Recently Jillian Michaels spent time with actress, producer, and writer Rita Wilson for an exclusive, intimate interview on getting started in acting, her proudest moments, and her big new gig, as editor-at-large for Huff/Post 50.
Among many other things, Jillian is the inspiration editor for everydayhealth.com — the leading provider of online health information and they have asked us to share this interview with our readers.
Here are a few highlights from the interview. You can find the entire interview at everydayhealth.com.
Rita Wilson on Her Career and Her Family:
Jillian Michaels: Given all that you have accomplished in your life, I wanted to start out by getting a little background on how you came into all these roles you play personally and professionally, found your passion, and so forth? In essence, give us a little insight into the making of a powerhouse.
Rita Wilson: Awww… thank you. Well, I am very proud to be the child of immigrants. I am a first-generation American. My mom is Greek, and my dad, who passed away about a year and a half ago, was Bulgarian. My parents actually met in New York after the war and then moved to Los Angeles after getting married.
I learned from my parents, particularly my dad, a great work ethic. He worked so incredibly hard despite not knowing how to speak English, coming to this country with nothing. He was a bartender, but managed to buy a home and support our entire family without any debt. I learned from him you work hard. You don’t buy anything you can’t afford. Take care of the people who take care of you.
JM: What age were you when you thought to yourself, I want to be an actress, and why? It seems out of the blue given your background.
RW: It was completely out of the blue. The only thing about it that made sense is that when my parents moved to the States, they moved to Hollywood because my mom’s sister lived out here. When I was 14, it was my very first day of high school, Hollywood High School. I was walking to one of my classes and these adults asked if they could take pictures of me. I knew that it was okay because they were there with the school’s principal. So I said “all right.” They took pictures of me, and it turned out those were all people from Harper’s Bazaar magazine, which is so ironic because I write for them now. Turns out, they were looking to cast real people mixed with models in an issue they were doing to celebrate 18-year-olds getting to vote.
Rita Wilson: Fate, Faith, and Being Bold:
JM: The heights you have reached and the courageous directions you have gone in your career are incredible — especially considering you were the child of immigrants who got her start on The Brady Bunch. Seemingly you have been so open and brave throughout the course of your life. I can’t help wonder if there was ever a time you weren’t?
RW: I think the thing that has inhibited me most in my life has been the belief that you have to be naturally good at something, as though working at it wasn’t enough.
JM: So you’re saying you felt you had to be perfect at it from go?
JM: I think so many people feel that way and it can really be paralyzing because if you aren’t instantly amazing — and really none of us are — it can seem devastating to our self-esteem, and no one wants to feel that. So how would you recommend someone overcome this fear?
RW: When facing any fear there’s always some element of sacrifice and giving up of some comfort. I have never had a problem doing that. So looking back I would say be bold. Keep trying. Let go of worrying about what others think.
Rita Wilson: Playing Against Type
JM: Of all the parts you have played as an actress, which part did you relate to the most and why?
RW: First, I really, really, really loved the scene that I did in Sleepless in Seattle, where the character talks about the movie An Affair To Remember. And Nora (Ephron, the director of the film)… I don’t know… we just clicked. When someone really believes in you, you’re open and free to be uninhibited. She totally empowered me to be this character and I loved it because it was the first time I’d ever had this experience. She was also the first person who supported my writing and guided me through that process, so I love her very much for that.
The second would be when I did Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and The Good Wife earlier this year. I went to my agents and I said, “If I play one more warm, understanding mother, sister, wife, daughter, I think I’m gonna puke. You have got to find me some crazy-ass bitches.” And that’s when they found me the roles on Law & Order and The Good Wife. I was completely thrilled. I felt liberated. To play a character that is nothing like who you are as a person is amazingly fun.
Rita Wilson: Best Advice as a wife, mother, and career woman to our readers.
RW: As a wife? That’s tough. I really feel that it’s specific to the relationship. I don’t want to generalize any advice like, “Make sure you laugh a lot,” because that’s one of the things that I always say Tom [Hanks, Wilson’s husband] and I do. Because if someone doesn’t have that with somebody, yet they have a really solid marriage, I wouldn’t want them to question it. They may have something else that binds them. Don’t you think that’s kind of specific?
JM: I do get that, but I also think there’s a respect that’s inherent in watching you two together. You guys respect each other so much. It seems no matter where the other one is, no matter what journey you’re on independently, you guys respect each other and everything the other person is going through.
RW: Yes. That’s true. We do respect each other very much. And of course I want to be married to him. I love him.
JM: So then love and respect! Is offering advice to a mother equally specific?
RW: My mom always said to me, “Your kids teach you.” I think that’s very true and I’ve always interpreted that to mean you you’ve got to be a good listener. Not just to your children’s words, but to who they are. Allow them to be who they are without imposing any sort of agenda or desire on to them. Let them find their own way, their own journey, and don’t try to control that.
JM: And for the career woman?
RW: Trust your gut — about everything. And communicate what it is you want at all times. Don’t think that people can read your mind.
JM: Now woman to woman — what’s your parting shot to the readers?
RW: Women can accomplish anything they set their minds to. We have lived in a world that’s been predominantly run by males for a very long time. And in it would be nice to see a shift where we allow a woman’s voice and a woman’s take on things. We can’t just go around having wars and killing people left and right. Women have to trust their voice, trust their individual power and assert themselves in their own unique ways.