On Tuesday March 2, NBC will finally give fans a reason to tune into the network at 10PM. That reason: PARENTHOOD. The ensemble drama (starring Lauren Graham!) from Ron Howard (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT) and Jason Katims (FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS) that chronicles the very large, very colourful and very imperfect Braverman family. One of whom, Julie Braverman, a successful corporate attorney and not-so-successful Mom played by the delightful Erika Christensen (Traffic) was kind enough to take some time during the recent Television Critics Association Press Tour to discuss what it’s like playing a career driven mom, what brought her back to television and how she successfully managed to avoid the pitfalls of young Hollywood.
Up until now, fans probably know you best from movies such as Traffic and Swimfan. What brought you back to TV?
Erika Christensen: The less obvious answer is that it’s a totally different lifestyle and I’m the kind of actor that doesn’t want vacation. To be happy, I need to keep moving, working and I think it’s really fascinating to get this opportunity to live and grow with a character that lives and grows alongside of you in this parallel TV universe. The obvious answer is great material and earlier this year I decided I was going to look into TV. The pilot script for PARENTHOOD was unreal and when I read it, I immediately said, “this is the one!”
How challenging is it — not being a mother in real life — to play one on TV?
It’s definitely a learning experience. But what I’m really keeping in perspective is that the main thing with parenthood, at least for 99.9 percent of the parents out there, is that kids are the most important thing on the planet for them. It helps that I have a lot of friends who have kids and seeing their interactions and even recalling the way my parents treated me growing up all informs the character. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the writing is incredible. Jason Katims, who has kids of his own, is a fantastic writer and I really trust everything that we’re doing and am confident it will ring true.
Did the fact that Jason Katims was the man behind the genius that is FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHT play a role in you signing on to the series?
Absolutely. I’m a huge fan of Jason Katims. Myself [and co-stars] Dax Shepard and Sarah Ramos are obsessed with FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. Seriously. Greatest show ever. During the huge first wave of press we did for PARENTHOOD our answer to every question was, “Don’t worry about PARENTHOOD, just watch FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS.” You can imagine the security I feel knowing that he [Katims] is writing my show.
In the pilot your character does a remarkably futile job of juggling her career and family. Are you prepared for the backlash that may come with playing one of the worst mothers on TV?
[Laughs] I am the worst parent on the show, aren’t I!? My character [Julie] will at least start to become aware that she’s not a great mom and start to care and make an effort. [In terms of the backlash] I’m totally fine with whatever anyone wants to say about it because we’re not trying to preach. Julia is a character that is trying and failing and hopefully audiences will be able to laugh about the mistakes.
And finally, as an outside observer who has watched more young stars throw away the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that come with stardom more times than I care to remember, I’m always curious to discover how a young actress such as yourself managed to avoid becoming a tabloid mainstay like Lindsay Lohan?
You know I’ll be really honest with you. I was talking to my actor friends who I used to go out with just the other day… When I had my little moment of wanting to go out dancing every night, the tabloids hadn’t really caught on! It was just a couple of years later when the photographers really would know where to go and all that kind of thing. We kind of side-stepped that. That said, also never drank which really factors into things. Even if there was a picture here and there, I was like, “Oh Hi Guys!”
PARENTHOOD premiers on NBC on Tuesday March 2 at 10PM (CityTV in Canada)