'7th Heaven' Star Barry Watson Turned Down Roles to Focus on Fatherhood: 'I Have No Regrets'

"Being a dad and a husband is my number one job," actor Barry Watson tells PEOPLE

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It's been 25 years since the first episode of his hit series 7th Heaven, but Barry Watson is still getting reminders of the show and his character today.

"My [16-year-old] son Oliver grew his hair out and I looked at him the other day and he reminded me of Matt Camden," says Watson, 47, who played the eldest Camden sibling for six seasons. "My 13-year-old Felix just binge-watched it. It is amazing that so many people are still being introduced to that show."

And Watson, who stars on the upcoming Lifetime reboot of Highway to Heaven premiering Nov. 6, had no idea that 7th Heaven would become such a cultural touchstone.

"I was so broke at the time that I just did it for the pilot," he recalls. "I was like who is going to watch this show about a minister's family? It was completely unexpected how the show took off."

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After he left the show, Watson, set to take on new roles, was confronted with terrifying news. At just 28 he was diagnosed with Stage 2 non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

"It was a huge shock," recalls the actor. "But I'm a stubborn guy, so I was like I'm going to fight like hell."

Following a grueling six-month chemotherapy regimen, Watson was in remission — and forever changed. "I just really slowed my world down," he says. "It made me see life in such a completely different way."

In 2014, Watson wed actress Natasha Gregson Wagner; they share daughter Clover, 9. (His sons are from a previous relationship).

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Justine Yeung

Natasha "makes my world go round," says Watson. "We are true life partners. It's hard being away from my family."

And though he's excited about upcoming projects, including Highway to Heaven and the upcoming superhero series Naomi, "being a dad and a husband is my number one job," he says.

"I said no to probably too many things in the past and it affected my work. But I have no regrets," Watson shares. "I'm proud because I can coach my daughter's basketball games, go to the games, really be a part of their lives. And hopefully my kids will recognize that Dad was always there."

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