As the holidays approach, families will come together to share meals, memories and the occasional fight. But what is family? Is it the biological genes, shared experiences or the love and sense of protection for another person no matter their relation.
In Instant Family, director/writer/producer Sean Anders explores the joys and hardships of fostering and adoption when they bring home three siblings. Having previously worked with Mark Wahlberg on the Daddy’s Home films and when thinking about who he would cast as the main character, Pete has Mark in mind because it would be fun to see someone like Mark who typically plays stoic, badass action heroes become overwhelmed with emotion.
“Sean had talked to me a little bit about the idea of making this movie during the beginning of Daddy’s Home 2. But it was just an idea and we had talked about other ideas in the past. When he came to me, I absolutely fell in love with the idea.”
“Every time I talked to him, even before I actually got the script it always got emotional,” recalls Wahlberg. “Being a parent and knowing how difficult it can be for children in the foster care system, it was always very emotional for me. Once I read the script, I laughed hysterically and cried quite a bit too.”
Joining Wahlberg is Rose Byrne who plays Pete’s wife Ellie along with Octavia Spencer, Tig Notaro as social workers and Isabela Moner, Gustavo Quiroz Julianna Gamiz as their children. It was a balancing act that Wahlberg cherished and spokely highly of Bryne and the cast. “She’s fantastic. I grew fond of her and the kids in the movie and more. We’ve become this kind of weird family. It’s been very nice.”
“Working with Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer, who play the social workers, has been amazing,” says Wahlburg. “I have been a fan of both Tig and Octavia’s. Just to be able to work with them, hang out and spend time with them has been great. And you see the kind of talent we were able to attract because of what was on the page. Everybody was really drawn to the material.”
“Their characters do that whole good cop, bad cop type of thing. They’re very persuasive, and Pete and Ellie kind of walk into this thinking they’ll adopt one child. Next thing you know we meet this really cool teenage girl, and they don’t tell us that she comes attached with two younger siblings. I always felt like those were two fantastic roles for both of them.”
Being a movie dad came naturally to Walhberg who found himself building a bond with his younger castmates both on and off the set. “The dynamic is different both on camera and off camera. You can’t help creating a great bond with kids in the movie on and off screen. And as we got through the shoot it’s one of those things where you feel this real connection.” Walhberg laughs as he admits, “Isabela sounds like my daughter with the attitude and the back talk and everything. It’s been a weird thing for me because I have a 14-year old at home and there’s a lot going on. So to have this now going on in the film with Izzy and the outfits and the whole thing, it just starts to hit close to home.”
Regarding working with Sean Anders on this movie compared to their previous films Wahlberg loved that Anders, knew “exactly what he wants, but he’ll take a little extra time when it comes to handling the emotional stuff. It’s just nice to see him continue to mature and grow as a writer and director. And John Morris has been fantastic. They have a great partnership, so it’s nice to see people who have more experience, more confidence in what they want to do and how they want to do it.” He admits, “I’d much rather be with somebody that knows exactly what they want.”
“I’ve learned quite a bit about adoption having been a part of this process, but not enough,” admits Wahlberg. “There are a lot of wonderful children in need of families.” He adds, “Being a family is a very wonderful and rewarding thing but it can be very difficult and trying at times with adoptive children as with your biological children. The ultimate goal and reward is coming together in love; it’s a beautiful thing,” said Wahlberg when asked if he thinks this film can change the perception about adoption.
You can watch Instant Family in theaters now.