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If you’ve read my interview with Katherine Dieckmann and Uma Thurman, you know Uma’s parting words were “Live long and prosper.” Apparently she’s not the only Star Trek fan in Motherhood. The first thing Anthony Edwards did when he sat down at the table was run his fingers over the metallic mesh table runner and say, “This is a little Star Trek-y.’ What makes this whole Star Trek thing even stranger is that during my one-on-one with Dieckmann she told me she has no interest in sci-fi when it comes to writing.
Don’t expect anymore out-of-this-world talk in this interview because Motherhood cannot be more different from Star Trek. Edwards plays Avery, the husband of the super-stressed mother of two Eliza (Thurman). He’s a loving father but a bit absentminded. Edwards may not be as forgetful as his character, but admits he has a little Avery in him, which is understandable considering how much he has on his plate.
On top of Motherhood, Edwards just wrapped the Rob Reiner comedy Flipped and plans to run the New York Marathon with the charity Shoe4Africa. The proceeds will go to building a children’s hospital in Kenya. ER may be long gone, but Edwards still has some Dr. Greene in him!
How much are you like your character Avery?
Edwards: Same height. He has slightly less hair than I do. I think very much like, in that, you know, I mean I just related to the material. It seems like everything my wife had ever said to me. Like ‘What, are you forgetting everything?’ And also, just that kind of relationship thing of how things happen when you have children and it gets messy and dirty and well-intentioned isn’t always good enough and yet it is ultimately, but at times it just doesn’t seem like it so expectations and frustrations get, get very dramatic. Also the thing that happens when you’re a parent is our world gets really focused. You know, if you don’t step back and breathe or get a moment from it, you know, people end up beating their children. [Laughs] No! You know, bad analogy.
What were the best parts of working on a female dominated set?
Edwards: It’s just like being at home! I live in a very female dominated world. And happily because, you know, I think that’s kind of where we are culturally in what the kind of stories that we’re telling and what’s important now and maybe it’s cause the organization I work with is about empowerment of women in Africa through sport and coming out of the fact that, you know, if you’re going to have a fundamental health or educational change in a continent like Africa, which needs so much, only through the leadership of women is that going to change. And that’s something that people – I mean, it’s very topical. So the fact that Katherine Dieckmann was able to get the money to make this movie makes sense because this is something that’s important to us. What is the role of mothers and women in our world and how do we relate to them without first understanding them dramatically or letting them be part of the story? I mean, that’s how we start everything. You know, you take the stigma away by actually talking about it. Someone said, but like, are men going to go to this movie? The joke response is ‘Yeah, if they want to get laid.’ Like, who decides what movies you’re going to ultimately see? You know, in my world it’s my wife. That’s it. And it’s okay, you don’t lose anything for being a man if, you know, if that’s part of your life.
You have four children. What’s been the hardest thing about parenting for you?
Edwards: For me the hardest thing is keeping my own prejudices and expectations out of it because you have – it’s that thing of like not wanting to become your parents but you do, you have to in sense. It’s difficult to keep that perspective I think as a parent, to know your boundaries as to what’s good parenting or just projecting your own expectations on your kids. That’s the hardest.
Have your kids seen the film?
Edwards: My daughter has. She was at Sundance with me. She liked it, a lot. She liked Minnie a lot. She was obsessed with Minnie. It’s all about Minnie.
Do you have a favorite scene in the movie?
Edwards: Not really, I mean, there’s so many like for different reasons and I just kind of – I love the music and spirit of it. I just like that it keeps moving without having to, like I said, hit you over the head with ‘Do you get it?’
It’s funny your wife gets to pick the movies you see. Obviously when it comes to picking the projects you work on, ultimately it’s up to you.
Edwards: What’s so obvious about that? [Laughs]
Is there anyone who’s been really influential when it comes to the projects you pick? Would you consider returning to series television or do you want to continue working on movies?
Edwards: You know, you never say never because before I did ER I always said I’ll never do a TV series, so that’s what I said. And I used to joke, I’d say oh, well, when I have kids or something then maybe I’d do it. My son was four months old and ER came up; it was like, oh, I get to stay home and work and that meant a lot to me then. But, you know, I – to me it’s all about the material and what you read. And I’m always surprised. So I’d rather, I kind of stay away from expectations and, you know, working has not been a big priority for me for the last seven years. So, I haven’t been out there doggedly looking for what that great film is obviously because I’ve only done four of them in the last six years.
Was that a conscious decision?
Edwards: Yeah, very much. I just spent a lot of time on ER for that eight years, I also started working when I was 16, so by the time I left ER I was 40 years old, I had this incredible experience, my wife had this great company, we had four kids, it was like, let’s go to New York and live for a while and make that the priority. And it’s been great because you meet, you know, people in your life who very rarely do you meet someone who says they wish they spent less time with their kids when they were younger and it’s all those – all those things come true. I cannot believe that my youngest is seven years old now and my son’s 15 like, thinking about college. You’re like ‘What?’ When the hell did that happen? And I’ve been around. It happens quickly being there.
Is it hard to break out of a character that you’ve been in for eight years? I grew up watching ER and still look at you as Dr. Greene.
Edwards: Yeah, I mean, a lot of Dr. Greene was me obviously, the smart part, you know? The medical part. No, I mean, it was – it’s the routine and the work that is hard to break out of. That’s where I was kind of lost. Like, I’d spent so much of my life focused on the work and the material, the script and the preparation and all of that that when you take that away then you’re like ‘Where do I fit?’ I kind of bounced around here in New York for two years going like ‘Who am I? Where am I?’ That’s probably more seductive than the character itself or more overwhelming. It’s kind of that work ritual, which I think everyone can relate to when you’re so locked into a job that that becomes your life.
You’ve done some great comedy movies; do you ever want to get back into that?
Edwards: Yeah, I did a fun one with Rob Reiner this summer called Flipped that’s a nice comedy, kids comedy. I do, yeah, definitely. I mean I did Thunderbirds, a totally ridiculous big silly kids movie. No one saw it but, you know, it’s alright. I had fun doing it.
Being a New Yorker, did you ever find yourself frustrated with a movie shot like your character in Mothermood?
Edwards: You know, I’m, I so know how to avoid a set and get around it that, you know, it’s not a – I don’t find it a hassle at all. I find it – I’m on my bike anyway so I don’t sit in a cab waiting for, you know, streets to clear cause movies – I’d much rather be on the subway or on my bike to get around.
So no parking issues like in the movie?
Edwards: No, no. When I left L.A. I was like I’m not driving here. I spent years driving; forget it.
Do you have any projects coming up?
Edwards: Did Flipped, I’m running the marathon on the first of November for the children – we’re building a children’s hospital in Africa. It’ll be the first public children’s hospital in Kenya. And it’s – it’ll be the largest children’s hospital, so Dr. Greene has come back to life to help build this hospital.