Marcia Gay Harden might have an Oscar and a Tony under her belt but the 50-year-old Damages actress says that her greatest reward in life is being a mother.
The “amazingly down-to-earth” God of Carnage star recently sat down with Time Out Kids’ Melissa Chapman to dish about her charity work, raising kids in New York City and life at home with husband Thaddaeus Scheel and their three children – 11-year-old Eulala, and 5-year-old twins, Julitta Dee and Hudson Harden.
On how she manages to juggle her work and her family life: “I don’t! The balls are dropping all the time. I’m fortunate to have a team of people who help me. I’ve got an assistant, an office manager, a nanny—she’s not full-time but she’s there when I need her. I also have a great and responsible husband. So I certainly don’t keep those balls in the air all by myself.”
On how she loves to spend “mommy time” with her three children: “I love reading to them, and they love reading. Eulala and I are reading the Harry Potter series; we have one more book to go. Hudson and Julitta read all the time. Hudson is now reading on his own; Julitta has a different kind of imagination and reads pictures. It’s hard to have mommy time while I’m in God of Carnage, so we do things in the morning. We always have breakfast together and we try to have dinner together.”
On her inspiration to become involved with the Carnival Cruise Lines’ “Book of Dreams” event, benefiting the St. Jude Children’s Reseach Hospital: “Carnival is launching a new ship, Carnival Dream, which offers a program called Care for Families. Passengers can help raise money for the hospital in myriad ways: They can spend an hour at a danceathon or on the waterslide, etc. I love the idea of infusing stewardship into people’s vacations! I think families should vacation together, and cruising is a wonderful option. My dad was in the Navy, so when I was a kid we went on naval ship cruises. We also went on a domestic cruise from Japan back to Hawaii, and it was a blast.”
On her decision to move to Harlem and how living there has shaped her perception of the neighbourhood: “Well, Harlem is a very family-oriented neighborhood and it always has been. It suffered deeply from crack and other drugs for a period of time, after being ignored. And it’s important that those sentences go together: Harlem was ignored by the city and it suffered, and the families that had always lived there suffered as well. The longtime residents got the crack out and started rebuilding the area, and now it’s a really lovely place. Everybody says “Good morning” in Harlem because it’s true! And that’s lovely. It’s fantastic for us to live there, to be in such a diverse neighborhood. We feel welcome up there.”
On her favourite New York City hangouts: “We love the YMCA – I should mention I’m a spokesperson for the Y, but that came about because I go there and my kids go there. It’s an amazing institution; I go to the one on 63rd Street. I take a pottery class, go to the gym. Talk about diversity: In the building you have people of every age from 95 to newborns, and you don’t see that at a lot of gyms! Other favorite places: On 45th Street and Eighth Avenue there’s Slice of Pizza; they’ve got great pizza, but it’s the people behind the counter whom I just love. I take my kids there all the time. We also love Red Mango and wonderful vegetarian places like Blossom.
On her decision to send her children to a private school: “There are some really wonderful public schools in NYC and some have programs that are absolutely on par with private ones, and I did look into a school up in Harlem, which was wonderful. But I wanted them to be in a school where the arts are really phenomenal. It’s important that kids learn, but I really don’t like all the testing, testing, testing. That’s not a measure of intelligence. I’m reading this incredible book called Brain Rules, which says that there’s no situation worse for learning than sitting still in a classroom. I like programs that are hands-on, where kids learn about the Brooklyn Bridge by going to the Brooklyn Bridge. And my kids don’t even do enough of that. I feel like all schools need to reconsider the way they approach children. I personally don’t believe in homework. I think it’s BS. It’s very hypocritical to constantly say we want to keep our kids close, then send them home with so much homework that family time becomes nonexistent. I had to tell Eulala that while she might not finish her homework, she has to find an hour to spend with her brother and sister every night and have dinner with the family.
On whether or not she finds is difficult to raise her children in the city: “No, what’s difficult about the city? The only thing difficult about the city is when you have a little baby in a stroller and you’re trying to take the subway and you have to bump down the stairs. But then you fall in love with the city because some New Yorker inevitably helps you.”
On her recent role opposite her daughter, Eulala, in the movie Home: “I would work with her again, but I don’t know if she will with me! She very much wants to be in a movie when I’m not around. She would love that. My little one, Julitta, just did a movie with Lucy Liu. She played a little Russian girl, and Hudson had a huge audition for a movie but he decided he didn’t want to do it.”