Billy Ray Cyrus Blamed "Hannah Montana" for "Destroying His Family"
"I'd take it back in a second," the singer said of daughter Miley's hit sitcom.
For five years in the '00s, Miley Cyrus and her father Billy Ray Cyrus starred on Hannah Montana, a Disney Channel series about a teenage girl who has a secret life as a pop star. Miley played Miley Stewart/Hannah Montana, while Billy Ray played the character's father, Robby Stewart. The hit show brought Miley to fame and kicked off her ongoing career as an actor and singer. It also introduced Billy Ray, who was best known for his 1992 country hit "Achy Breaky Heart," to a younger audience.
But in spite of the success of the show—and that it made Miley a household name—when Hannah Montana ended in 2011, Billy Ray declared he wished the show had never happened. In an interview with GQ published a month after the series came to a close, the child star's dad said that the show had "destroyed" his family and that he'd take it all back "in a second." Read on to find out why Billy Ray felt so regretful of the show and to see what Miley has said about her Disney stardom over the years.
Billy Ray was going through a lot at the time.
As noted in the GQ profile, at the time the interview took place, Billy Ray had recently filed for divorce from Tish Cyrus, his wife since 1993, with whom he welcomed three of his children. (He also adopted two of Tish's children from a previous relationship. Tish and Billy Ray did not end up splitting for good until 2022.) At the same time, Miley, then 18, was making headlines for various so-called scandals, including being recorded smoking out of a bong. (Her reps said she was smoking salvia, which was legal where Miley was. Miley confirmed this years later.)
Billy Ray spoke at length in the interview about wanting to keep Miley safe and about being distrusting of her "handlers."
The country star said of filming the fourth and final season of Hannah Montana in 2010, "I was going to work every single day knowing that my family had fallen apart, but yet I had to sit in front of that camera. I look back and I go, How did I ever make it through that? I must be a better actor than I thought."
He said the show "drove a wedge" between him and Miley.
Billy Ray admitted that he tried to be his children's friend more than a parent, which he regretted. He said that after the first two seasons of the show, "The business was driving a wedge between us." He continued, "How many interviews did I give and say, 'You know what's important between me and Miley is I try to be a friend to my kids'? I said it a lot. And sometimes I would even read other parents might say, 'You don't need to be a friend, you need to be a parent.' Well, I'm the first guy to say to them right now: You were right."
He also said that his and Miley's Christian faith was at risk. "Somewhere along this journey, both mine and Miley's faith has been shaken. That saddens me the most," he said. He also said that he believed his family was being targeted by the devil. "There's no doubt about it … You think, 'This is a chance to make family entertainment, bring families together…' and look what it's turned into," the singer/actor added.
He said he wished he could "take it back."
GQ asked Billy Ray if he viewed Hannah Montana as "a big part of what has made things not work in [his] family."
He replied, "Oh, it's huge—it destroyed my family. I'll tell you right now—the [expletive] show destroyed my family." Asked if he wished the show never gotten off the ground, he said, "I hate to say it, but yes, I do. Yeah. I'd take it back in a second. For my family to be here and just be everybody okay, safe and sound and happy and normal, would have been fantastic. Heck, yeah. I'd erase it all in a second if I could."
He walked back his comments later.
In an interview with Good Morning America a month after the GQ profile was published, Billy Ray said that he "hated" the focus on him speaking ill of Hannah Montana in the article. "I love Hannah Montana. I love Disney, I love the show. I love… the entertainment we've been able to make," he said.
He explained that he was struggling personally when he spoke to the magazine.
"I did that interview with GQ two weeks before Christmas… in the midst of a divorce, separated from my family," he told GMA. "It was a mess. Surrounded in darkness. GQ, the writer, photographer showed up. And I kind of learned this, that doing an interview when you're mad, is a whole lot like going to the grocery store when you're hungry. It's not a real good idea."
More recently, in 2020, Billy Ray told Hollywood Life that he would do a Hannah Montana prequel "in a heartbeat."
Miley is "proud" of her Hannah Montana days.
"Now I can be proud of all the Mileys that I've ever been instead of trying to run away from the 11-year-old one or feel like I'm not Hannah Montana," she told MTV in 2017. "I am stoked that that was a part of my life."
She's also said that she and her father view fame differently.
In her August 2023 Hulu special Endless Summer Vacation: Continued (Backyard Sessions), Miley opened up about the different ways in which she and her father experience stardom.
"My dad grew up the opposite of me. I grew up on a soundstage, like, in a house with a family that was super close and all lived under the same roof, and I grew up financially stable and emotionally stable, I think, in my relationships also," Miley said, as reported by People. "That's something that my dad didn't have."
She continued, "I think that's where me and my dad's relationship to fame and success is wildly different," said Miley in the special. "Him feeling loved by a big audience impacted him emotionally more than it ever could me. When he feels special or important, it's like healing a childhood wound, and I've always been made to feel like a star. It makes me emotional, so I think that's the difference."
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