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Through Dark Nights Rising

The Coming Home of David Dastmalchian

On a sunlit Saturday in the ‘80s, David pedaled his bike hard up 95th Street toward Metcalf South Shopping Center in Overland Park. With a pocketful of lawnmowing money and a mind filled with adventure, he burst into Clint’s Comics to buy another issue of Avengers, Batman or otherworldly battles of good and evil. 

David later journaled his thoughts, as Mr. Haupt taught him at Oak Park Elementary. Journaling helped him through his parents’ divorce—expressing unmasked emotions and penning superhero-sized dreams. It was a tool he’d return to often in life, especially after attempting suicide following depression and a five-year heroin addiction.  

This SMSouth graduate went from starring on stages and in stadiums to living in his car and destitute. Institutionalized, bed-strapped, and infected from dirty needles, he was ravaged of health and dreams. 

In true character arc, David Dastmalchian hit bottom before skyrocketing up. Today, you see him on red carpets for his latest blockbuster (Dark Knight, Ant-Man, with Dune and Suicide Squad coming your way), but it was a long night’s journey into day.

“Here’s the thing,” Dastmalchian says from his location filming Hulu’s Reprisal, “my family never gave up on me. Neither did my friends, community or even complete strangers, like those mental health workers who dedicated their lives to my recovery.”

Dastmalchian says his family also realized they couldn’t enable him: “It’s so hard for parents, but tough love is true love. It doesn’t swoop in and buy you a new car because you smashed the last one. It doesn’t let you show up unannounced and crash on their couch because you’ve been evicted yet again. It says when you’re truly ready, we’re here.”

Now 17 years sober, Dastmalchian compels others to never give up on people. His original films Animals (2014) and KC-based All Creatures Here Below (2016) resound that nobody is beyond redemption. 

“I hope my stories carve out a little more compassion for others. We’re so much stronger together.”

An authentic and transparent life is important to Dastmalchian: “I still see a therapist and use medication. There’s no shame or stigma in that. Depression and addiction don’t fully encompass my day anymore, and I’m loving life, but I know I’m not invincible.”  

As a husband and father of two, Dastmalchian says his family is non-negotiable. His wife of six years, Eve, is a muralist who travels with him, along with their son, Arlo, 5, and daughter, Pennie, 2. 

“We stick together,” he says. “If we’re apart more than 10 days, it’s too hard for me. That may sound weak, but it’s a reality. My family is more important than my contract, billing or size of my trailer.”

Dastmalchian says fatherhood has taught him that a fully lived life includes every emotion “we’re supposed to feel as humans” while navigated with kindness, independence, and faith, adding that fatherhood has fostered his relationship with God: “It’s exploded my feelings of love and gratitude I have for the Creator. I’m stretching out and finding new ways of experiencing that faith.”

Whenever he returns to KC for work, charities, or Stroud’s and Jack Stack, he’s grateful for his Midwest upbringing: “My teachers, coaches and youth leaders impacted my life, especially in goal-setting. I wish I paid even more attention.”

His children love visiting KC, especially Antioch Park, Deanna Rose, and Theatre-in-the-Park where Dastmalchian once performed: “It’s important my kids understand how blessed we are here. The rest of the world doesn’t look like this. It’s a special place.”

Dastmalchian is passionate about bringing more projects to KC, and he’s not through exploring harrowing themes yet. On October 23, he’s releasing his brainspawn—Count Crowley—an original comic book series set in a fictional town resembling old Lenexa. 

“Monster movies weren’t at the top of Mom’s list,” he says and laughs. “I used to sneak downstairs to watch ‘Crematia Mortem’s Creature Feature’—

movies starring Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney. I based the main character in Count Crowley off that host who fights monsters. You have to realize, I fought real demons in my life more horrifying, so I’m willing to go to some dark places creatively and explore frightening corners of the human experience. But I’m trying to get to a place—and I don’t always get this right—where it’s not just for shock but has meaning or purpose.”

Today, Dastmalchian says that when he sees his name in lights, he doesn’t feel like he’s a success or that he’s made it yet.

“Those red-carpet moments go by quickly, and then I’m back in the car with Eve. We look at each other and say, ‘let’s get some ice cream.’’ Going to Starbucks or the grocery store with my wife and kids is where my greatest moments of joy arrive. That feels like success to me. I have a family who loves me, and I love them. So, I take it back. I do feel like I’ve made it. I’m a very blessed man.”

“Sure, I want to entertain people, but it would mean a lot to me if I told stories that contributed some kindness or understanding in this life.”

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