Motherly Instincts: An Interview with Instant Family’s Rose Byrne

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Children are considered a blessing. Tiny humans who look up to you for guidance, love, and protection. However, not every child is given the time, energy and care of someone to love them. Either abandoned by their family or overcome with a tragedy, many children are forced into the system where many stay there until they become of legal age.

In Paramount Pictures’ Instant Family, Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne shed light on the power adoption, the struggles of being instant parents and the hilarity of learning from your failures. Inspired by the real events from the life of writer/director/producer Sean Anders, pours his heart, soul and comedic dialogue into Instant Family, creating an authentic and heartwarming movie that celebrates the notion that family can come from anywhere and anyone.

When Pete (Mark Wahlberg) and Ellie (Rose Byrne) decide to start a family, they stumble into the world of foster care adoption. They hope to take in one small child but when they meet three siblings, including a rebellious fifteen-year-old girl (Isabella Moner) they find themselves speeding from zero to three kids overnight. Now, Pete and Ellie must try to learn the ropes of instant parenthood in the hopes of becoming a family.

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Byrne explains it was Anders personal experience with adoption that drew her to the role. “To be honest, I don’t know if I would have done it if it hadn’t been semi-autobiographical,” Byrne admits. “That is because it gives an authenticity and a sensitivity and an intimacy that you wouldn’t have otherwise. This is such a sensitive subject and you really want to be able to tell it in an authentic way. So having Sean at the helm was very important.”

She continues, “Sean says he always wanted to make this a family film and have it be accessible and fun for lots of people to watch. As an actor it makes you want to do an even better job to try to bring the story to life because you know Sean wants this film to motivate people to look into adopting children from foster care. He’s really trying to do something good.”

“Sean Anders as a director knows what he wants, I’ve loved working with him. The stakes are really high for him in this job. He really wants to tell this story as it means so much to him. We’ve been surrounded by brilliant people who are just really helpful and willing to help and who want to get the message out and get it out in a really positive, funny, accessible way.”

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Playing Ellie was a challenge that Byrne took on immediately and drew strength from her own life finding a common ground. “What I love about Ellie was her vulnerability and her strength at the same time, but also her willingness to be really scared about the situation: to really go through the ups and downs of hating the kids while loving the kids. And her thinking they’ve made a mistake. What I also love about Ellie is her relationship with Lizzie because it’s really sort of a love story between them I think in a way. It’s about a relationship and it’s really challenging relationship for any mother-daughter.”

“I talk to Sean a lot because it’s obviously his story and that was really amazing to hear what happened on his journey and his adventure. I met with his wife Beth, which was fantastic. I met with a lot of social workers and mothers who have foster children. We are surrounded on this film with people who are either social workers, have been in the system, are currently in the system or are fostering to adopt like Allison Maxon. She’s an incredibly brilliant social worker who’s been so helpful.”

“We’ve had great consultants on the film, particularly Maraide Green, who’s a terrific young woman who was in the system and was fostered, and then adopted at an older age. She’s been a great help in terms of that relationship and explaining what it’s like and how complicated and fantastic it is.”

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Working with Wahlberg was a breeze and despite the subject, he made the experience fun each and every day. “It’s been fantastic working with Mark,” Byrne says. “He’s naturally very funny and his intensity is very earnest and very hilarious. I think we found our groove as a couple in Pete and Ellie. And the whole thing of trying to be on the same page is really important when you’re doing this and starting to foster children. That’s something that is sort of a constant joke between two of them. They essentially have a good marriage so that was something that I hope we’ve achieved, that you can believe that from the beginning as well.”

A mother herself who recently gave birth to her second child, Byrne welcomed the role of acting alongside children, quickly forming a bond with cast members Isabella Moner (Lizzy), Gustavo Quiroz (Juan), Julianna Gamiz (Lita), Octavia Spencer (Karen) and Notaro (Sharon).

“The three kids have been fantastic. Isabella is very experienced and brilliant. She has great access to her emotional life. She has a toughness about her too that is really believable that you need to have for that character. So, there’s that authentic quality that she brings to it which is very important. You can’t fake that.”

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Gustavo as Juan is so lovely because he’s obviously got the most vulnerable quality to him which is really heartbreaking. He’s always bursting into tears and he really wants a family that he’s so motivated to just stay and be a family. And that’s really evident. He’s got it written all over his face.”

“Julianna Gamiz plays Lita, and she’s a firecracker. I call her El Jefe because she’s the boss. She just comes in and lets everyone knows what’s happening. She’s just a really, really fun and lovely girl. And really just a ball of energy.”

As the social workers “Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro are brilliant,” says Byrne. She adds, “They’re so funny. They’re such a great comedic pair. They’re obviously so different. Tig kills me. She’s very emphatic and sensitive and so she can do the dramatic stuff brilliantly. And Octavia’s just a delight. So, I was so thrilled when they agreed to sign on. They do bring in elements of comedy to those scenes but also ground the scenes that are really exceptional.”

Instant Family is currently in theaters.

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Dana Abercrombie Entertainment Editor / Media Liaison
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