Former Life Goes On actress Kellie Martin stars as Katie Miner in the UP Original Movie Dear Viola, premiering this Sunday, March 16 at 7 p.m. ET. In the movie, Martin plays a “very introverted and insecure” girl who takes over an advice column and “finds her voice as she gives other people advice.”
Celebrity Baby Scoop chats with Kellie about how it was a challenge “to play someone who is quieter and less self-assured” in Dear Viola. The mother-of-one, to daughter Maggie, 7, went on to discuss the biggest challenges she faces as a working mom, Maggie’s very unique “unofficial hobby,” and her upcoming projects.
CBS: Tell us about your upcoming role as Katie Miner in Dear Viola. What drew you to her character? How is the role of Katie different from other roles you’ve played?
KM: “Katie Miner is a very introverted and insecure, bookish girl who tries to keep to herself and keep a very low profile. When the opportunity opens up for her to take over an advice column, which she’s always loved and admired, she kind of jumps at it and finds her voice as she gives other people advice. She’s completely shy when you talk to her in person, but through her letters and advice column she is very confident and self-assured and she figures out who she is. She ends up falling in love with one of the most eligible bachelors in town; basically, they end up falling in love with each other through the letters. He doesn’t know that she’s Viola and she doesn’t know that he is who he is. It’s a sweet little story that is really fun.
I have always been pretty confident and precocious my whole life, and very bossy, so it was kind of a challenge for me to play someone who is quieter and less self-assured. I liked her art and I liked how she started off as someone and ended up still as her, but as someone who has really came into her own. You don’t always get to do that in however many minutes the movie is, so it was kind of a nice opportunity to do that.
In regard to how this role is different from the other roles I’ve played, I got to wear glasses like I used to wear on Life Goes On, which was super fun. I haven’t had a character with glasses the whole time since then. I also think she’s more of a real observer, as opposed to being ‘in it’ and making the action of the story happen. She is more of an observer who sits back and takes it all in, which is different from what I normally play. I usually play very proactive characters who move the story along. I think that Katie has things happen to her in the movie, as opposed to making things happen. She’s a nerdy little wallflower and that was different for me.”
CBS: You were also an executive producer on this project. Tell us about being on the other side of the camera. Was it difficult to produce a film you also had a role in?
KM: “It was very fun to develop the script before we even started casting the actors. I worked on the script with the writers, the director, and the other producers, which was really fun. I also helped pass all of the other characters, which is an actor’s dream. I loved being on the other side of the casting process, being able to help cast the people, as opposed to being cast. On set it was definitely a juggling act, because I was in every scene basically every day. I had to juggle being a producer and being the lead actor, which can be done. I’ve directed a show that I’ve been in before and you definitely have to be firing on all cylinders at all times. This was such a short shoot, as it was only for 10 days, so it was possible to do that. I don’t think I could have sustained it for much longer than that though.” [laughs]
CBS: What are the biggest challenges you face as a working Mom? Have you been able to find balance between career and family? What’s your secret?
KM: “I really think that nobody tells you how much you multitask as a parent. I had no idea how I was going to be juggling literally everything once I became a parent. My daughter is seven now, so she helps me out a lot more than when she was four. When I am away working on a show, I am away working. Like for Dear Viola, I was gone for basically two-and-a-half weeks working in Toronto, then I came home.
When I am home, I am a full-time mom and I am here taking her to ballet class, taking her to school and picking her up from school. We don’t have a nanny, so my husband, Keith, or I do everything. I actually just had a book come out called MADAM, and when I was working on that, I worked at home and my daughter was there and around. I actually found that much more challenging—being in my home, working on things, and having to figure out how to split my time and my attention and letting her know, ‘Mommy needs to work from home sometimes.’ I had to make sure she gave me the time I needed to work. I found that much more challenging than just being away, doing my job, and coming home.
The thing that makes it work so well for my family is that we really listen to each other and we have meals together. Dinnertime is very important; we sit down at the table together, we have a meal together, and there are no distractions. There is no answering the telephone and no watching television…it is really time for the family. We always check in with each other and I think that a lot of things come up at the dinner table. Whether it’s something that she’s eating or something we’re missing, we have a chance to talk about it. Family dinner time is really a great problem solver.”
CBS: How’s Maggie doing? What does she like best about going to school? Does she have any special hobbies?
KM “Maggie is an amazing violin player, but she would not tell you that that’s her favorite hobby. Her favorite hobby is playing outside and looking for bugs…she’s actually a bug doctor. [laughs] I think that’s her unofficial hobby. She loves finding bugs who need help, rehabilitating them, building a habitat for them, keeping them for a while, and then releasing them back into the wild. It’s very sweet and that’s probably her favorite hobby.
Her favorite thing about going to school is her friends, definitely, because she’s very social. Science class and her friends are her favorite things.”
CBS: Now that Maggie is in school, does she face any special challenges having a celebrity Mom? How do you handle those situations?
KM: “No, I think the only thing that is hard for her is when I go away to work. We also have a rule where I am never gone for more than two weeks. If I am going to be gone for more than two weeks, then my husband and Maggie will come to visit me or I will fly home for at least the weekend. That’s the only challenge I think my job presents to her.”
CBS: Do you think motherhood has changed you at all? What has surprised you about being a mom?
KM: “Oh my gosh, massively! If it doesn’t change you, you’re doing something wrong. I waited until I was thirty to have Maggie and I think I was pretty selfish before having a child. I definitely don’t put myself first at all. I take the time I need to do certain things, like I always make sure I work out every day. I take good care of myself so I don’t put myself first. The things that used to make me happy or really excited don’t really make me happy or excited anymore. It’s kind of different now, because my priorities change and all of that. I am a lot more patient than I used to be too…I was never a patient person and I have a lot more patience now.”
CBS: Do you have any spring or summer get-a-ways planned for the family?
KM: “Yes, we’re going to Montana. My husband is from Montana so we try to get up there as much as possible. We usually spend time in the summer up there and Maggie’s learned how to water-ski and do all kinds of awesome Montana activities. We are going to go up there in May and then again in July. We have a really good time up there!”
CBS: Do you have any other upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
KM: “My book just came out. I’ve never publicized a book and it’s my first novel, so this is kind of new for me. It came out February 25th and it’s called MADAM: A Novel of New Orleans and it’s about a woman who rises to become the most powerful madam in New Orleans at the turn of the century. That was really interesting and fun. You can find it on Amazon by looking up ‘MADAM: A Novel Of New Orleans.’ I also own a children’s website called ROMP Store, which is an online children’s boutique where we sell unplugged toys like wooden toys. Everything is nontoxic, safe and classic. That is a relatively new project but is something I’m really excited about. Maggie and I pick out all of the toys and she definitely inspired my interest in all of this. I wanted kids to play and use their imaginations and their bodies, as opposed to using toys that have batteries and flashing lights. Everything that we sell is very classic and open-ended.”