. And yet, while it’s difficult to imagine him in any other role, there are dozens of Dale Midkiff movies and TV shows (including Dale Midkiff as Elvis). In this interview, he talks about his acting career and the importance of his wife and family, and takes readers behind the scenes of Love Comes Softly.
Who is Dale Midkiff?
I’m Dale. You can see 35 years of my career on IMDB. I played Elvis in Priscilla Presley’s miniseries called Elvis and Me; everybody in town wanted that role. I played John Ewing as a young man in Dallas: The Early Years, the miniseries. I was in a show called Time Trax—two years in Australia.
I was in a lot of Hallmark movies and enjoyed Hallmark immensely.
How did Dale Midkiff get involved with Love Comes Softly?
The first one was called Love Comes Softly, which was beautiful. It was with my dear friend, Michael Landon, Jr., who’s the one who actually cast me in the role. I’m so thankful to him forever and for always.
The truth is, Hallmark didn’t want me. They had someone else in mind—a country singer or something. A nice guy or whatever. But Michael Landon Jr. had seen me in something and he was just vehement—he wanted me for the role. And I thank God every day for him wanting me in that role, because he fought hard with Hallmark.
I didn’t learn this until we were a week into shooting, actually.
I asked him, “Michael, what was it you saw me in that made you want me so much?” And I thought maybe it was Elvis, Jock Ewing, The Magnificent Seven—I’d done years of that.
And he said, “No, it was this little role you did in a film. You were a dad and there was a scene you had with your son.”
I couldn’t remember off the top of my head, and I said, “Michael, what was the movie?”
It was Air Bud: World Pup. I mean, just one of those rare, little tiny movies. I had just a few scenes in it, and that’s what he based his opinion on—which I thought was amazing.
It goes to show you, that old cliché, “No role is too small.”
It was that tiny little role that got me all those Love Comes Softly Movies. I’m so grateful for that.
What are some of Dale Midkiff’s memories of working with Michael Landon Jr.?
Michael Landon Jr. was one of the best directors I’ve ever had. I’ve had directors who are flamboyant or whatnot. But Michael, if you were a little off, he’d come and whisper in your ear, “Try it a little bit this way, a little bit that way.” Which is the best thing to do for a director. It worked perfectly.
Another guy I worked with on Elvis and Me was Larry Peerce—another great director, fantastic. He would do that. The whole set would be weaving around and he would just come and whisper in my ear. It’s so much better than a director yelling out in front of everybody.
I always like the director who whispered, I suppose. It just felt more special. It was like, “Alright, you’re right in touch with me. You’re right in lock with me. You’re right in line with me. I see what you’re saying right now.”
Did Dale Midkiff ever talk to Michael Landon Jr. about his father, or Little House on the Prairie and Bonanza?
I have to say that I didn’t. I always thought a man’s family life is his family life and that was very personal to him. I don’t cross that line. If he had brought it up, yes. But he never did. So I never asked him about it.
I’m sure he’s heard it from many people—many people ask about his dad.
I think Michael is Michael Jr.—just the man he was. And he was a wonderful director. I didn’t want to bring his dad into the whole mix.
Describe the Love Comes Softly films for those watching for the first time.
The first one is the one I remember the most. Bottom line, it’s the story of love. It’s about trying to find love, trying to survive in this world.
And in the off chance—I mean the off chance—that you actually find a woman that you can love… that’s the most amazing thing in the world and you should hang onto it forever if you ever find that woman.
That’s what I felt like when I was filming that movie.
What does Dale Midkiff remember about working with Katherine Heigl?
Katherine Heigl was amazing. Such a beautiful actress. I remember we were near the end and she was talking about, “Ah, I think I’m going to give up acting.”
I looked at her. I didn’t even have to say it—I looked at her. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought. “You’re so honest with your acting and so beautiful. You’ve got be kidding.”
I never said it, but I should have. But it worked out just fine.
And her mother was always around. She was lovely too. We were just on the set at night and they’re knitting—knitting! I was so fine with it. I wondered, “Why I am so comfortable with this? It feels natural. Perfect.” I think that was their hobby. I think they knit today probably. They were so cool.
What made Erin Cottrell so relatable to viewers in the role of Missie Lahaye?
Erin, I loved her! First of all, listen—we’re doing a Hallmark movie. So everybody who came on the set was absolutely beautiful, down from the grips and the crew to my friend Jack Lilley who was the wrangler—Jack Lilley worked with John Wayne, of course.
We had some old school cowboys out there—serious guys with the belt buckles who had been in rodeos. It was cool.
Erin—I remember us in a thunder storm. It was a tough shoot that night. And she was a trooper—an absolute trooper. We were just drenched for hours, but she came in and we held each other and it was just perfect.
Why does Dale Midkiff think the movies continue to resonate with viewers?
Because we were honest, I think. That may sound trite, but it was hard enough to be honest. I’ve always, even at the beginning of my acting career, said, “Just don’t lie. Don’t lie. Don’t lie to yourself.” So when I get there, I’m not lying; I’m trying to build the truth—at least on that day in that moment.
And if you get so lucky to have a wonderful actress across from you who is open and honest and gives you everything you give her—man, how can you not get to the truth? It’s perfect.
And you’re out in the beautiful California sky surrounded by horses. How can you not get to the truth?
Where were the outdoor scenes for the Love Comes Softly movies filmed?
It was actually on Big Sky Ranch in Simi Valley, where Michael Landon’s series, Little House on the Prairie, was filmed.
But not the first one. Love Comes Softly was filmed up north in Placerville—a beautiful, old mining town from the 1800s. We stayed in a beautiful old hotel. Literally, there were ghosts in the hotel—so they said. I didn’t see any myself. They tend to leave me alone.
It was gorgeous country. There was a part where I sang. It was majestic where we shot.
Love Comes Softly was shot in the most beautiful country you’ve ever seen in your life.
The rest were shot closer to L.A., but that first one was shot in God’s country.
Did the Love Comes Softly film location help Dale Midkiff get in touch with his character?
Yes, yes, yes, and yes. As you’re getting ready, getting out of your trailer, the sun’s coming up and you’re looking around thinking, “Well, I’m not in L.A. anymore, that’s for sure.”
You’re surrounded by beautiful mountains and pastures, land for days. You don’t even have to act. Just let me take a breath, and we’re good.
It’s that easy when there’s so much of nature and God around you. It’s just so easy.
Has Dale Midkiff ever experienced love come softly in his own life?
You mean like the woman I’ve loved for the last 30 years with three beautiful children—that kind of love?
I’ve loved one woman over the last 30 years. She had three beautiful children and I was there to witness every birth. And that’s it. That’s enough for me.
I honestly believe one woman is enough for one man in a lifetime.
Would Dale Midkiff ever reprise his Love Comes Softly role?
No. I’m a man who doesn’t like to retrace his steps. I’ve been to Fiji, Tahiti, Istanbul, Greece, Australia. I never want to go back where I’ve been. There has to be something next.
What else does Dale Midkiff remember about Love Comes Softly?
I miss being around the boys—like the crew and the wranglers and the cowboys. I miss all that. I really do.
There’s something about it—maybe I’ve been on a farm too long—just the home, the morning coffee, just yucking it up. And all of the sudden somebody says, “Action,” and you have to do something. But whatever. Who cares. It’s the family, being around those wonderful people. That’s what I miss.