20 Questions: Erika Christensen Fills Us In

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Erika Christensen’s hit show “Parenthood” may have ended, but the 33-year-old actress is busier than ever right now. She currently has three Indie films in the works: Two for One, The Muse, and No Brains Club. Additionally, her new HBO movie Confirmation — detailing the Senate hearings preceding the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, which were shaped by the testimony and allegations of sexual harassment submitted by law professor Anita Hill — was released in April. And, later this month, she and her husband Cole Maness will welcome a baby girl, their first child together. Christensen recently took a break from her crazy schedule to chat with us about her plans for a “quiet birth” at home, how she kept her pregnancy a secret for seven months, the parenting lessons she learned while playing Julia Braverman-Graham on “Parenthood,” and more.

MT: Congrats on your pregnancy! How are you feeling now that you’re in the home stretch?

EC: Sometimes I get a little short of breath for absolutely no reason, but other than that I’m feeling good! I’m super focused on eating right and exercising.

 

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MT: You look really fit. How have you been staying in shape during your pregnancy?

EC: Before I got pregnant I was big into cycling and then that got awkward real quick—like, you have to turn your knees outward to get around the bump. So, the elliptical machine at the gym has been awesome. In Hawaii, where we recently went for our babymoon—which we didn’t even know was a thing, the timing just kind of worked out that way—we would go swimming and hiking every day.

MT: We love that you included your puppy in your pregnancy announcement on Twitter. Do you think he’s ready for the baby?

EC: I think so, but it’s definitely a work in progress. Yesterday was the first time we got to see him interact with a baby. We took him to a dog beach and there was a guy there with his daughter, who was about 1. He put her down on the sand and our little boy Ronnie ran up and started licking her. We were like, ‘Yes!’ It was such a relief.

MT: You didn’t reveal publically that you were expecting until you were 7-months-pregnant. How were you able to keep it a secret for so long?

EC: You know, the dresses started getting wider and shorter and wider and shorter [laughs]. I figured it would be fun to keep it under the radar as long as possible and then really flaunt it when it was impossible to hide. That was fun at first but it turned out to be a huge relief once my pregnancy became public. It was like, ‘Oh good, I can wear all my tight tee-shirts and not worry about it.’

MT: You’re having a girl. Did you always imagine that you’d have a daughter?

EC: No—my husband and I both thought we were having a boy! I’m carrying straight out, like a basketball, and people were like, ‘Oh, you’re definitely having a boy.’ We’re super outdoorsy types and so we were like, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to have a boy.’

 

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MT: So what did you think when the doctor told you a girl was on the way?

EC: We realized, ‘Oh that doesn’t change anything. She’s going to be whoever she is but we’ll also expose her to all the stuff we love.’ And, you know, find our common ground with nature-related things.

MT: Have you had any crazy cravings?

EC: I already had crazy cravings before I got pregnant and ate really weird stuff and was also the type of person who would rub her belly. So I’ve just continued to rub my belly and eat weird things.

MT: Like what?

EC: Okay, so we’ll go by category. First there’s the stuff your parents try to feed you, like Brussels sprouts or, you know, anything that stinks like fish, sardines out of a can, bleu cheese. I love all of it. And then, there’s the health nut stuff, like brewer’s yeast, which is similar to the nutritional yeast that vegans use to make cheesy flavored things, but it’s a powder. I’m also totally into organ meats. I’ll eat liver, I’ll eat sweet breads, whatever I can get my hands on.

MT: Have you been nesting?

EC: No, not at all. In the last two months we’ve started to organize things a little bit. My family and my friends have been sending baby clothes. I bought tiny baby hangers so I could hang up all the tiny baby clothes, which was fun. And we know which room in the house is hers. We have a lot more to do but I’ve been focusing a lot on educating myself on the birth itself and then I’ll have to educate myself on the baby.

 

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MT: Do you have a birth plan?


EC: I’m definitely shooting for a natural birth at home, without drugs. I want a very calm, quiet birth. My doctor rarely does home births and I’m really lucky that he’s indulging me.

MT: What does it mean to have a quiet birth?

EC: I’m a Scientologist and I’m sure you’ve heard of silent births, but that term is inaccurate because I’m not really sure silent is possible. It’s not even necessary. It’s quiet. Just keeping everything as calm as possible and using as few words as possible during the delivery. My doctor will give me hand signals when it’s time to push, instead of yelling ‘PUSH!’ In Scientology we believe that the words that are spoken during a physically painful experience adversely affect people later in life.

MT: How are you preparing yourself to have a quiet, drug-free birth?

EC: I’ve been learning about the Bradley method, which is conducive to a quiet birth because it’s about relaxing and not tensing up. Normally pain means that something is wrong but in this case it means something is right. Your body is doing what it’s supposed to be doing so go with it and don’t worry about it and don’t even necessarily categorize it as pain. By knowing what the muscles are doing you can go, ‘Ah, that’s what that is. OK, let’s do that now.’

MT: Are you nervous about giving birth?

EC: I feel nervous and excited in the same way I would feel the night before a huge, 100-mile bike ride. I’d be like, ‘Oh God, I know it’s going to be so hard but it’s exciting.’ So that’s kind of how I feel about it. I know that ultimately it should be categorized as a huge physical exertion, like this endurance sport, so that’s the plan.

 

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MT: You played a mom on “Parenthood” before becoming one. What was that experience like?


EC: I feel like the takeaway from ‘Parenthood’ as a whole is, ‘This is not always easy. It can be really rough and heartbreaking but it’s so worth it in the end. It’s a really beautiful experience.’ I’ve always intended to have a family so being part of the show really reinforced that desire.

MT: Was there a parenting moment that Julia had with Sydney on “Parenthood” that will stick with you as you parent your own daughter in real life?

EC: Yes! When Sydney decided that she was vegetarian, Julia and Joel were like, ‘Oh okay, good for you.’ They tried to humor her and then they were just over it. Instead of really talking to her about it and letting her make her own decision they ended up eating burgers in front of her and torturing her until she was like, ‘Oh God, I want a burger.’ I thought it was hilarious. And completely understandable but a great example of what I’m hoping not to do if my daughter and I disagree on something. I’m hoping I’d go, ‘Okay, cool, let’s really talk about this and you make your own decision but let me know everything that you’re thinking.’

MT: What do you imagine your parenting style will be in real life?

EC: I intend to be like my own parents. They treated me like a person, not just a child. They respected my opinions and communicated with me. They were never like, ‘I know better than you because I’m the grown up.’ But, it’s a balance between what you want for your children and what they want for themselves. My daughter can have her own opinions and her own desires and everything like that. The most that I can do is be responsible for educating her so she can make good choices.

MT: You’ve had a very prolific acting career. Is there a type of character you haven’t played yet but hope to in the future?

EC: I want to do action movies, with a very stunt-heavy role.

 

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MT: When you’re not on set, what are you most likely doing?

EC: I like to cook and bake healthy versions of things. When we have get-togethers, my family is always like, ‘What is this?’ And I’m like, ‘It’s sugar-free, it’s dairy-free, it’s gluten-free…’ They’re like, ‘What is in it?! That doesn’t make any sense!’ But generally everybody likes what I make.

MT: What’s your idea of the perfect date night?

EC: If we’re staying in then I get to cook, which I find fun. We’ll definitely watch a movie or a show on TV; we’re waiting for the next seasons of ‘Mr. Robot’ and ‘Peaky Blinders.’ We have date mornings and date afternoons and date nights. We’re pretty much attached at the hip.

MT: Last Q before we let you go: What’s something about you that you think would surprise others?

EC: I can geek out on body building speak. I have three brothers, and I think it’s got to be their influence. We talk about, ‘What did you bench?’ and ‘How many grams of protein did you have today?’

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Photos: Erika Christensen/Instagram