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July 08, 2019

Lance Kerwin's Struggles after 'James at 15' Ended

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One of the biggest teen heartthrobs during the 1970s, Lance Kerwin’s life took a drastic turn after his role as James Hunter in “James at 15” ended in 1978.

While his character portrayed a likable boy-next-door image, Lance’s personal life suffered under the demands of childhood stardom. 

Lance Kerwin in 1977. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.


The family moved to a waterfront penthouse apartment in Marina del Ray, which Lance referred to as the “cellblock.” While filming “James at 15,” he received three hours of tutoring on set and read Stanislavki every night along with his script for the next day.

His casual marijuana use while at home turned into a cocaine addition he later struggled to conceal. It affected his work, which started to dry up. To escape the temptations that went with his lifestyle, Lance moved to Maui in Hawaii in the early 1990s. 

Publicity photo of Elizabeth Cheshire and Lance Kerwin in "The Family Holvak" in 1975. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.


“I was like a chameleon. I had my church friends, my Alcoholics Anonymous friends, and other friends that I should not have had,” Lance said.

In 1994, Lance had a daughter with his girlfriend and took her with him to Perris, California after they split up and the former teen idol decided to give his life over to Jesus Christ.

Lance Kerwin and Canadian actor Glenn Ford promoting the November 4, 1974, premiere of the NBC television film The Greatest Gift. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.


He became the overseer at the U-Turn ranch from 1997 until 2000 and served at CC Temecula as a youth minister before he started working at Calvary Chapel’s property at Twin Peaks.

“All I needed all along was Jesus. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize that until all I had left to turn to was Jesus,” Lance added.

Six years later, Lance and his wife, Yvonne moved to Kauai with their daughters to begin a ministry. However, in 2010, Lance had another run-in with the law after he got caught falsifying documents to get state medical assistance and food stamps. 

Lance Kerwin in "The Loneliest Runner" in 1976. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.


Lance entered a guilty plea and received five years of probation and 300 hours of community service.

A pastor at Calvary Chapel in Kapaa at the time, Lance expressed remorse for his actions before sentencing as he said, "I'm sorry. The last thing I want to do is to make a statement to minimize what I have done."

His wife, Yvonne, on the other hand also played a part in the delinquent act and received 300 hours of community service, with a record that would only remain clean if she stayed out of further trouble with the law.

Lance Kerwin in 1977. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.


Gone were the days where he portrayed James, a teenage boy in “James at 15” with his whole life ahead of him as came of age. 

The show, as seen from the perspective of James, only lasted one season that featured twenty-one episodes. It first aired in September 1977 as a film, which initially intended to be the series’ pilot episode.

Lance Kerwin and actress Melissa Sue Anderson promoting the NBC television film "James at 15" in 1977. | Source: Wikimedia Commons.


Another child actor during the same time as Lance also indulged in drugs but managed to put that lifestyle behind him and reach success in acting in adulthood. 

Jason Bateman first made it onto television screens in 1981 with “Little House on the Prairie,” however, two factors significantly influenced the actor’s tumultuous twenties that included an indulgence in drugs and alcohol.