Last week I had the immense pleasure and incredible honor of sitting with three living legends! Meryl Streep (the Witch), Tracey Ullman (Jack’s mother), and Christine Baranski (Cinderella’s Wicked Step-Mother) play the mothers in Disney’s Into the Woods and were gracious enough to sit in a room full of 25 “mom bloggers” for interviews. In fact, Meryl chose us as her ONLY interview of the day! She left as soon as our interview was over. So, the nervous energy & excitement in the room before the ladies arrived was palpable. Everyone was such a buzz ! But, turns out there was NO reason to be nervous. These three amazing actresses were just lovely. Fun, funny, energetic, thoughtful, sincere, gracious, inspiring – they made us feel at ease from the moment they walked through the door. We applauded as they entered the room and the nerves were replaced with just fun & excitement! I love their faces in this photo! It helped that Tracey Ullman (who followed just behind Christine & Meryl) cracked a joke about the smell of estrogen in the room! The interview started immediately afterward, but it really felt more like a conversation among friends. And what great friends these women are!! In fact, that was the first thing we talked about.
The true respect and love they have for one another was quite obvious throughout the entire interview. We learned that Meryl & Tracey have been very close friends for over 30 years. They met on the set of “Plenty” when Meryl was 31 and Tracey (a British pop star at the time) was 21! It was so fun to watch them reminisce – they giggled and joked about surviving their time in Tunisia and thinking they were going to die when their plane engine went out on the flight back together. They stayed friends and had kids the same age, as did Christine Baranski. Christine said that she and Meryl were both “theater babes and Connecticut moms” and Meryl joked that they’ve known each other a hundred years. So really, as Christine pointed out, they’ve all shared really “parallel experiences”.
What really stood out to me was something Christine said…
Christine : …it’s a trick, being an actress, and wife, and mother, and having that longevity. That’s — that’s a real achievement, in my opinion. That’s the greatest achievement, not just in career, but holding your life together, and look at Meryl, with four kids, and —
Meryl: It’s a tribute to our husbands.
Tracey : Yes. Fantastic fathers.
Christine : Yes. And our sense of equilibrium.
These women all have had long marriages (sadly, Tracey & Christine both recently lost their husbands), raised children. So, they’ve maintained some level of stability and balance while managing wildly successful careers! Truly inspiring!
On Motherhood and Parenting…
As a mom, the thing that will stick with me most about the interview is our discussions on motherhood and parenting. After watching the movie and seeing the important parenting messages shared, I was definitely curious if/how their roles as real-life mothers influenced their roles in the film at all. Someone beat me to that question, but it sparked such a great conversation about parenting…
Q: Your characters are all like exaggerated versions of parenting methods gone wrong [room erupted in laughter]. Did any of you feel — or, even more interesting, did any of your kids feel or see some similarities, and you guys were like, “Oh my God, you’re right”?
Meryl said right away, “yah” and everyone starting laughing. She then said, “I hold the girls a little too closely perhaps”. To which Tracey Ullman responded by breaking out in the song Meryl sings in the movie, “Stay with me…”.
As I shared yesterday in my review of the movie, I could really relate to those feelings. “The world is dark and wild. Stay a child while you can be a child. With me.” So, I’m quite pleased to hear that the amazing Meryl Streep struggles with those feelings of letting go and holding her girls too close! 😉
Then, a question was asked about what advice these experienced moms had for us in the room with young kids. That sparked such an amazing conversation…
Meryl: Well, I really feel — I mean, just speaking for the group, I feel like so much has changed. Raising little kids now is so different from when our children were little kids. I mean just that — and I think that’s part of why this film and its warnings and its, you know, overweening care of the mothers and — it speaks to this time when children are, it’s harder and harder to keep the world out–To keep them in the little tower is impossible. And all of the bad stuff comes in, and people worried about this film, that it maybe is too dark for kids. Kids know so much now. And they’re aware of so much, and yet they’re so resilient, and innately hopeful. So that’s — and that’s sort of what the film is.
Christine Baranski shared that she did try to keep some of the world out by literally hauling their big tv to the curb when her daughter was young and raised her kids without a tv in the house…
Christine: “I was downstairs cooking dinner, and she was upstairs, and the TV — she just took the clicker, and like, did that, and suddenly she was watching male strippers. On Sally Jesse Raphael, and she came downstairs, and she was very disturbed. She said, “Mommy. All these women were screaming. And there were these naked men.” And I was like, “What are you watching?” And this was an afternoon show. And I just said, “If I can’t control it when they’re just upstairs, and with a click of a button, they see something that’s so troubling,” I took the damned thing out. Now, as Meryl said, I don’t know how you protect kids…From all of this. All of these toys. But I would really recommend encouraging quiet time when you just talk to your kids. Say, “Okay. We’re just going to get rid of all of this stuff. Let’s just be together, and experience, like, real time, and quiet.”
Tracey: “I’m very disturbed when I see kids now — and I mean, ’cause it’s such a different generation with me — and when they’re out at dinner with their parents. And everyone’s sitting around a table. And there’s a child in a high-chair, with a headset on, with an iPad going, being fed, like that, and then they take the headphone off, and[MAKES CRYING NOISES]. And put the headphones back on. I don’t know. I know, boy, I was exhausted when I was a young mom, and I would put on The Little Mermaid sometimes, and go, “Girls, please. I’ve just got to try to go to sleep on the sofa.” But I don’t like that thing. At the dinner table –“
On INTO THE WOODS…
As part of all this parenting discussion, the ladies started talking about whether or not they would have taken their kids at young ages (around 6-8) to see Into The Woods (if their kids were that age now) and it was SO interesting to hear their thoughts and different perspectives…
Tracey : Would we have taken Mabel and Grace to see this? When they were like, six? They would have handled this.
Meryl : Are you kidding? You’d let them watch Cops.
Tracey : [LAUGHTER]
(the banter back & forth about this continued…)
Tracey : Oh my God! They would have liked it. They —
Meryl : They would’ve loved it. Oh —
Tracey : You’re right.
Meryl (to Christine): …would have taken the kids at, well, I would say, seven, eight — wouldn’t you?
Christine: Maybe. Maybe seven, eight. But kids are really like, visuals can really affect, and you can explain it away, but be careful what — what you give them visually. I mean, I remember being — seeing a — a documentary on an African tribe. There was this leopard man with long fingernails, and a mask, and I mean, it just had such an impression on me, and it just happened to be on the television set, so you never know what image will —
Tracey: But it goes back to these Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and we all portray them as they were written. You know. I do smack the kid ’round the head, and I was always loving him afterwards, but, you know, when you would cut your child’s foot off to marry a prince. [LAUGHTER]…fairy tales were so frightening when I was a kid. They were terrifying…They were for children to be scared of. They did get sort of sanitized a bit, fairy tales, the last 20 years.
And, Tracey is absolutely right – the movie is MUCH more inline with Grimm’s Fairy Tales than the “Disney” versions we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. So, when deciding to take your kids to this, it is something to be cognizant of. You can see that Christine (like my personal opinion) is of the opinion that even seven or eight might be too young for this one. But, I LOVED what she shared about talking to your children about imagination…and things that happen in books and movies. It’s something that is GREAT to remind your children of:
Christine: I was always telling my kids, as I read to them, that — that there was such a thing as the world of the imagination. I said, “You’re safe. If you’re in the world of the imagination, you can go anywhere, and you all come back from that, so you’re safe. We will read this book, and it’ll take you places, but don’t worry. You will — you will come back. There is that world. And movies are like that. Movies should — you go there, but, remember that you can come back. You don’t transfer.” But it can be tricky when a child is too young. They don’t know how to do that. So, I think — one, you know, be careful, be careful, I would say. Just take care of them, their little — their little psyches.
I LOVE this discussion and how it mimics some of the warnings in the film…about being careful with children and wishes and what’s out there. And, just like in the film, we absolutely canNOT protect our kids from everything. But, we CAN be careful and we can remind children that they are not alone when dealing with anything uncomfortable, hard, or scary.
We did discuss more about the movie and you can see their genuine love for it — for the fun of the costumes & makeup (Meryl’s Academy Award winning make-up artist was even present in the room), for what the film is, for their work and respect for each other. They are proud of their work and I LOVE that! These ladies are VERY concerned about what they’re putting into the world – the mark they are leaving on culture! They want to contribute good to the world…and all agree that this movie does just that!
Into the Woods is rated PG and opens in theaters on Christmas Day!!
Interviewing these inspiring women was such an incredible experience and one I will never forget. Plus…I shared a couch with them!!! That’s me right next to Christine in the first photo above! WOW! I had NOT planned on sitting there, but Christine insisted! So fun!! And, Meryl was so gracious enough to shake each one of our hands! These women are absolutely class-acts!
For more, be sure to read our Into the Woods Movie Review and follow the film’s social channels:
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Disclosure: Disney provided me with an all expenses paid trip to the Hollywood premiere for the purposes of this coverage. As always, all opinions, experiences, and love of Disney are entirely my own!