Maria Bello is in the running for an Independent Spirit Award for her provocative role in Downloading Nancy and is currently co-starring with William Hurt and Kristen Stewart in The Yellow Handkerchief. The 42-year-old mother of one opened up to Parade about how she – and her 9-year-old son Jack – have made helping the recovery effort in Haiti a serious priority.
On her commitment to Haiti relief: “There’s so much that still needs to be done. I’ve been there twice in the last month. The first time, I witnessed amputations with no anesthesia. Little kids getting no painkillers. I’ve been back working in a 75,000 person refuge camp where the people are still facing the secondary wave of diseases and infections. I believe tens of thousands of more people are going to die in the next few months if we don’t keep our eyes on Haiti. It’s our responsibility — the media’s responsibility — to not take our eyes away.”
On her son Jack helping out: “He kept going into his room and pulling out toys and saying, ‘Mom, I think the kids in Haiti would love this one.’ He took his favorite stuffed fish and gave it to me and said, ‘I want this to go to a kid in Haiti.’ In the hospital, on my last day there, I was sitting with this little boy who was paralyzed from the waist down, and he was suffering because there were no painkillers. I gave him Jack’s fish toy. I put it in his arms and he smiled.”
On what makes her care: “When I was growing up, my mother was a nurse and my father was a construction worker. If anyone was in need, they were there. They would just jump in immediately and get their hands dirty. We’re workers in my family. All I did in Haiti was to lend a hand and be a worker and they taught me that.”
On why she won’t be the same: “When I came back, you know, my life is changed forever. I found that once you experience and witness that sort of depth of humanity, you can never not tell the truth again to yourself or to anyone else. You realize in a day everything can be taken from you. For me, it’s really awakened me to being honest about my life.”
On trying to live life honestly: “Fortunately or unfortunately, I’ve never been called coy. I’m kind of like, ‘This is who I am, take it or leave it.’ My words sort of match my actions and I don’t hold back a lot of stuff. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I believe in being authentic and truthful in who you are.”
On living in New Orleans: “It was post-Katrina when we filmed Yellow Handkerchief in New Orleans and so many of the neighborhoods were devastated. Everyone we met was affected by Katrina. And, yet, there was such a resilience and a life force and a culture and music all its own. I was incredibly inspired by the people there. One night I actually got a tattoo because I always wanted New Orleans to be imprinted on my soul. Please don’t ask me where I put it.”
On if she was ready for a few laughs: “I never got to do a big comedy, but I’m in Adam Sandler’s Grown Ups. It was a blast to do. I play Kevin James’ wife. I’m an obsessive mother who’s especially obsessive about Star magazine and still breastfeeding my kid at five years old. Believe me, hilarity ensues.”