Confession: I must admit to a personal trifecta. First, last summer I interviewed Sarah Palin, recently Tina Fey who infamously portrayed her on Saturday Night Live and now I complete the triangle with Julianne Moore who won an Emmy for her portrayal of the former Alaskan governor and GOP’s vice presidential candidate in the HBO miniseries Game Change! Yes, this is my own little personal accomplishment.
Speaking of fulfillments, not only is Julianne an award winning actress who has graced the screen in countless movies, the mother of two (son Caleb is 15 and daughter Liv is 10) has ventured into writing children’s books that will now be available in digital format as well. For Kids Entertainment just had to get to the bottom of how one of our favorite movies stars became an author for kids, what’s coming up with her movie career, the Ryan Gosling question we had to ask, her advice for moms and more.
The Freckleface Strawberry picture book series is adorable! And congratulations on them now being available in digital format, too.
Thank you! I appreciate that! I am really happy about the app and it’s nice to be moving in [the digital] direction – it’s fun.
Since I know Freckleface Strawberry was your nickname growing up, who was the first to call you that?
There were a bunch of kids – we lived in a duplex with a back alley and so all the kids would run out and hang out in back of the houses. There was a drink mix at the time and there was blueberry, raspberry and freckle face strawberry flavors [so they started calling me that]. I think it was harmless, them calling me that name. Kids love to identify and categorize and I think that’s what they were doing, but when I was five it was awful.
When my son was 7 and got a haircut, he didn’t like how his ears looked and thought his teeth looked too big. I said, “I can’t believe it. You look beautiful!” Kids never like what they see [at that age] and of course we all feel that way. So, it’s a book about that.
Yes! I loved the message and my kids really liked [the book], too.
Awww… that’s so sweet. How old are your kids?
Well, I have five…
Five [laughs]. So, I read it to the 9 year old, 7 year old, 4 year old and the 2 year old twins and they were all really into it.
WOW! Good for you! I’m so impressed that you have five kids. I wish I had more. I really do, so good for you!
Thank you. So, in addition to the nickname, are there moments in the books that are inspired by your own childhood?
All the books are somewhat autobiographical. [Especially] all the things people asked me, like do [the freckles] come off, do they go away – these are all things people said.
I love the line, “People always had something to say about her freckles.” I think we’ve all had that experience where people always have to [comment on something] and we’re thinking, “Why are you saying this?” People just want to; they want to say, “Hey, I noticed you have long hair,” or “I noticed you bounce on your toes when you walk,” – you know, that kind of stuff. I wanted to corroborate that experience for kids. People are always going to have something to say and you are going to have to listen to it – it might make you feel good, it might make you feel bad, but it’s just a fact.
And in “Dodgeball Bully,” I was inspired by me pretending to play because I never wanted to play any sporty game but always pretended to play [laughs].
Your daughter was 5 when the first book came out in 2007 – was she an influence on the main character, too?
I suppose so. The character is me. I have a lot of people say, “Oh, is it your daughter?” No. It’s me. I feel like she resembles my daughter and [Illustrator] LeUyen [Pham] never met my daughter, but she reminds me of Liv [my daughter] because she was more spunky than I was as a kid. So, that always reminds me of Liv in that way.
And my daughter is the voice of Freckleface Strawberry on the app!
Oh! How fun!
Yeah! So that was really fun and kind of amazing. She’s ten now, but out of the blue I asked, “Hey, honey, do you want to do the voice of Freckleface Strawberry. And she was like, “Yeeeah!”
I didn’t know if she could do voice over or if she would be comfortable. When we sat down to do the first session, it was like three hours or something! I said, “Honey, that was real work!” And she said, “If that’s real work, I would do real work like that all day.”
I know! It was great.
That’s funny because I was going to ask if you think your kids might become authors, but one just might become an actress like you [laughs]!
What are you most proud of with the books?
I think that they survived. There’s so much stuff that comes out every year and things don’t stick around, they aren’t always in print, but these are out there. Kids seem to be enjoying them and there’s a musical out there based on the books. I hope that they have a future. It would mean the world to me if they stay in classrooms, stay in libraries. I’ve had great experiences with educators when I’ve gone to read at the schools.
I think the books are about what children go through emotionally and there’s room for discussion. And kids seem to enjoy them. I’d love to be in it for the long game – that would be incredibly meaningful to me.
I have a friend in the book business who said I should do this, I should write about my childhood because kids would love it. He didn’t have a kid at the time, so I told him, “Look, kids don’t care what happened to you [laughs]”.
But then when my son was seven and he didn’t like how he looked — that’s when I remembered my whole nickname thing, so it was really for [my son] Cal, since I was heartbroken for Cal, that he wasn’t liking himself physically.
It became really rewarding and interesting to do — I think because I love to read and I love kid’s literature. There was a period where I just wanted to be a librarian. So, in a way, this is how I get to participate in that [laughs].
What can parents expect with the digital formats?
There’s nothing different right now – I think eventually we will add an audio feature. I’m sure you know that when kids travel, this is a way for them to have their stuff with them. They can have the book at home and also on a tablet to carry around with them. My kids do all their homework on tablets. More and more kids are on tablets and it’s nice for them to have something that’s not just games.
Absolutely! And something to do while waiting in the pediatrician’s office…
Exactly! Or while [they are in the car with you].
What are some of your favorite children’s books?
Oh man, for me as a reader, I loved the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. It’s funny because I really tried to get my daughter into them and she never did. I don’t know if it was the pace or she wanted to do her own thing, but to me, that story is the soundtrack of my childhood.
I read anything and everything really – I could read anywhere and it was the thing that got me through my childhood.
Is it completely different to promote a book over a movie?
It’s different. It’s actually more fun. The questions are much more about literature, they’re much more about the characters in the books. When you promote a movie, people ask a lot of questions about your personal life, what was it like to work with such and such actor or why did you do that movie or whatever. I’ve also been answering those types of questions for a long time. [Now], I get to talk about books and what they’ve meant to me and what they mean to kids. It’s been fun and different.
Do you think the books will be made into a movie?
I think it’s very difficult to make a picture book into a feature but I would love to have a TV show one day.
Oh, that would be cute!
I think it would be fun and I see it as very kid-centric, with actual children’s voices – kids letting kids have that experience living in their own world without adults present because adults seem distant sometimes — I want to make a TV show about that.
I just love the idea behind the book, that she thought she wasn’t accepted because she had the nickname, but then she discovered she had always been accepted – it was just really sweet.
Oh, thank you.
NOW, for your film career, I don’t even know where to begin! But you are truly amazing and I am a huge fan. What is your answer when people ask what’s your favorite movie?
I think Far from Heaven. I love the movie and I loved the experience. There were so many things going right in my life at that point because my son was not quite 4, I was pregnant with my daughter, I found out I was having a girl, I was shooting in New York City, I loved working with Todd Haynes, he wrote the movie for me… there were so many things that were great [laughs] that I think that movie because it was a great experience.
For my friend Pam, I have to ask what was it like working with Ryan Gosling in Crazy, Stupid Love?
[Laughs] These are the questions that get a little dull! You know what? It was great. Ryan Gosling is funny and imaginative and nice and fun to hang around with. He’s just a cool guy. Everyone was. And that’s fantastic… I mean Steve Carell… it was just a really fun shoot.
I love that movie. And I didn’t really get the whole “Ryan” thing until I saw that movie.
[Laughs!] He’s pretty adorable.
What actor would you like to work with again?
Oh gosh. So many. I love Sam Jackson. We’ve been actively looking to do something together for a long time. I had a great time with Ralph Fiennes, I love Steve Carell… oh gosh… I’ve had so many great experiences, there are many people I would like to work with again. I’d also like to work with a bunch of actresses because we never get to work together. It’s one of those weird things where you’re always opposite a man. It would be nice to do something with a bunch of women.
That would be fun! It was super fun watching you on 30 Rock, too, by the way.
That was really fun.
I saw that you are in the remake of Carrie. Had you seen the original before taking on the role?
Oh yeah! Of course I’ve seen the original – it was a great movie. And a great book, actually. It’s an amazing book and what Stephen King was actually writing about was the social isolation of people. Here’s this mother and this daughter who are extremely isolated and my character is not only crazy, but extremely marginalized and that’s a dangerous position psychologically to be in. Stephen King wrote about it masterfully.
Yes! Can’t wait to see it. Now that your kids are teen and tween ages, do you have advice for new moms and moms who have kids under age 5?
The thing that I always try to say to people and what people have said to me, ‘The days are long but the years are short.’ Sometimes you have those days where you are like, “OH MY GOSH.” We have some friends who have three little kids under five and they called Sundays countdown to [HBO's] “Sopranos Days” because they were just waiting for the kids to go to bed [laughs] — because it’s rough! When they are really little, it’s rough! But, as you know, the thing that’s amazing is that one day they aren’t little anymore and you think, “Where did that go?” Those years just speed by, so when you are having a particularly tough time, you just have to remember that.
I love that. Anything else you’d like to share on the Freckleface series?
Just that the app is free! It’s something that I wanted to do, something that I wanted to be out there that was an extension of the character and the story. I was hoping people would just enjoy it and have something they want to give to their kids.
To purchase the adorable Freckleface books, click here!
The ebooks, which include Freckleface Strawberry (2007), Freckleface Strawberry and the Dodgeball Bully (2009), and Freckleface Strawberry: Best Friends Forever (2011), will be available for all devices on March 15, 2013.