When you have five kids and it’s summer and life is crazy but wonderful, the days all seem to run together in one long string of never-ending adventures. No complaints here — it’s been a fantastic couple of months of hikes and pools and splash pads. But, this past weekend I got an unexpected treat and was invited to run away to New York City by myself, for the Ricki and The Flash press junket.
On Sunday morning, I woke up in The Big Apple and took a stroll through Central Park, on my way to interview Meryl Streep, Rick Springfield, and Mamie Gummer… as you do. I joined a dozen or so bloggers from around the country in a cozy interview room, and in walked Rick Springfield. Realizing he was early, he treated us to a few songs and mentioned that it was the 34th anniversary of his song “Jessie’s Girl” hitting number one. He stayed to chat awhile, posing for photos and cracking jokes, and solidifying his reputation as a super nice guy (there’s a whole documentary about how much his fans adore him).
But then, in walked Meryl Streep and her daughter, Mamie Gummer, who co-stars with her in the movie Ricki and The Flash, and all I have to say about that is Meryl Streep, Meryl Streep, Meryl Streep.
I snagged the first interview question, which turned into a bit of a long-winded ramble because my brain was stuck on the “Meryl Streep, Meryl Streep, Meryl Streep” loop. But still, exciting! Because the movie is about a mother of three, Ricki, who leaves her family to pursue her dream of becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star, and Meryl Streep is herself a mother of four who managed to successfully raise her children while pursuing her acting career, I asked if there had ever been a professional opportunity that she would have loved to have taken, but ultimately turned down for the sake of her children. (See? Long.) But, Meryl Streep was gracious and answered that she was supposed to be in the film Ragtime, but had to drop out when she found out she was expecting her first child, Henry. She said, “I found out I was pregnant and I’d been married about 20 minutes. So, that was the first great role I gave up. But I think Henry turned out alright,” and looked to her daughter for confirmation.
The banter between Meryl Streep and her daughter set the tone for the whole interview.
When asked about growing up in the spotlight, Mamie Gummer replied, “I don’t think that I grew up in the spotlight, per se. I grew up in my own spotlight. I think I carried a spotlight with me.” Her mother laughed and said, “Mamie used to have shows that, all we remember is her saying, ‘It’s not over yet!’ We would sit there for hours.”
Veering back to the difference between Meryl Streep and her character, Ricki, she was asked how difficult it was to play a mother so different from herself. She answered, “That’s what acting is. That’s why we like it. Because it takes what we know, what we feel, and puts it into the life of someone else. It’s sort of a great journey. You get to know what it is to walk in someone else’s shoes, to live that life, to be impelled by their appetites and needs. For me it’s like therapy. It’s like understanding something about other people and about myself. I really love it and need it for that reason.”
Mamie added, referring to her mother, “One piece of advice that she gave me is to always defend your character, who you’re playing. I think the worst thing you can do is to judge who you’re playing. That’s just counterproductive. This does happen. People do leave home, they leave their families. You have to try to understand why they felt that they had to do that.”
“That’s good. That’s true,” agreed Streep. “You know what’s neat about this screenplay, in my opinion, is that there are so many holes in it. There are so many mysteries in it. There’s so many things you don’t understand. We don’t really know how much Ricki was in the lives of her children or how much she tried to be…. You know, that’s the stuff that we as individual actors, we make up our own story.”
Meryl Streep then mentioned asking Kevin Kline, who plays her ex-husband in the movie, “Well, why do you think that marriage broke up? And he had this long, incredible, bogus story. But it’s not articulated in the movie. You don’t know.”
Rick Springfield added that part of what makes the movie so great is that “Everybody has issues. Nothing is resolved at the end of the movie.”
About Ricki and The Flash:
Meryl Streep takes on a whole new gig – a hard-rocking singer/guitarist – for Oscar®-winning director Jonathan Demme and Academy Award®-winning screenwriter Diablo Cody in Ricki and the Flash. In an original and electrifying film loaded with live musical performances, Streep stars as Ricki Rendazzo, a guitar heroine who made a world of mistakes as she followed her dreams of rock-and-roll stardom. Returning home, Ricki gets a shot at redemption and a chance to make things right as she faces the music with her family. Streep stars opposite her real-life daughter Mamie Gummer; Rick Springfield, portraying a Flash member in love with Ricki; Kevin Kline as Ricki’s ex-husband; and Audra McDonald as Kline’s new wife.