Kiff Vanden Heuvel ’92 admits that a career as a “pop culture artist” has its ups and downs. “It is a constant challenge, and it is full of frustration; there are a lot of peaks and valleys,” he said. But being able to pursue what you feel called to do every day is more than worth it.

As a youngster, Vanden Heuvel loved to perform, loved to be in front of people. As the grandson of two pastors, he often heard, “You’ve got another preacher in the family.”

“I was the oldest of five kids in a family where the religious culture said no movies, no dancing, no card playing,” he said. “And their kid wants to go to Hollywood?”

Upon entering Calvin, he signed up for an education major.

“I wanted to be like Harrison Ford and Tom Hanks, but I was discouraged because I didn’t think Calvin was the place for me to do it from. Then I stepped into the office of Ervina Boevé. She told me, ‘That’s nonsense. Let me be your adviser.’

“I learned pretty quickly that what seemed so impossible and distant from here is not,” he said.

A Calvin alumni connection helped Vanden Heuvel secure an agent—a huge break in this industry. From a Kentucky Fried Chicken commercial to Richie Rich to voiceover to narrating audiobooks, Vanden Heuvel has experience in many areas of the entertainment industry spanning 25 years. (His most recent is as the voice of Han Solo in Star Wars: Forces of Destiny, a new animated web series, released through Disney’s YouTube channel.)

“It’s not hard to be a Christian,” he said. “There are a lot of really good people in this industry doing really great things. Sometimes you have to open your eyes and look beyond the obvious plot lines.”

A recent example is This Is Us, a popular new drama that Vanden Heuvel also has had a part in as David Malone, Rebecca’s father.

“I’m fascinated by that show,” said Vanden Heuvel. “It is deeply moving, unifying; there is something really healing about that show. Culture changes at degrees of 1 percent. This Is Us is a wonderful shift. It addresses race, adoption, family; truth is explored. Tiny shifts modify culture; big left turns flip the boat.” Vanden Heuvel is passionate about being part of those tiny shifts.

“We were made in the image of the Creator,” said Vanden Heuvel. “What we’re called to do is a verb: create. I’m called to do what I do, and I’m called to encourage and inspire others to do it, too.

“My advice to young people, all people really, is if you feel like it needs to be made, don’t stop yourself from making it. Explore and see what it might be. ... The trend in culture is to bash everything. My challenge is to look beyond, to look for what’s good in it.”

And finally: “Go to the movies, play cards, dance. Life’s too short.”