Sometimes comfort comes in the most unexpected places, like in a desert full of giant blood-thirsty murder ants. It was the night before he was expected to be on set for the first day of shooting his latest movie, horror flick Dead Ant, when Tom Arnold got the call — his dad was gone.

“I had just been visiting him the hospital in Iowa. I’m back in LA starting this movie the next morning at 6 a.m. when my brother calls me late at night to tell me the news. I say to myself, everybody is waiting on me, but dad would kill me if I didn’t go to work. I’m the oldest of seven so I made the decision. ‘Put him on ice,’ I said, not literally. ‘I’ll be back Saturday for the funeral,'” the 59-year-old actor exclusively told Closer Weekly at Dead Ant‘s Hollywood premiere on Tuesday, January 22.

He knew it wasn’t going to be easy to jump right into work. “I sucked it up and said, this has got to be fun. I’ve got to have the most fun to get through this. And it was! Because the other actors were genuinely having fun,” Tom recalled.

Tom Arnold Dead Ant
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Tom in ‘Dead Ant.’

The fun is apparent when watching the film. Tom — who plays band manager Danny who is desperate to reinvent 80s hair-metal band Sonic Grave — drags the washed-up rockers on a Jim Morrison-esque journey into the desert where they plan to trip on peyote and surely write a hit new single to perform at Coachella reject festival, NoChella.

Tom found an escape in his crabby yet comical character. But somewhere in-between takes that required him to run from oversized insects, he realized he didn’t have to keep his pain bottled up when his costars Sean Astin and Jake Busey started swapping famous father stories. “Gary Busey is Jake’s dad and I know Gary. Sean Astin’s dad is John Astin. So I get to know, one at a time about their dads from their points of view,” Tom said.

“Even though their dads are all terribly famous, they’re just their dads. Once I loosened up I was able to talk about my dad in context with their dads,” he said. In the end, going to work turned out to be the best decision. “I can’t think of a better situation for all of this, many laughs,” Tom said. Laughter is always the best medicine.

Dead Ant hits theaters this Friday, January 25.