Aurelie Corinthios
December 15, 2016 11:36 AM

Alan Thicke wasn’t just Kirk Cameron‘s on-screen dad — he truly felt like a father figure to him in real life, too.

On Thursday, Cameron paid an emotional tribute to the late actor, who died of a heart attack at age 69 on Tuesday. According to Cameron, who starred as Thicke’s son on the hit sitcom Growing Pains from 1985–92, Thicke made an unforgettable first impression.

“I … remember thinking, ‘Wow, this famous Canadian talk show host guy sounds different when he says words like, ‘about’ and ‘aye,’ ” Cameron told the Today show of their first introduction, which took place when Cameron was just 14 years old. “But he’s really nice and funny, and seems like he’s going to be a really cool dad.”

ABC Photo Archives/ABC/Getty

Throughout the course of the series’ seven seasons, Cameron says Thicke helped the cast gel.

“We were a family,” he said. “We laughed and cried together, shared birthday celebrations, Christmas parties, holidays and worked together with the crew as a team to make a really special TV show. We weren’t just a TV family. In many ways, we were a real family.”

Cameron, 46, says the connection wasn’t just on-camera — in fact, the two actors developed a true friendship that continued even after the show went off the air.

“Alan was … a seasoned dad through and through,” he said. “He was always available on set and off to talk with me, to listen and understand, to give advice, calm my teenage nerves and even share my excitement when something great happened … just like a good dad.”

RELATED VIDEO: A Look Back at Some Memorable Moments from Alan Thicke’s Career

 

“In an ever-changing world, my friendship with Alan was always a constant,” he added, noting that Thicke always organized cast reunions. “Meeting up with Alan, even after years had passed since we’d seen each other — we’d just pick up the conversation where we’d left off.”

Ultimately, Cameron said he’s learned valuable lessons from Thicke and his Growing Pains character, Dr. Jason Seaver.

“Jason Seaver … was a man who didn’t take himself too seriously, but took his role as a father very seriously,” he said. “Alan was just like that kind of man. Alan knew that time invested in his family — even more than his career — would be one of his greatest legacies.”

Thicke is survived by his wife, Tanya, and his three sons: Brennan, 41, Robin, 39, and Carter, 19.

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