- Nov 15, 2001
- Real Name
- Neil Middlemiss
Julie Hagerty has made a splash wherever she shared her talents – on stage, the small screen, or the big screen. A comedic legend born the moment she appeared as Elaine Dickinson the 1980 instant classic, Airplane!, Hagerty has enjoyed a varied career between film and television. She has appearances in movies like What About Bob?, Lost in America, Noises Off, and Confessions of a Shopaholic, and on television, with guest turns on Murphy Brown, Everybody Loves Raymond, Malcolm in the Middle, and with her voice talents bringing Carol Pewterschmidt on Fox’s Family Guy to life. She is a very funny, delightful actress.
Home Theater Forum had the pleasure of speaking with her about Instant Family, the new comedy/drama that delivers an honest, and funny look at foster care and adoption.
Instant Family is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD from Paramount Home Entertainment.
HTF: Good morning, Julie. It's a pleasure to talk to you. I'm sure you get this a lot, but Airplane! is absolutely one of my favorite films. It's one of the films that defined what I found funny growing up in England. I had an old VHS of it and watched it so many times I probably annoyed my parents to no end.
Julie Hagerty: Well, it's my pleasure and thank you. Thank you very much!
HTF: Lately, I've been watching and reviewing some pretty heavy stuff film-wise. Widows, The Hate You Give, just a lot of films from last year that have been heavily dramatic so, when I was watching Instant Family, I found myself melting more than I expected. Along with the warmth and the charm and the comedy, the film also is pretty clear about the challenges and the sadness that can come from life in foster care. Was that in part what drew you to the role of the mother of Rose Bern's Ellie character? Was it the very positive messaging that you found as a draw?
“…and I think that's the truth - we all have room in our heart. It's not about blood but it's about love. We all have room in our hearts for more love.”
Julie Hagerty: Yes. I love the movie. I read it and I said, "I really want to participate in this." I thought it was just wonderful. First of all, it was a stretch, but [director] Sean [Anders] and his wife did adopt three beautiful children, and they did have to go from point A to Z with the kids. So, he drew on that and it did open up a world that's never been touched upon that I know of, at least in my generation, that there are these children who need families and there are parents who need these children. And there's no difference for my character, Jan, for instance. She had to go from thinking you have to have blood children, to there's a difference, then, when she's got her three new grandchildren, there was no difference. So Jan took that journey, and I think that's the truth - we all have room in our heart. It's not about blood but it's about love. We all have room in our hearts for more love.
HTF: The scene in the film where it sort of galvanizes that original thinking was the dinner sequence, where all the arguments come out as the family lays bare the not-so-uncommon prejudices and feelings about adoption and fostering, and it still found a way to be funny. Tell me about working on that scene.
Julie Hagerty: Well, Sean [Anders] set it up. He's such a wonderful director. We all got along like a big family. And Sean just brings [an] energy that all of a sudden you don't even realize you're shooting. We had this big Thanksgiving dinner, and were all eating, and the words spoke for themselves. I mean, we were just off and running each and every take because clearly, it always seems lots of times that horrible truths come out at holidays, and this was just one of those things. But from that dinner, that's where [Rose Byrne’s character decides] to really go for it and adopt the children.
HTF: And this was your first time working with the director and co-writer Sean Anders. Did you stay very close to the script or were there opportunities for improvisation?
Julie Hagerty: We stuck pretty close to the script, but if you wanted to add a little something if it was in the bubble, it was okay. But the words were so good as they were. For instance, the face-painting thing came from Mark [Wahlberg's] son, who came home with that kind of face-painting on his face, so Mark took that to Sean I believe, and Sean thought, "What a great idea." So, there were little times that one collaborated. And that made it very easy and fun as well and brought you into more of what was happening.
“…that's why I love this movie so much. I think it's a move that people will watch every Thanksgiving or every Christmas. It's just going to be that kind of movie that you want to sit down and see with your family and feel your heart is whole and laugh.”
HTF: Instant Family, ultimately, is a message of unconditional love, how hard that can be, but that it's incredibly worth it. It’s also about compassion and caring and empathy and understanding, which I think the world needs desperately at the moment. Do you think that's why the film resonates?
Julie Hagerty: I agree with you. And that's why I love this movie so much. I think it's a move that people will watch every Thanksgiving or every Christmas. It's just going to be that kind of movie that you want to sit down and see with your family and feel your heart is whole and laugh. And it's been a while, I feel, that there's been that kind of movie where you can go, "Okay, family, let's sit down. Let's watch." And everybody from children to grandparents will be entertained, which that's really unusual.
HTF: There's something for all the generations in the film. I think you're right, and it is a rare film. We have not seen a film like this in quite some time, so it was refreshing in that regard.
Julie Hagerty: Yes. I was so proud to be in it and to work with those actors and actresses and then to see how Sean molded it and put it together and added-- I get all proud [laughter]. I hope that's not being snooty
HTF: Not at all. Not at all. I think that's absolutely the right emotion to have to it.
Julie Hagerty: And to work with these actors. I mean, before you say Rose's name, you have to say "the beautiful", because she's so beautiful and so gifted. And Mark, and all of the kids. And then Margo Martindale [who plays Mark’s mother in the film] and I had a ball on and off camera. So to get to spark new friendships, that's pretty special too coming out of that film, which I love.
HTF: Well, and I think it showed through the performances, too. There’s just a general sense of well-being watching the film. And again, I melted at the end and I really wasn't expecting it. And in the film, the reaction that Mark Wahlberg’s character had when his wife wanted to show him the adoption website, and he's like, "No, no, no, no, I don't want to see that," because once you're faced with it…
Julie Hagerty: Oh, I know
HTF: You can't turn away from it. And I think that's fairly common reaction in the world.
Julie Hagerty: It's so beautiful. It's so honest. And it's so beautifully acted. And I loved where the two of them are talking about maybe getting rid of the kids, that, “people will feel sorry for them and buy them gifts.” And it's so terrifying and funny and true, and so blatantly honest. And then they go, "We're not going to do that." But it takes you through all those things in just one scene. And the two of them are so beautiful together as a couple. You just believe it from the time they come on screen together.
“I'm thrilled that Seth [MacFarlane] invited me to be on [Family Guy]. And yes, it's deliciously naughty.”
HTF: You've also voiced the very soft-spoken Carol on Family Guy, a show I watch and get a kick out of despite its cheeky, take-no-prisoners attitude. Now, your character on the show was involved with Mayor West, who was voiced by the late and incomparable Adam West. Was that a fun show to work on?
Julie Hagerty: Oh, yes!
HTF: And did you do your voice performance in the room with others or is that something that you do alone? I'm not entirely sure how the setup is for Family Guy.
Julie Hagerty: I never got to meet Adam. I've met [Family Guy creator] Seth MacFarlane, of course, but you just go into a room by yourself and there are the guys in the booth and they tell you what they want and how they want it. You never really get to meet anyone, so, that's kind of sad. But I'm thrilled that Seth invited me to be on the program. And yes, it's deliciously naughty [laughter].
HTF: And you are so terribly good in it, it’s so fun to hear you.
Julie Hagerty: Thank you. And I have to say, it was a pleasure talking with you. Thank you.
HTF: You too. Sincerely my honor, and congratulations on Instant Family. Just an absolute charmer, so thank you.
Julie Hagerty: Oh, thank you so much. What a pleasure!