Ming-Na first won us over in the critically acclaimed feature film, The Joy Luck Club. She has since starred in ER and now captivates audiences as Camile Wray, in Stargate Universe. Also the voice of Disney’s Mulan, this gorgeous mother-of-two – who has been in People magazine’s 50 most beautiful people – opened up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her two kids, the lack of diversity in Hollywood and how she juggles her busy career and family life.
CBS: You are mom to daughter Michaela, 9, and son Cooper, 4. How has motherhood changed you?
MN: “My core personality is the same, but my focus and views on what’s important has changed. I still love acting and pursuing my dreams, but my ultimate focus now is to be best mom I can be and raising my children to be happy and being the best of who they are.”
CBS: What are your greatest joys as a mother? Biggest challenges?
MN: “My greatest joys as a mom is a long list! I love when my son enters our bedroom in the morning wanting to snuggle, or reading them bedtime stories, playing and laughing with them. I love being a kid again and going to amusement parks or watching cartoons with them. Watching them enjoy the meals I make, becoming little persons forming their own ideas & opinions, etc.
The challenges is figuring out what to filter from our information age and how to age-appropriately protect them. Teaching them to appreciate what they have and NOT BE BORED!!”
CBS: What are your kids into? Tell us a funny story about each of them.
MN: “My daughter loves horses. She wants to own her own horse, so she’s currently saving up money so she can buy one. We went on the internet so I could show her how much horses cost and that it would take her awhile to save up to buy one.
Unfortunately, because of the economic downturn, there were many horses online for FREE or only a few hundred dollars. Michaela was very excited. ‘SEE MOM!! We can get a horse for FREE!’ So I had to then change strategy and explain that even with a free horse, it’s expensive to keep one with the cost of food, stable, vet bills, etc. She’s not deterred and is determined to own her own horse.
My son loves trains and the Wii or DS games. We only allow them to play the Wii or DS on the weekends. Many Monday nights, Cooper will ask, ‘Is tomorrow the weekend yet?’ Then every Friday he’ll cheerfully exclaim, ‘IT’S FUN FRIDAY!!’”
CBS: You play openly gay character, Camile Wray, in Stargate Universe. Are you proud to play a gay person and to represent a minority group? Do you receive support from the gay community?
MN: “I’m proud to be playing a well-written and complex role. Camile Wray is a gay Asian woman with a high ranking position in the government among mostly powerful men.
I have received great support from the gay community and really appreciate that! But I am playing a role, not a role model. Camile can go in many directions depending on the situations and I hope to honor the storytelling of the character. She can turn to the darkside due to some plot point. I’m not limiting where she can go!”
CBS: Your ethnicity is also underrepresented in films and TV. Would you like to see more diversity in both arenas?
MN: “This is such an easy one. Yes, of course! It always pisses me off when I see TV series where it’s ALL caucasian characters, especially if it takes place in a major city. It’s 2010 for crying out loud!! That why I’m so proud to have been in series like ER and now SGU where there is such diversity. I thank these wonderful writers, producers and casting folks for showcasing the reality of America.”
CBS: We hear you ‘commute’ to Vancouver, BC for Stargate. How do you balance work and motherhood with your frequent traveling?
MN: “I have an amazing husband and truly great kids. We all had to adjust the first year. I never took any jobs outside of LA unless it was for a week or a day since I became a mom. But when I worked in LA, I also felt terribly burnt out working full time, 12-16 hour days and then coming home and trying to do all the mommy stuff. I didn’t feel I was doing a good job at either end.
I find when I’m in Vancouver, I just focus on work. When I come home, I’m a full time mom. I don’t have to worry about a 4:30 a.m. calltime or memorizing my lines for the next day. SGU producers work it out as best they could so I get time to be home.
It’s tough for me and my family when I’m away, but it really makes us all appreciate each other so much more when I’m home! There are always pros and cons to any situation, right?”
CBS: Will you be taking in any of the Olympics while you’re in Vancouver? If so, will you take your kids to any events?
MN: “SGU season 2 doesn’t start shooting until after the Olympics. Very smart. We’ll be watching from home! Can’t wait!”
CBS: Are your children showing an interest in acting? Do you want them in show business?
MN: “My daughter loves to sing and has done some theatre stuff at school. She’s also done some voice-over work, but we’re trying to limit it right now. I only want them to be in show business if THEY want to be in it.”
CBS: What are some of the ways you encourage your children (especially your daughter due to the many beauty standards on girls) to be proud of how they look?
MN: “It’s all about positive reinforcement. Parents need to tell their children that they’re proud of them. They need to play with them, talk to them and give them love and attention. I think that interaction naturally generate confidence in children when they’re developing because they feel the support.”
CBS: You were born in Macau and moved to the U.S. as a child. Have you continued speaking Cantonese? Do your children speak as well? What are some traditions you have kept alive with your own family?
MN: “I speak Cantonese, but not well. I mostly speak Mandarin. My children know some, but my goal is for them to be fluent in the language. I am currently learning 10 new Chinese words a day with the goal to be able to read & write in 2 years.
Chinese New Year is a big holiday for us. We keep traditions alive by celebrating with family & friends.”
CBS: If you could make one confession as a mom, what would it be?
MN: “I wish my kids can stay a certain age! I love the toddler years and I know I’ll miss my children as toddlers when they grow up. I actually get teary-eyed when I envision them as teenagers or adults because I just love them as newborns to 5 years old SO MUCH!
I wish we had the technology to make hologram recordings of them at those ages! They’re just so darn cute!! Of course I’ll love them as adults, but oh, how I’ll miss the innocence and wonder and funny perspectives of toddlers! Well, there’s always grandkids, eh?”
CBS: You and Michaela recently participated in Playdate for Haiti, a diaper and formula drive for Haiti relief. Tell us why you wanted to be involved and why you took your daughter to this event. What did Michaela take away from participating?
MN: “I wanted to give my daughter an experience where she learned that it doesn’t matter how young you are or how far away the problem is, she can help those in need.
Playdate for Haiti was easy for her to understand that concept where she gave her time and effort so that the orphans & babies in Haiti can have some basic necessities that we take for granted. She also learned that it’s not about just giving money to charities, it’s about giving of yourself with your time, effort & heart.”
CBS: Do you often involved your children in Hollywood events? Why or why not?
MN: “The only thing that we do with our children involving Hollywood events is taking them to the premiere of great children films and animations. It’s a lot of fun for all of us and aside from the red carpet, everything else is pretty much about going to see a movie and a fun party afterward. Perks of having a mom as an actress!”
CBS: If you are working on any other projects or with any charities, please feel free to discuss.
MN: “I’m currently working on some self-help and lifestlyle books for working moms. There are other business ventures I’m working on to help senior citizens. They are often very neglected or overlooked in this country.”