The Young and the Restless actress Victoria Rowell stars in the UP Original movie Marry Me For Christmas, premiering tomorrow, December 14th at 7 p.m. E.T. In the movie, she plays Stephanie, the mother of a hard-charging New York ad exec who is smart, stylish and, much to her family’s disappointment, still single.
Celebrity Baby Scoop chats with Victoria about how she drew from her foster mother to play the part, her two children, daughter Maya, 24, and son Jasper, almost 18, and why “parenting is done early on, even when the children are still in the house.” She goes on to discuss her work on behalf of foster and adoptive parents.
CBS: You are set to star in the UP Original Movie, Marry Me For Christmas. Can you tell us about the movie and your role?
VR: “I play Stephanie, who is the mother and real matriarch of the Chandler family. She’s a traditionalist who is a bit overbearing and wants to control how things are handled. She’s also a conservative who likes to keep up appearances. In the movie, there is this dynamic where her daughter, played by the lovely Malinda Williams, had enough of this and doesn’t see life in the same way; she wants to have a career and doesn’t want to be home. There’s a subtle tension that ultimately bubbles up and overflows, leading to duress. In my opinion, it’s a movie about the gathering of family, how stressful the holidays can be, and sometimes, as in this case, how healing happens during this time.”
CBS: You are also a mother in real life. Did you pull from any experiences to play the part?
VR: “Of course! I definitely drew from my foster mother, Agatha, who was a loving traditionalist. She already had ten children of her own grow up, and then she raised me. She wore hats, makeup, and blush…she was such a lady. She also sang in the church while her sister played the organ. It wasn’t a reach for me to channel my focus on Agatha for this character. It was a lot of fun!”
CBS: What was your favorite part about filming the movie?
VR: “My favorite part was the communion with the people. We had an extraordinary director, Roger Melvin, and his Director of Photography, George Su, was excellent. I made great relationships and really enjoyed working with World Films and Uplifting Entertainment. I got to work with people I worked with in the past who I hadn’t seen in awhile. Our costume designer is someone I had worked with multiple times before over many years. The list goes on and on. Working with the people was my favorite part. Also, when you’re given words that roll off the tongue, you know that you have a good script. Marry Me for Christmas was written by Rhonda Freeman-Baraka. She is a brilliant writer and it’s a pleasure when you have material like that.”
CBS: Can you tell us about your two kids?
VR: “My children are adults, but they’re always my children. My daughter Maya is 24 years old and working. My son Jasper is in college and will be 18 years old this month. He’s a visual artist. My daughter is a photographer, among other things. I’m really proud of my children. My daughter was attending Savannah College of Art and Design, and my son is on a full scholarship at a school in New York City.
My daughter also loves motorbikes as well as weaving, and my son is a painter. They grew up with me, so we all are ‘junkers.’ We love when my son creates art from found objects. I grew up bringing my kids to garage sales, Good Will, and vintage clothing stores…it’s part of who I am. The antiquing definitely rubs off on them in a huge way. A very important part of my parenting is not just making sure they have a good education, but also that they are travelling. I invest in travel and have taken my children with me to many places throughout the world, from Belgium to Russia to Italy and many places in between. If children don’t understand other people and other cultures, how can they be Goodwill Ambassadors in the world? It’s not about tolerance of people; it’s about acceptance and respect.”
CBS: How has your role as a mom changed now that your kids are older?
VR: “Parenting is done early on, even when the children are still in the house. You can discipline and say, ‘Don’t do this!’ and you can give them advice, reward them, tell them they did a good job, and be someone who gives them spiritual input, but you can’t control them. You do the best you can. There’s no rulebook in parenting, and I let them fly. My children are very independent, as am I. I instilled independence in them early on. I’m someone that they can come back to and bounce ideas off of. We really talk about love; love is the center of our conversations. My children love me and I love them. We tell each other we love each other all of the time. One of the proudest things I can share about my son is that when he and I walk down New York City, he has his arm around me and I have my arm around him. That’s a big deal. We’re not afraid to hug each other. At the end of the day, love is all that matters.”
CBS: You have been recognized by 193 members of Congress for your advocacy work on behalf of foster and adoptive parents. Why is this cause so important to you?
VR: “I ran the Foster Children Positive Plan for twenty years , starting around ’91. I continue working with The Annie E. Casey Foundation, which was established in Baltimore, Maryland. It is the charitable arm of UPS. As a foster kid for eighteen years, I was given tremendous access to life and opportunity, whether that was in education, classical ballet, and here in Hollywood.
I do about one hundred lectures a year for the American Program Bureau out of Massachusetts. I want to spread the word not only about fostering adoption, but how, as a community and country and beyond, as much of my lecturing is international, how everyone has something to give. It is very important that we don’t forget it, because if you can participate in scholastic tutoring, if you can participate in financial or equity contributions, then we must. I’m not just talking about child welfare, but I’m also talking about mental health issues, which is an issue that’s not discussed and has affected our country thoroughly. I lecture on all of that, and I also go to prisons as well. The members of Congress recognized the work and I’m very honored and humbled by it.”
CBS: You also wrote the memoir, The Women Who Raised Me. Could you tell us about it?
VR: “The Women Who Raised Me is was published by Harper Collins in New York City. It made the New York Times Bestseller List and was reviewed by The Washington Post, Miami Herald, and Boston Globe. Oprah Magazine also noted it, and it’s going to be made into a film. I can’t go into more detail at the time, but I can certainly tell you that it’s about how women love, heal, suffer, and sacrifice in their own lives and still manage to help others. It talks about how we teach, how we share, and how we raise other people’s children. You can get the book online at the Barnes & Noble website or the Harper Collins website.
The writing is very cathartic. I am in the Writer’s Guild of America and I also have soap opera experience. I spent fourteen years in daytime drama television and have a two-book deal that is the subject of a potential TV series. The first book is titled Secrets of a Soap Opera Diva, which came out in 2010. They’re humorous, but they have a serious understone. This year, Simon and Schuster published the sequel, which is titled The Young and the Ruthless.”
CBS: What do you plan to do with your family this holiday season?
VR: “I put up a tree and there’s a lot of things going on. We’re going to be home and I’ll have a small but intimate gathering at the house with a few friends. I always like to catch a choir or an orchestral performance, something along those lines. It’s a time a time of reflection that we really like to spend time together.”
CBS: What’s up next for you?
VR: I just wrapped up a movie in Atlanta titled What Love Will Make You Do. That is up-coming. I’m going to be working with Harry Lennix, who I’ve worked with on a number of occasions in the past. He stars on the TV show The Blackist and he was also in Man of Steel. I’m working on a biblical project he’s directing this month called ‘Gospel of John.’ We worked together on Diagnosis and we’ve worked on a movie in the past. We adore each other.”View Slideshow »»