An interview with Brad Garrett, Faith Ford, Lauren Graham and Brittany Snow on The Pacifier
In his first straight out comedy, Vin Diesel is supported by TV comedy veterans. The tough guy plays a Navy SEAL assigned to protect a family after their father dies on a mission. Going domestic is hard enough, but he has to face outside challenges as well.
Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond) plays an assistant principal/gym teacher who gives the kids a hard time until Diesel's character stands up to him. Garrett enjoyed the change of pace of playing a mean character.
"It's fun to be mean," Garrett said. "I happen to love kids, so you've got to go to that place as an actor. I was just using all the PE teachers I had who were terrible to me, because I was the six foot 13-year-old who couldn't play ball literally. Those were the days when PE teachers didn't know about mentoring and grooming and be nice to everybody. So I just took a little from every PE teacher I ever had and tried to put in this guy with an extra layer of dementia thrown in. But it's hard to be mean to anybody but it's fun as an actor. Especially from what I've been doing the last nine years, it's been a great departure."
The veteran comedian improvised much of his dialogue towards Diesel as well. "I would say 20 percent was scripted that I did. Like ‘They call me Little Puppet,' I still don't know what that means. I don't know if anyone does. I just knew it was a gang name I once heard on the news. So I thought what was more important, we tried to find something different in the role. I just though t if I added a level of you just have no idea where this guy was coming from, that could be scary as opposed to just yelling at a kid. So having non sequiturs come out of his mouth, but really no one knew what he was talking about to make it be a little bit scarier."
Diesel was a trooper and adapted to the lines Garrett threw him. "He's very focused. It's hard to crack him up. I got him a couple times, but he made me cry a couple times so it's kind of even. But it was a lot of fun. It's great to work with a director that lets you go, lets you improv. We tried things that didn't work, but he has the freedom and the comfort in himself to let you try, which is very rare, especially in film. He knows what he wants and he'll tell you what he wants but then he'll give you a take to improvise, which is where they find a lot of good stuff."
Faith Ford plays the widowed mother of the family, who leaves Diesel's character alone with the kids as she handles some post-mortem business. Currently starring on Hope and Faith, Ford knew she would be able to fit the film into her TV schedule.
"It's hard to work, in general, in our business, on more than one thing," Ford said. "How some actors go from back-to-back films, I don't know. I don't know if I could do that. It takes a lot of energy to work, in general, especially if you're the lead in something. To do my show, I'm always in every scene and it's very physical comedy, and even to motivate to want to work at all when I'm off is very challenging. But, sometimes you go, ‘Well, what if the series is over next year and then there's that lull?' Usually, when you're working is when people want you to work. They don't want you as much when you're not working. That's the frustrating nature of our business. In all that time period that I had in between doing Murphy Brown and Norm and other things, you're not as much in demand. They want the other person that's working on the other thing, and they don't have time to do it. So, when things come to you, you try to take advantage of those opportunities. And, I also knew that this wouldn't be very demanding, compared to what I do. It wouldn't be as physically or emotionally demanding. That was also a motivating factor. And, I was going to get some time off in there to be able to come back to L.A., and I did. Actually, sometimes I really felt guilty even being there because they put me in a really nice hotel and I got to really relax and enjoy the spa. It was just so great. We're very spoiled."
Ford is now a veteran screen mom, though she has no children in real life. "They said, ‘Well, you're a mom and you've got five kids.' I said, ‘Five kids! In real life, I don't even have one. How am I going to be the mother of five kids?' It's bad enough to have three on the show, but I love playing moms. It's a lot easier than being a mom, I hear, because whenever the kids scream and cry, you can give them to their real moms. But, I love doing it. I think I just took it on because I thought it would be a great family film and I wanted to do something that, if I do have kids, they'll want to watch."
Her character, Julie, is clearly overburdened when the film begins. "Julie clearly gave up, probably as a self-survival thing. If you got into the neurosis or the subtext of Julie, you'd probably find out that she hasn't dealt with a lot of it. She's just had to keep going. I have a friend that has five kids and she went through a trial separation with her husband and she didn't have time to be upset. Every now and then, she'd call me on the cell phone and just cry and say, ‘Okay, I've got to go now because I've got two Brownie troop meetings and this and that and the other.' She couldn't sit around crying in front of her kids and doing all of that. I liken Julie to that."
Lauren Graham, TV mom on Gilmore Girls, fields a few more offers for films, but few coordinate with the show's schedule. "I'd been trying to work with [director] Adam Shankman and he offered this to me," Graham said. "I knew him a little bit socially. There was another movie that didn't work out either. He's a fan of the show. I knew I'd have a great time and it fit. There was something I really wanted to do last year, but it started a month before the show ended. They tried to work it out. Yeah, it's a crazy schedule."
Graham's role as the nice principal, good cop to Garrett's bad cop, is a departure from her sassy Lorelai Gilmore and Santa fetishist Sue in Bad Santa. "I have this character I do every day so anything is sort of a refreshing change. Anything is such a slower pace. We cram, we do 12 pages regularly on the TV show [daily]. You never have enough time. I talk so much. My brain is working overtime. I'm memorizing. So any new experience, I get a lot out of. The Billy Bob movie was more of a character to build. Here, I'm serving the hero and trying to be real and natural and smooch him at the end. It wasn't so much about creating a character. I really love to work so it was fun."
It will take a few more film roles before Graham thinks she can pick and choose her projects. "I've been the lead in a TV show but never the lead in a movie. That's a different process and I'm not there yet. As long as I can keep working with different people and working my way up then it's really satisfying for me. I think from Bad Santa, all the stuff I'm reading, I'm on top of some guy. It's gratifying because I didn't used to get seen that way before, but once they see you play a ho, then, man, you're in the like ‘Let's get her to play that sleazy role' [club]. But it's fun. The parts for women, you're either like the quietly suffering wife or you're the wild girl. As long as I can do a bit of both, I guess."
Brittany Snow, from TV's American Dreams, plays the oldest daughter in the family. She too felt the limits of a TV schedule. "The weird thing about last year was American Dreams was finished and the day that it was finished I flew to Canada and did Pacifier for four months. And then the day that finished I flew back and got on set that day. So, I haven't had a break in a year. So now I have nothing to do and I'm like ‘What am I doing?' On the movie, it was a lot different than TV because I got the chance to just sit and rehearse whereas on American Dreams it's just constant so I think movies are a lot more relaxed. That would be something I would enjoy doing but I like both a lot. "
Snow's character, Zoe, has a boy get caught trying to sneak up to her bedroom window. This has never happened to her in real life, she says. "I actually had a house where that would be completely impossible. It was brick and no vines or anything. But there were all those guys in school there that are really ghetto and all down with it and everything and Kyle, who plays my boyfriend in the movie is actually one of my really good friends. We still hang out sometimes and I really rag on him for that. He doesn't talk like that in real life. I had a longtime boyfriend for two and a half years. While I was in Canada, he was there too but now we're not together. His name is Kyle too."
The Pacifier opens Friday.