Naomi Watts talks about being a single mom
LOS ANGELES—“It’s all a new experience for me,” Naomi Watts said about being a single mom to Sasha and Kai, her two sons with Liev Schreiber from whom she separated in September last year after being together for 11 years.
Career-wise, Naomi is also facing new challenges. She stars in Netflix’s “Gypsy,” her return as lead in a TV series after 20 years. In the psychosexual drama, she plays Jean Holloway, described as a therapist who “becomes too immersed in the lives of her patients.” People magazine is already reporting that she and her costar, Billy Crudup, are dating.
The UK-born, Australia-raised actress is also excited about her new film, Destin Daniel Cretton’s “The Glass Crystal,” based on Jeannette Walls’ award-winning memoir about being raised by her dysfunctional parents—an alcoholic, Rex (Woody Harrelson) and a painter, Rose Mary (Naomi). Brie Larson portrays Jeannette.
The 48-year-old star is reunited in the new “Twin Peaks” with David Lynch, the director who launched her international career via “Mulholland Drive” in 2001.
Excerpts from our talk:
How are you adjusting to your new phase in your life as a single mom? It’s a new experience for me. I got back from Kenya, and that was a wonderful experience to share with my kids. It was a dream for Sasha because he has always been so interested in nature and animals.
Where are you now, professionally and personally? Things are going well. I have just finished a film called “Ophelia,” which is the female telling of Hamlet. It’s very timely.
I’m excited for people to see “The Glass Castle,” [based on] a book that a lot of people have read. And “Gypsy” is my first time to do a series after a long time.
Personally, things are also going well.
How old are your sons now? Sasha, my oldest, turned 10. Kai is 8. We live such busy lives and in an overly scheduled environment. It’s rare that I get to take these holidays.
What was it like to work with David Lynch again? It was great to be back on a set with David. At first, I wasn’t sure if I could do it logistically because the kids were in school (in the East Coast), and I had to get over to LA. But we managed to make it work.
David makes such a fantastically magical environment—one great idea after the next. He makes you laugh.
I’m happy that people have been receiving the show (“Twin Peaks”) so well. It doesn’t surprise me. He’s a truly unique man who comes up with these wonderful ideas—bizarre as they may be, but they’re always rooted in truth.
To prepare for “The Glass Crystal,” I’m sure you met (book author) Jeannette Walls. Did you also meet her mother, Rose Mary Walls? I met Jeannette, but I didn’t meet Rose Mary, although we did talk on the phone. In the book, Rose Mary is a strong character and full of life. It was interesting getting Rose Mary to speak about herself because, sometimes, she’d see stories completely different from how Jeannette spoke about them.
I tell stories that my mother tells, and they’re vastly different sometimes. Rose Mary was full of extreme love for her family. That’s why some of her parenting skills are judged so harshly, I suppose.
As a parent yourself, what surprised you about getting to know Rose Mary a little bit on the phone? How girlish and childlike she was, in a way. She was so positive despite all the hard things that were going on around them, the struggles and having to deal with Rex’s alcoholism.
What was it like to play mom to Brie Larson and tap into the older age of your character? Brie is fantastic. It was great to watch her every single take, trying new ideas all the time. She’s such a connected, generous and giving actor to begin with. I was blown away by her performance, from the day we first filmed together. Sometimes, she literally had no lines. Just what goes on in her eyes is so powerful.
Especially with me playing the old and young versions of my character, I wore some prosthetic pieces. So, to play two characters in one day was quite difficult.
Talk about your new series, “Gypsy.” Lisa (Rubin, creator) came up with that title because she was obsessed with Fleetwood Mac and that song. It made sense, given that she was playing with this idea of a woman who wants to reinvent her identity over and over again, and roams from one life to another. I definitely identify with that. I’m someone who has moved around a lot since I was a kid, and even in my adult life.
Your character seems to have the perfect life. She’s in a good marriage, she has an adorable kid, a great job and a nice house. So, what is she looking for? I think that was the point—why is that not enough? It’s interesting. Last night, I was at a dinner that Gwyneth Paltrow was hosting with Esther Perel (renowned psychotherapist), who spoke of how people have affairs not because something is missing in their lives. It’s just that sometimes, they want to push the boundaries or try out new experiences.
I was drawn to the project because it felt like a cautionary tale. We all live with human desires and fantasies, but do we need to act on those? I like it because my character Jean is doing that for us. We can sit back in the comfort and safety of our own homes and watch her be self-destructive.
There are a lot of stories told in a similar way through a male point of view. It’s rarer to see it told from a female point of view.
Most actresses in their 40s are decrying the diminishing roles. But you’re very busy.
Luck definitely plays a part. But you have to go out there and get what you want. We’re certainly witnessing a time when things are getting better for women. We are 50 percent of the population. We have incredibly interesting stories, just like our male counterparts.
Are you a bit anxious about the big milestone in a couple of years? Privately, I will probably have some awkward moments with that concept. But it’s OK. I’m watching a lot of my friends and going to their 50th birthday parties, joining in on the speeches and what we have achieved together.
I feel lucky to share great friendships with a great number of strong women. So, I’m mostly feeling good about it, and encouraged by the support of my friends.
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