Wizards of Waverly Place star Maria Canals-Barrera is one busy mama! The actress, 45, recently starred along Hollywood elite, Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts, in Larry Crowne. The mother-of-two is set to star in her husband, David Barrera‘s, animated series TheTrainee.
The Disney star opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her “beautiful, little princesses,” Bridget, 8, and Madeleine, 6, the joys of motherhood, and their upcoming holiday plans.
CBS: Tell us about working on set with Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks in the movie Larry Crowne.
MCB: “Well, that was super exciting because they are both two of my most favorite actors. It was a lot of fun. Tom Hanks is very funny on set. He was the director, co-writer and star of the movie so he had a lot on his plate, but he was always funny and relaxed on set. It was a great reminder to stay grateful. He became ‘Tom Hanks’ not only because he is so talented but also because he is so kind and gracious. I wish I could have done more on the set, but I was just grateful I got to do what I did.
And Julia Roberts is very nice. She is very sweet. It was an amazing opportunity to be in the classroom setting where they were both on set. I felt like I was in a master film acting class, as it was such a privilege to watch them work together. It was great to see him direct.”
CBS: You also star on Disney’s hit show, Wizards of Waverly Place. Are you anything like your character? How do your girls like seeing mom on Disney?
MCB: “I learned from Theresa to relax a little bit. I get too uptight and worried. My tendency is to panic, but Theresa is half crazy, you have to be in order to marry into a wizard family. So I am learning to roll with the punches. I understand she’s a completely fabricated person, but she is teaching me to take life more lightly. She is so much fun to play. She enjoys the craziness of life and just jumps right in!
My girls love seeing me on Disney. They are eight and six right now, so they are into everything Disney! They watch the show, and they have come to the set many times and they know everyone on the show very well. Actually, Bridget, my oldest one has a small part in the episode before the last episode. And my younger daughter, Madeleine, was ‘Young Theresa’ in the Wizards movie. There was a scene in the bonus features where Alex does a spell and I become a toddler. My husband was also in the show as well. He played a Cucuy. Not only was it a wonderful experience in that it was such a well written show and we have global fans that I hear feedback from on my Twitter, but it was also special because it came into my life when I had little kids and I was able to be on a kids show and all my family got to be part of it somehow. Tonight’s episode is also one of my favorite episodes of all four seasons.”
CBS: Tell us about your daughters. What are they into?
MCB: “My two wonderful princesses, where do I begin? We just had a wonderful Halloween. My big one was Frankengirl. This was the first time she’s been something scary, and I kept asking her if she didn’t want to be something beautiful. My husband said let her be what she wants to be. I love doing the makeup and the glitter. So this year I had to make her green. She walked in character the entire school parade. She loved it. My little one was a magical bumblebee, and with her I did get to go to town on the makeup and the glitter with her big black and yellow eyes with the big lashes. I love doing their makeup for their ballet recitals and for Halloween. They are like my little dolls.
They are in the Nutcracker again this year. Last year they were little angels. The Red Chair School for the Performing Arts is where they study ballet, and every year they put on a beautiful rendition of the Nutcracker. This year my older one is one of Clara’s friends, and my little one is a snowflake. The productions are just beautiful. They are done at the Alex Theater in Glendale, which is an historic theater in California. They are really excited for that.
They both loved to read. They are in first and third grade. They are both doing well in school; love to do math and reading. My husband and I both believe in the ‘whole.’ We don’t want to let any of the other academics fall behind. They both seem to have shown an interest in the arts, but both my husband and I want them to have a thorough education. We make sure they are completely focused on their studies and whatever they choose we will be supportive. We want them to be prepared for life.
We want them to know it is all about the hard work. So we praise the work. Because if you show them that hard work is good, then that is where they get their pride from, then they will want to work hard. If they get their pride from working hard, then the chances are they will do well. We can’t guarantee outcomes, but if we work on the working hard the outcomes will be better. We show them that when people work hard they do well.
So we are really enjoying raising these beautiful, little princesses. It is exciting and rewarding. It’s so important and it means so much and my husband and I are aware of that. There is no dress rehearsal; this is it. And we have to do our best to encourage and support and love them. They’ll only be eight and six once. And so we’re trying to do it right. Acting is a crazy business. The thing about the acting world is that everyone wants to do it, it’s crazy and fun and wonderful. My husband and I have been blessed in that we work a lot, but we love it. So we’ll see what comes next.”
CBS: Do either of your girls want to be actors like you and your husband? Would you support it?
MCB: “They have already dabbled in acting so yes, we absolutely would support them. You can’t deny someone passion and calling and if they have talent, you can’t deny that. It won’t make for a fulfilled life. They’ll have the benefit of our experience and our guidance.
My big one has a beautiful voice and she loves to sing, and she says she wants to be a singer so it looks like it might be inevitable. Ever since she was in kindergarten she has wanted to perform and be in the show.
My little one’s a wonderful dancer, so if this is something they want to pursue we will totally support it. But my husband and I believe in being whole people so they do have to focus on their other facets of school. They can be both too. Lots of people have hobbies that are semi-professional. They can be an engineer and a singer. I want them to do whatever they feel called to do.”
CBS: How has motherhood changed you?
MCB: “It has made me very aware of my own upbringing and conscious of the good stuff I want to keep and the not so good stuff that I don’t want to repeat. It has made me aware of the incredible responsibility that one has when one becomes a parent because you are responsible for who they are and what they believe about themselves, whether it be true or not.
The influence of a mother is huge, as the joke goes laying in your psychologist’s office talking about your mother, it’s true because of the enormous responsibly that a mother has, and a father. It has changed me in my awareness of my responsibility as a person.
It’s wonderful in that it’s so fun to be part of that innocence again. We are re-enrolled into that innocence and we can partake in it again and almost get another chance to be part of that. It has changed me in that I am more fun. Because they want to have fun all the time, they want to play and it reminds me to have more fun in life.
It has also overwhelming at times of how important it is to be a good parent. You never stop worrying. I’ll be with some ladies at church. All these different generations of moms are there, and the older ladies will ask for prayer for their children or grandchildren and I’ll think, ‘Oh my goodness, it never ends!’ These children are always on your minds and you are always thinking of them. These women are still so involved in their children and grandchildren’s lives. You never stop praying for them, being conscious of their needs.
I read somewhere that our goal is to raise healthy adults that want to spend time with us. Once you’ve reared your children then they are adults. And your hope is that you’ve done a good enough job that they’ll like you and want to spend time with you. And I think that is a good thing to remember, that we are raising adults. And it is good for me to know that it isn’t about me, it is about them, and that if I have done a good job as a parent they will be well adjusted adults who want to hang out with me. When I see adult’s kids who want to hang out with their parents I think, ‘They’ve done a good job.’ It’s fascinating this parenting thing. It is a huge deal and responsibility.
Parenting has made me more aware of what I know and don’t know. You are constantly teaching them important things and if you don’t know them you better learn them cause they are looking to you for right and wrong. The responsibility is even greater than it ever has been.”
CBS: How do you plan to celebrate the holidays? Any fun holiday traditions you’d like to share?
MCB: “We’re going to stay in town this year. We may go to New York, but I think we’ll stay here this time. We usually go to my husband’s family in Texas or sometimes we go to Florida, ’cause that’s where my family is. But I think this year we will stay here.
I have six sisters-in-law and every year we give each other ornaments so I get six brand new ornaments every year. We love to revisit every ornament when we put the tree up. We talk about the sister-in-law and what year we were given the ornament. I love that tradition. We have lots of family spread out around the country so that is fun.
And then my girls are in the Nutcracker again so that is becoming a tradition. And I am a backstage parent this year. I love the excitement backstage, and I love to give them direction, ‘Remember you’re an angel. You come from heaven. You have wings go soar!’ I love to encourage them. I think it sometimes embarrasses my children, but I am the only crazy actress back there, and I simply love to encourage these beautiful little dancers.”
CBS: What’s up next for you?
MCB: “I will be doing a few episodes in my husband’s animated series called, TheTrainee.
I am up for another comedy. It’s a great part and I would love to do it. I am super close and I am very hopeful that I will get this part.”View Slideshow »»