“They were the cast that I wanted and they really exceeded my expectations,” said Director and Writer, Rodrigo Garcia about his three leading ladies (Annette Bening, Naomi Watts and Kerry Washington) for the new film, “Mother And Child” which opens May 7th. The film centers around these three women and how adoption has profoundly affected their lives in completely different ways.
Karen (Annette Bening) placed a baby up for adoption at age 14 and has punished herself ever since for the daughter she never knew. She is a cranky woman who lives with her elderly mother and works as a rehab specialist for older patients in a hospital. Her relationship with her mother is strained and she has difficulty accepting a new romantic interest by a new therapist, Paco played by Jimmy Smits. All she has is a series of letters she writes but, never sends to the daughter she gave up for adoption so many years ago. She desperately wants to connect with her and imagine what she must be like.
At a recent press conference with the three leading ladies and Mr. Garcia, Annette Bening informed us about her character:
“I began to get this image of a woman who you might see…you might see her at the bus stop or you might see her at the grocery store and she’s just cranky. She doesn’t know how to take care of other people emotionally, it’s a self destructiveness that comes from being cut-off. It’s not that she doesn’t want to, she wants to connect to people, she’s just ill equipped!”
Rodrigo adds, “I knew Annette would be able to play the depressed Karen, the angry Karen, and move into the soft Karen…” To prepare for the role, Annette told us that when she was in High School she knew girls who got pregnant suddenly and then would disappear. “There was this one girl who was adorable and she suddenly disappeared and then the rumors. No one ever sat down and said, ‘kids this is what happened. It was all hush hush and nothing was done in an open way. Roe v. Wade had been passed so girls were secretly having abortions. It’s kinda like a ghost.”
Naomi Watts plays Elizabeth who was adopted as a child but, has no ties with her adopted family and believes that her biological parents had no interest in finding her. Elizabeth is intelligent but, very cold, isolated and possesses a quiet and restrained disposition. She throws herself into her work as a Lawyer at a new position she accepts in a law firm headed up by Paul (Samuel L. Jackson). Naomi revealed that she felt her character was intimidating….
“I was afraid of her strength and power, she’s in a lot of pain and has been badly wounded. She doesn’t hold men or human beings in the highest regard.”
Mr. Garcia said, that Naomi was the first actress he envisioned when he began to think of casting the film that took him nearly ten years to write.
“Naomi was the perfect Elizabeth. I knew she would be tough, she wouldn’t be scared to do the tough scenes, the sexual scenes. She projects a great deal of intelligence but, she also projects vulnerability where something can be complicated and hurting.”
He went to cast the final storyline that involved Lucy played by Kerry Washington. Originally, he began writing the story with the characters of Karen and Elizabeth but, it was becoming monotonous going back and forth. Once he realized that adoption was a common theme in his storyline, he introduced the character of Lucy (Kerry Washington). Lucy can’t conceive a baby so she and her husband embark on the adoption process. We experience, through their eyes what the process of adoption can entail, including many interviews and meetings with potential mothers who are giving up their unborn babies. One mother in particular, Ray, played with extraordinary depth by Shareeka Epps, puts Lucy through many challenges forcing her to be blatantly honest about her feelings which escalates Lucy’s anxiety levels.
Washington brings a frantic humor to Lucy which broadens the scope of her character avoiding a one dimensional portrait of Lucy. Once again the director felt like he had found his perfect, Lucy when he met Washington at a benefit. “There was something about Kerry that was a go getter and yet squeaky clean that I thought would make a great Lucy.”
Rodrigo Garcia paints a real life vivid picture of what adoption can look like through the eyes of three different women at three different stages of their lives. He braids and weaves the storylines seamlessly revealing traces and character revelations with each scene. As a viewer you are immediately sucked into all of their unique stories as you learn and reflect on their sometimes destructive behaviors and choices. Ultimately, we see a transformation occur with all of the women and somehow the viewer can indulge in the journey and embrace these emotional stories as people we may know or want to know.
Garcia: “The original idea wasn’t necessarily about adoption but, how people are obsessed with someone that is no longer there or an absent one…whether that person broke up with you and married someone else, died or were separated because of a war or prison. I told myself, I’m gonna go to the most primary situation that I can think of which was a mother and child separated at birth.”
Race isn’t talked about or dealt with in the film however, it is simply reflected as a natural occurrence in life.
Garcia: “I always thought that Karen and Elizabeth were white women from the Valley (San Fernando Valley, CA) like Northridge or Reseda. When Elizabeth was interviewing for a job I thought about an older African American man (Samuel L. Jackson) and when Karen met Paco (Jimmy Smits) he was always Paco, a Latino. I didn’t ask myself what this meant. I like the idea of a successful up and coming, yuppie, bourjois black couple, yet with all of their success they also had similar problems just like any other yuppie couple. Now I couldn’t ignore race and culture.”
All three actresses praised Garcia’s honest and insightful script, and ability to successfully write for women. Kerry Washington expressed how good it was to see a wide spectrum of characters, including the male cast, all from diverse backgrounds, cultures and races.
Naomi Watts: “I love the man, he’s a brilliant writer, he loves women! He’s got a fantastic understanding of women…he’s not conventional. He’s someone who sees people in their extraordinary ways and he forgives them.”
Annette Bening: “Because adoption is such a charged subject, it’s a way to talk about human nature and it’s a way to bring out what we are as human beings in a really pungent way and that’s how Rodrigo got himself involved in the subject.” “This picture was a joy and a labor of love to make. To try and find those little moments, intimate, secret moments that we all have in our lives but, when you’re trying to make a movie your trying to bring those to the camera. It’s very tricky work. You just never know so when I hear that people care and are involved or maybe it surprised them, it’s really gratifying!”
“Mother and Child” opens in New York and Los Angeles on May 7th with more theaters to come!