Making her big break on TV series Dark Angel when she was 18, Jessica Alba has since moved on to become a mega-star, with films such as Sin City, the Fantastic Four franchise, Into the Blue, The Eye, Valentine's Day, and Machete. Working with director Robert Rodriguez once again, she switches things up with a family adventure comedy in Spy Kids: All the Time in the World, where she plays a mom who works as a spy and is somewhat responsible for saving the world. She sat down with Buzzine to talk about being a working mom, her relationship with Robert Rodriguez and co-star Joel McHale, and what she plans for her future with family and films...
Izumi Hasegawa: Robert [Rodriguez] was saying that he first told you about the start of the idea on Machete. What do you think about playing a spy and a mom?
Jessica Alba: I thought it was cool. I'm a fan of Robert's Spy Kids movies. I love how he empowers kids in his movies. It's not just the grown-ups that get to do all the cool action and take part in saving the world; it's the kids, so I think that's really neat. And then he knew I wanted to do a kid's movie after I had my daughter. So when he suggested it, I was like, "Cool." The only thing is I just thought that maybe I was too young to play the mother of the grown kids, so being a first-time mom was fine, but we settled on them being stepkids.
IH: Actually, not according to your daughter, because I heard in an interview that your daughter wants to be your baby's momma. Right?
JA: And I'm the grandma. This is her baby, yes.
IH: It was very good for you to have many concepts of the working mother, showing how she juggles different things, wasn't it? I was reading in the notes that you told Robert that it would be great to incorporate different aspects of a working mother's life...
JA: It was also nice to see someone in the movie who struggles with it and who isn't perfect at doing it all, and is also torn between working or staying home. I think those are all things that moms or parents really can relate to. It's tough to go back to work, and it's tough to spend so much time away from your kid, but then you have to make a living, and it's also important to hang on to your own identity and be a good example. So there are all these things that you struggle with as a parent, and I thought it would be nice to have that in the movie.
IH: How helpful was it, being a mother yourself, to create a mother character in the movie?
JA: I think it was helpful, and I don't know if I would have even done this movie if I wasn't a parent, so I actually brought my real life experience to work for sure.
IH: It seems like that, when you were piggybacking your baby and telling your babies they're so beautiful. So when you're playing the moment, is it easier to get into your character? Did you have this kind of feeling?
JA: That it was more natural? Yeah, probably, because I've been in a lot of those circumstances for sure.
IH: Would you zipline with your pregnant belly?
JA: No, I'm afraid of heights.
IH: Ten years have passed since the first film came out. Was there something that Robert was expressing that needed to be different to tell the story to a new generation of kids?
JA: No. I mean, the first Spy Kids was my favorite and I think it's timeless. I think the theme of families -- a family working together, and the family unit, and trying not to waste time but instead to really enjoy every moment you have with your family -- those themes resonate ten years ago and ten years from now. They're timeless themes, and I think every kid wants to see a kid save the world and take part in the action, and you get to see that in the Spy Kids movies.
IH: Are you going to take your daughter to see this movie?
JA: Uh huh.
IH: Has she seen your other movies before?
IH: So this will be the first time?
JA: Yeah. None of the other movies I've done are appropriate.
IH: Has being a mom changed the type of movie roles you're taking on?
JA: Not really. It's more about the time commitment and also the people I'm working with more than anything. I won't just take a job for a paycheck necessarily. Before, it was more like what's the distribution? What's it going to do for my career? How big is the paycheck? It was financial, and then it was also career-driven. Now it's like am I going to grow as an actor? and is this going to be a challenge? and do I absolutely love this character? and do I respect the filmmaker? and is it going to be six months out of the year or is it going to be two weeks? So I've taken jobs that aren't really time-consuming and are more creatively fulfilling.
IH: What was your reaction when you found out this was going to be a 4D movie?
JA: I wasn't really sure what that meant, to be quite honest with you. And then when they said, "Oh, they're going to have a card and people will be able to interact with the film on another level completely; it's a choice and it's free," and I was like, "Oh, that's cool." When I was a kid, I loved scratch-and-sniff stickers. They were like my favorite thing ever. So it just brings that element to life in a film.
IH: You see a lot of action in this film. What was the most fun scene for you?
JA: I really enjoyed doing the first sequence when I was going through labor and kicking butt. That was fun for me because there's a lot of comedy in there, obviously.
IH: You mentioned that the first one was still your favorite. Was it because it was a first that sort of spanned things, or is there attachment or memorable scenes?
JA: I just loved the setting up of the family dynamic and the story. I thought it was something I had never seen before, and I feel like it's something you can watch now and it's still really great.
IH: The kids were saying that Robert is like a big kid himself on set. Do you see a difference in energy when he's directing something like this as opposed to his other films, like Machete, or was he always a big kid?
JA: He is a big kid always. He's just more teenage boy when he's doing Machete. There's a little kid who's getting silly and playing with kids and stuff.
IH: What kind of things did you talk with him about on this movie?
JA: We talked about everything.
IH: Especially how to prepare for the character?
JA: When we started talking about this character, we just talked about some circumstances she might be put in and what would be funny. It was really about trying to get the funniest moments of what it's like to be a mom and then have responsibilities with your household, and then to be called into work and the world is going to come to an end if you don't show up. So we just kind of played around with as many funny circumstances as we could come up with.
IH: Robert was recently at Comic-Con and announced Sin City 2. Is that something that you can say you're going to be a part of?
JA: If they wrote me in. We'll see.
IH: What's your ideal next project?
JA: I'd like to do an action movie. I haven't really done real action since Dark Angel. It'd be really fun to get back in the game and do action.
IH: Do you have any exercise schedule planned after you give birth in order to do action scenes?
JA: I would obviously have to train for whatever it is. But after, I do have a workout regimen that I'll probably follow to lose baby weight.
IH: Does the suit in Spy Kids look like every new mom's worst nightmare?
JA: It's so hot. I was sweating so bad. But it had a lot of spandex.
IH: Like Spanks...
JA: It was very forgiving. Yes, it was like Spanks.
IH: How do you think you've grown as an actress since Dark Angel?
JA: I'm much more of a risk-taker. I'm more fearless now than when I was 18. I was much more sort of self-aware and I cared too much about what people thought of me, and now I really don't. I probably should. I'm kind of like, if you don't like it, then whatever, moving on. It's not the end of the world. Whereas when I was doing Dark Angel, I was such a people-pleaser.
IH: Joel [McHale] has two kids and you have one and another on the way. What did you talk about as parents?
JA: We like to dish on funniest things usually, or things that happened in the moment. I can't think of anything specifically, but we would probably just share stories of, "Oh, and then this one time..." Or, "I just got off the phone with my kid and da, da, da." Nothing I can really remember that was like this big momentous thing that we shared with each other. It's just kind of day to day stuff.
IH: Did you talk about school or the PTA experience, or those kinds of things?
JA: My daughter is three so she's just barely in pre-school, so it's not really that formal.
IH: Is there anything that you have in production right now, or is having your child the next thing and then you worry about your career after, or do you have anything lined up?
JA: I'm working on a TV show and a movie idea with two different writers and directors and stuff, and then I'm working on a baby line that I've been working on for like two years that's going to come out, I think, in the fall. So I've just been working on that, and once I get my body back together and I'm mentally ready to get back to work, I'm really going to be looking for an action movie.
IH: Will having the baby line be something you can do as a mom? You don't have to actually go on set or anything -- you can actually do some work right from your house or something...
JA: It's going to be online, so I have an office and I work out of the office.
IH: Were you able to bond with or mentor the kids in the movie?
JA: Not really mentor, but we hung out and bonded, I guess. Actually, their studio teacher was my very first studio teacher when I was a kid, which is funny. I was like, "Oh my God, I remember you from Camp Nowhere. That's so weird, and you look exactly the same. How is that possible?" He really looks exactly the same.
IH: How did you spend the time with these two kids on set? How was it working with them?
JA: We just hung out. They were cute. They're cute kids. They have lots of energy. They both talk a mile a minute and tell you everything. They're very sweet.
IH: Not to veer off the subject, but is the second time around easier?
JA: We'll see.
IH: Any crazy cravings?
JA: I really crave watermelon. I think it's because it's summer and it's hot. I think a lot of people probably crave watermelon.
IH: It's not something that you want to think about right now, but how many more kids would you like to have?
JA: I don't know. I mean, I can't really imagine having any more. Well, I'm at the end of a pregnancy. It's sort of a cruel question to ask. "It's been almost a year now. Want to have more?" It's like, oh, I can't really imagine that right now at this time.
IH: Robert has ten kids in his family. Is that something that scares you?
JA: And he has five kids himself... I know how to not have babies. I'm well-versed on that.
Dimension Films' 'Spy Kids: All the Time in the World' is released on August 19, 2011.