Emmys: 'About a Boy' Star Minnie Driver Reveals Her Toughest Role (Q&A)

8:00 AM PST 06/10/2014 by Stacey Wilson
Minnie Driver in "Return to Zero"

The actress talks about the pain and beauty of telling the true story of a mother who loses her baby in the Lifetime movie "Return to Zero."

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

It's no wonder that Minnie Driver was drawn to lighter material on NBC's breakout comedy About a Boy, in which she plays a hippie-dippie San Francisco mother. She has just come out of the most difficult role of her career in the television movie Return to Zero, which premiered May 17 on Lifetime. The true story of an L.A. couple who copes with the loss of their baby is, in Driver's words, "the best work" she ever has done.

How did Return to Zero come to you?

I get sent a lot of indie movie scripts, and I read everything. I don't like someone telling me, "This isn't for you." My first reaction was, "This would be bloody hard to do." Then around two years ago, I had a conversation with the writer-director, Sean Hanish. I wasn't thrilled he had no experience making movies. However, this was his personal story. All you can do is use your gut. I was very candid with him, asking: "What are you going to do in those scenes in the doctor's office? Can you handle it?" I had these conversations with him that I'd never had with a director. I realized this man was telling this story for all the right reasons, for people who never had their story told.

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It's indeed ironic that Hollywood loves to showcase violent content, but no one wants to touch a story like this.

No one wants to tell it. We can see people's heads being blown off and abuse of women in movies, but not this. Proof being that the film companies we showed this to said: "This is amazing, but there is nothing we can do with it. We don't know how to market it. We can't touch it." Finally, Relativity brought the film to Lifetime. They said, "This isn't for us, but we want to help."

How did the film get funding?

We did a Kickstarter campaign, and 600 families contributed. Lifetime listed every single family and names of the baby they lost. It was a fascinating and difficult process. We made a film I know will help people. It's important we tell the story. What I do is just entertainment. But selfishly I think it's the best work I've done as an actor; I say that because I can afford to be objective after two decades of doing this.

How much time did you spend with Sean and his wife to research the role?

I had lunch with his wife, Kylie, which was such a strange situation. She was on board, but I can't imagine it was easy. I had to just listen like a human being and ask questions. She was so gracious. You will always have a sense of otherness when you lose a baby. You don't stop being their mother, yet the child is no longer there. I was amazed at how much people who'd lost children wanted to show me pictures of their dead babies. There was a love there -- nine months of love. Motherhood is like being inducted into a new, strange club that lasts forever.

What feedback have you gotten from your friends and family about the film?

A lot of my friends are afraid to see it. I said: "I know this is hard to watch. Are you scared because it could happen to you?" They said yes. There is redemption in looking at it. Who says it has to be an ending? It's a beginning to another life. Who are we to say where the goalposts sit in the messy business of being alive?

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You have a son, Henry. How did becoming a mother impact your work?

It all became easier. I didn't have to fight so hard. Acting has never fallen in my lap. I've always had to fight for every role. People see you looking pretty in a red dress at a party and think, "Oh, she's made it." But having Henry, suddenly it was like, "I don't give a f--!" I love this child, and I want to make money so I can afford to buy him toys and food, keep him warm and comforted. Yes, I want to be fulfilled as an artist but way less. That new beginning helped me get About a Boy, a job that is joyful and hilarious. I can't wait to get to work every day!

What have you learned about being a working mother in Hollywood?

We are told that you have to have all these balls in the air, and everything ends after 40. But nothing is over. No fat lady is singing! That's just patriarchal shitty shit that someone taught us and we believed. It's the female neurosis that keeps that patriarchal shit going. "I better get a face-lift; I better get a husband." What are we here for? It's not money. That's only the by-product. Fame and money are not the goals. In my 20 years of acting, that's one thing I know for sure.

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