MAE WHITMAN and LANDON PIGG INTERVIEW
Mae Whitman works as an actress on the show Parenthood as the character Amber.
WR: So you’re picked up for another season on Parenthood, what’s the process of waiting like?
Mae: The waiting feels really bad. We really love, love, love our show. We were prepared to get pretty crazy if we didn’t get picked up again.
WR: What’s it like working on a show where there are so many different ages?
MW: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy! I think that’s one thing that’s cool about it, is that you get not a super specific show— it’s kind of like everybody has something they can relate to on the show. I would say normally, a show about family issues I wouldn’t say would attract young women, necessarily, like us, but the fact that there is a teen girl and older people, it brings everyone together. There is at least somebody on the show that’s on the same page as you.
WR: Is there any disconnect between the ages while filming?
MW: No, because they cast us so well that we are all super close. We don’t even ever notice the age differences on the show. Miles [Heizer], is one of my best friends and is like my little brother and the same with Craig [T. Nelson], he’s one of the coolest guys in the universe. It kind of spans everything.
WR: Who do you think is the most similar to their character?
MW: I feel like we all bring things to our characters that are direct pieces of us. I think that’s what makes Parenthood so good is that they don’t force us to do something if it doesn’t feel natural. They know it’s going to be the most realistic if we are able to bring parts of ourselves to the show. Like, I wear a lot of my own clothes on the show or I can pick them out. I would say I’m similar in some ways. Although, I think everybody is fundamentally different, but certain pieces are the same.
WR: Both of you have been in the Austin area before, what are you most excited about doing now that you’re back?
Landon: Well, make a trip to the Driscol and get one of those martinis over there.
MW: I love, love, love it here. I even love just walking around. The second we got here yesterday, I immediately ran out the hotel, over to the South Congress area. I think it’s my favorite area. I love it so much, I spent the day there yesterday. Everybody is so nice and in such a good mood. Everywhere you go here, there are incredible, cool places on every corner…we don’t even have that in LA.
WR: So how is Parenthood different from other projects you have worked on?
MW: First of all, I’ve never been on a TV show that’s been on this long. I was hesitant going in thinking that I was going to get bored or tired of doing the same thing all the time, but the one thing about Parenthood keeps reinventing itself all the time. Also, everyone is so open to collaborating. Even with Landon’s music, when my character had to sing a song on the show, they were just like, “Do you have a song?” They love Landon and his music, and so we come back with a song and they always love it. It feels very familial and open and I’ve never really had that before.
LP: Yeah, Parenthood is the best. I have had a chance to write, when her character needed to play a song, she asked me if I could help her write one. Being involved on such a ground level where you’re writing for a character on a show, not for me and not for Mae, but both collaborating to write something you think Amber might sing about, that’s a new experience. It’s been great being so involved from the seed to the tree. As you [Mae] said, there are direct pieces of you [Mae] in Amber, so since I know you really well, it helps me know Amber well—I try and give a balance. I can’t make her too smart.
MW: She’s pretty smart.
LP: Yeah, but you’re smarter.
MW: Maybe. She got a really good score on her tests that I could never get. Guess it just depends on your definition of smart.
WR: If you had to pick between acting and music, which would you do?
MW: That’s such a tough question. I guess I would have to say acting because I get stressed out if I don’t do it. It’s such a deep part of me, I just want to act, I just have to or I don’t feel healthy, so I have to get that part out of me. I also feel that way with music though too. I am definitely more scared and shy. Music brings out a really special thing in me too. I would maybe just jump off a cliff instead of giving either one up…I would drive off, like in Thelma and Louise.
LP: And then have someone film that while you were singing so that you were doing music and acting at the same time.
MW: Have one final moment. That would be so sad. It would get like one news blurb, on like one news blurb.
LP: I bet you could make news headlines on her paper. Wait, I actually have an interesting fact for you. She was an answer for a question on one of her favorite shows of all time, like a year ago.
WR: Really? What was the question?
MW: It was like “Lauren Graham had a mad teenage on Gilmore Girls, now she has another one in Mae Whitman on this show” or something. I literally, embarrassingly, I started scream-crying I was so excited. It was so sad.
WR: That’s when you know you’ve made it.
MW: It was annoying because my friend Sarah [Ramos], who plays Haddie on the show, was in the New York Times crossword puzzle and that’s my other ultimate. So I have one and she has the other. I got to get in it. I’ve got to get in that crossword puzzle. I’ll text Bill Schwartz later.
WR: So if you were to place the cast as a family on the show, where would you place everyone?
MW: Me as the grandpa, Craig as my husband, the grandpa. Uh…let’s see, maybe we’re just all grandpas. We all just love each other in this weird paternal, like old way, so maybe we’re just a family of grandpas. Dax and Kristen [Bell], I call my parents, which is so weird. I call them Mom and Dad, they are the best. I love them so deeply.
LP: I refuse to be the child of them. I have my own relationship with Dax.
MW: You bro out, it’s all good, bro.
LP: Yeah, I think of Dax as my older brother.
WR: With so many people on set, there have to be pranks or great stories, what are some of your favorites?
MW: It’s hard, people always ask us this, and I can’t think of what we do.
LP: Does Dax do anything? Dax might be a joker.
MW: I can’t even express how much we’re all grandpas. We would never want to upset each other. So it’s maybe like, gentle ribbing. Dax is the wackiest. They let us improv, Dax will just throw in, especially during group scenes, he’ll throw in little, tiny things. One of my favorite things thrown in during a group scene, it was a scene with Lauren and me and Miles and in the car and she’s trying to have a really serious, emotional talk about drugs and alcohol and she’s like, “I really need to have a talk with you guys, because it’s really important that you are educated about drugs and alcohol” and in the back of the car, you can hear Miles say just so quietly, “Amber’s on both right now”. I just love it! I couldn’t believe it made it in.
LP: I don’t know, you guys always throw in T. Swift.
MW: Oh yeah, we love Taylor Swift! We try to get her in, but it’s just, I feel like it’s expensive to talk about her. We try to sing little songs, or we’ll just try to causally hum one of her tunes and our director will come in and be like, “I know what you’re doing and we can’t use it.” We just want to really reach out to her.
WR: As a musician, Landon, what has been your favorite venue to play?
LP: Let’s see, I did like the chandelier look of last night’s performance. That’s the first one that comes to mind right now. So yeah, I had strings, piano, and an extra guitar when I played coffee shop. It felt a little bit royal and a little bit like I had gone back in time when I was just listening to the melody and of course, while I was looking at the chandelier and the pretty decorations in the room. That’s my favorite, when the music and the venue kind of act as one, any place can be my favorite venue. If it’s a place that’s much uglier than this, and smells like year-old beer, in that case, if I happen to have a song that feels a little grungier, or the closest to punk that I can be as a singer-songwriter, then that really works because you feel like you’re in a different time and place again. Transforming the room—whenever that actually happens, it’s really two thumbs up.
WR: Thank you so much! I’m glad that you’re having a great time in Austin!
Make sure to tune into season 4 of Parenthood, Tuesdays at 10 pm EST on NBC.