Monica Potter On Overcoming Her Fears of Parenthood and Bluetooth Technology
Over the course of Monica Potter's 15-year acting career, the Cleveland-born actress has divided her time between the big screen, with projects like Con Air and Along Came a Spider, and the small screen, with series Boston Legal and Trust Me. But when executive producer Jason Katims (Friday Night Lights) offered Potter the opportunity to converge mediums with Parenthood, NBC's dramedy based on the 1989 Steve Martin film, the actress hesitated. A mother of three herself, Potter was not sure that she could accurately portray Kristina Braverman, a tightly wound mother trying to raise her autistic son (Max Burkholder) and teenage daughter Haddie (Sarah Ramos) while maintaining her marriage (to Adam, played by Peter Krause) and navigating the many relationships of her her in-laws, the mighty Braverman clan.
Last week, Potter tested out her new hands-free technology by phoning Movieline to explain how she conquered her fear of TV motherhood, reclaimed her Cleveland accent and felt after her favorite character was canceled.
Hi, Monica. How are you doing?
I'm good. I am actually sitting in traffic and I just bought a Bluetooth for my ear. I am so not technically proficient at all. I am testing it out and you are pretty much the first person I've talked to on this. I have the ear bud in now, so I think I am really cool.
Oprah would be proud.
I know. I am actually proud of myself because I never text while I drive or anything, but if one of my kids is calling and I am at a red light or something, I pick up and say "I'm at a red light so hurry up and say what you have to say!"
I've been there. I'm glad you're communicating from the car legally now. I know you actually moved back to your hometown of Cleveland for a while. Have you readjusted to life in Los Angeles?
Yeah, I think there are a lot of things about Cleveland that I miss. Los Angeles is a funny place to live. I had to take my son over to the doctor this morning in Beverly Hills and he is just like, "What is going on here? Did you see that lady's face, Mom?" And he wasn't being mean but he was just kind of taken aback like, "Wow, this is amazing that this is Beverly Hills. This is how people live!" But could you imagine living in those Beverly Hills houses? That would be awesome.
That is the dream. Congratulations on the season so far, by the way.
Oh, thank you. I am really liking it a lot, and I am having fun. It's just kind of cool that it's doing well. People like it so far so that is really good. People are relating to it.
Were you hesitant to take on a TV series that was based on a film?
Well, I was more hesitant because I didn't know if I could play a mom. I know that sounds crazy because I have kids, but I just didn't know what kind of a mom they were looking for. I know I am an actress, but I wasn't sure what they wanted. I just didn't know if I could play a mom right.
Can you expand on that? What part about being a mom on TV scared you?
Well, I am not really a conventional mom at all. Like, I had my kids really young. I had Danny when I was 18 or 19 and then Liam when I was 23 and Molly, I had when I was a little older. But I am not a conventional mom and I thought that they wanted somebody like Mrs. Brady. The way the script was written originally, I thought that my character was the kind of mom from a Jif commercial -- wearing an Oxford shirt and those white sneakers, Keds, you know -- like a soccer mom. I just didn't know if I was going to do a good job playing a perfect Holly Homemaker kind of role, and that's exactly the opposite of what Kristina is to me now which is really cool.
I read that the director encouraged you to bring a lot of yourself to the character. What characteristics do you share with Kristina?
I think Kristina is a lot more serious than I am, but there is a lot of fun stuff there. Jason told me, "Monica, bring your humor and bring your jokes." I wasn't sure but he was like, "Yeah, bring more of you." So we have been having fun and he's been letting me do all of that which is very cool.
Do you think as the season goes on and you become more comfortable with playing a mom, viewers will even see more of Monica?
I think so. There is this thing about Kristina that I don't want to lose though. I don't want to lose the fact that she is sometimes -- I am really neurotic in my real life, and I don't want to lose that fact that she is sort of trying to be really perfect and trying to make everything good. You know, I don't want to lose that.
Kristina had a great episode last week where she and her son's behavioral aide made a really big breakthrough with her son's autism. But Kristina is still kind of on the periphery of the show since she married into the Bravermans. Do we get to see more of her as the season goes on?
Yeah, in the next episode it's really exciting because she tries to go back to her old job and tries to go back out in the work force. With all the things that are happening at home, she's just kind of like, "I can do this. I can do it." She's clearly really good at her job but she's completely out of her element when she tries to go back because all of the people there are now in their early 20s and she's just not 30 or -- I don't think I even know how old my character is. I am 38 but I don't know how old she is. It's really funny because I know she's so uncomfortable. So many people go through that when they have kids and they just don't fit into the workplace when they go back.
I've done it. I left L.A. and moved to Cleveland for four years in the early 2000's or whatever. I came back and thought that everything had changed. I was like, "Oh my God, I don't think I ever fit in here. And wait, who are all of these celebrities that are not actors? Where did all of the actors go? Who are all of these people" -- not in a negative way but "all of these people that are famous for being famous?" I just didn't know. So it's sort of like that. You get to see her thrown back into the work force, and there are a lot of funny moments but also a lot of touching moments that sort of come out.
Have the producers cast Kristina's parents yet? Viewers haven't really seen all of the in-laws yet. Is there going to be a huge holiday party, where your parents and Joel's parents come out to the compound?
I hope so! I was talking about this with my sister yesterday -- one of my sisters -- and she was like, "So who all could be the parents?" And I said, "I don't know." Who would be so kind of perfect for Kristina's parents? I don't even know. I mentioned to them I wanted Kristina to be from Cleveland or somewhere in the Midwest since my accent is so thick. Why hide it anymore? I am not going to hide it.
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