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Cheaper By The Dozen’s Director Reveals The Blunt-But-Funny Note Producer Kenya Barris Gave Her While Making The Movie

Cheaper by the Dozen is arguably one of the most iconic stories ever to be published into a book or adapted for the screen. So Gail Lerner, the director of Disney+’s new take on the classic, kid-centric tale, had to follow in some giant footsteps. She did have plenty of help with her latest endeavor, though, much of which came from producer and co-writer Kenya Barris. He provided plenty of guidance as well as a blunt (but funny) note during the development process. 

Kenya Barris has rarely been known to hold his tongue, as the in-demand producer has no problem sharing his thoughts on a particular subject (including the critiques his shows receive). When it came to working with Gail Lerner, that brutally honest nature remained the same. I recently chatted with the filmmaker about her work on the movie and inquired about the “biggest” note she received from Barris while making the movie. With a laugh, she revealed the important piece of advice, which isn’t quite as family friendly as their movie:

The biggest note, I'm not allowed to say because this is a family comedy. [laughs] But it was three words. And it was, ‘Don't F it up,’ which I guess there's four words. And we would just laugh and laugh, and I would say, ‘Oh, I shouldn't? Oh, great. Okay, that's great advice.’

Well, that’s one way to get a point across to a director. But it definitely sounds like everyone found a lot of humor within Kenya Barris’ pointed words. Gail Lerner has worked with him on past projects, specifically black-ish and spinoff series grown-ish. With this, the two have developed a level of trust between each other, something Lerner really appreciates: 

I think the main thing was [Kenya Barris] just said, ‘I trust you, and you got this.’ And I think it was a testament to our relationship and how closely I pay attention to him and his leadership and his aesthetic. He's so great. You just, he's relentless in making it as funny and as sharp and as pointed and as seemingly casual that I was just like, ‘I got you. I am here for you. I'm here to represent what you want. And I love that you're you. I'm here because you also want me to bring everything that I bring.’

What may have made the director’s job even easier is the fact that she was surrounded by a devoted crew on set every day. She also had a capable cast of actors led by Gabrielle Union and Zach Braff. Both stars had their own goals when it came to their work on the film. Union, for instance, sought to rectify the lack of diversity she saw in family films as a child. Meanwhile, Braff wanted to try his hand at a kid-friendly project (while also not channeling too much of Scrubs’ J.D. in the process). In the end, the creative cogs meshed to create the finished production audiences have seen.

A Cheaper by the Dozen sequel hasn’t been greenlit just yet, but Gail Lerner does seem optimistic about the chances of it happening. Surely she’d relish the opportunity to work with the cast and crew again – and to receive more hilariously blunt notes from her colleague Kenya Barris. 

Cheaper by the Dozen is now available to stream (opens in new tab) with a Disney+ subscription. Be sure to also check out CinemaBlend’s 2022 movie releases schedule for more on what’s coming your way this year.

Erik Swann
Erik Swann

Covering superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. I eat more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.