March 10, 2014 06:00 PM

Hal Horowitz/Invision/AP

For Josh Lucas, becoming a father to 20-month-old son Noah Rev has not only changed his personal life, but it is changing his career.

Lucas — whose movie The Mend premiered Sunday at SXSW — plays Mat, a guy who has fractured relationships with his family and friends, in a dark comedy directed by John Magary.

Though the role was “fun to play,” Lucas, 42, admits his character serves as a “personal warning” for his own life.

“The thing that was so fun to play — but was a personal warning — is that this is a guy who has let go,” Lucas tells PEOPLE. “He is justifying the fact that his life has failed and he’s saying, ‘This is the way it is.'”

For Lucas — who split from wife Jessica Ciencin Henriquez in January — thinking about what would bring out the good in life for his son, Noah, is driving his choices as he considers future roles.

“My becoming a father has changed absolutely everything in my life, period,” he says. “I am more and more wanting to be a part of things that [are] playful and more the things I see my son really responding to and enjoying.”

Lucas and Henriquez became engaged just six weeks after meeting and went through her cancer diagnosis together. The former couple are now working hard to remain friends.

“We have been through a divorce and divorce isn’t something I would wish on my worst enemy, even when in our case we have managed to do it amicably,” Lucas says. “We will be connected forever. Fully. We have both worked hard to be great friends, particularly because we have a young child that we both truly love. We are the most connected broken family I have ever seen.”

After several past trips to SXSW, Lucas says that the festival has a different feel than others.

“I love this festival,” he says. “It’s fun. And it’s alive in a way. And it’s not just about the insular thing that happens in film festivals sometimes where it is just Hollywood planted on the street — it’s a good, wild fun city.”

— Alicia C. Dennis

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