Carla Gugino Chats With Momtastic About Mr. Popper’s Penguins – In Theaters June 17th

Carla Gugino sat down with Momtastic to talk penguins, gift giving, and working in freezing temperatures.

I flew out to L.A. last week with a group of mom (and dad!) bloggers/entertainment writers to chat with Carla Gugino, Angela Lansbury, Jim Carrey, director Mark Waters, and producer John Davis about their upcoming film "Mr. Popper's Penguins" (which hits theaters next Friday, June 17th).

I don't often get "star-struck", because actors are just normal people and this is just my job. But, Carla is an actress that I'm always blown away by because of her wide range of talents. She takes on TV, movies, and the stage, performing in everything from dramas to comedies, from the sexy and sassy characters on Entourage, Californication, and Elektra Luxx to the family-friendly roles like Mr. Popper's Penguins, and Race to Witch Mountain; she's a chameleon – and a rock star. So, having the chance to interview her was a "pinch me" moment. It was a relief that she was as fantastic as I'd hoped.

In the film, Carla plays Amanda, the ex-wife of Tom Popper (Jim Carrey), a strong mom who tries to find balance between helping her kids keep a connection with their father, while trying not to let them be too hurt by his workaholic ways (which completely shifts gears once the penguins arrive on his doorstep).

Working with the "untrainable" penguins was a challenge and Carla shared with us what it was like working a freezing cold set for months, especially considering that she's a warm weather kind of woman.

"It was hysterical because the penguins don't function very well over 40 degrees. So, literally our set was 40 degrees and we shot in the winter in New York.; We started sort of when it was still warm out, and then we were freezing on set.; And then, finally the outside caught up to the inside. But, I'm not good in the cold at all.

And so, Jim and I sort of had a running joke because he would say, "Wow, I would really bet on me," meaning him in the cold, "And not you," because I was having that thing where my fingers were going white.

And I thought–it would be so fantastic if they said {in her contract}, "Miss Gugino works best at 72 degrees," because we have a set that's 39 degrees for these penguins. And they are so sweet. I mean, they're not hugely trainable, so it's not like they can do extraordinary tricks or something. But, you cannot not smile when you are in a room with penguins. They're just the cutest things ever. And we had a habitat on our stages, so they lived there the entire time. So, you could just go and visit them.

The scene that we shot very briefly outside of Tavern on the Green where it said, "It's spring." Walking into that scene in the sleeveless dress and everything, it was like 13 degrees or something. And so, we're all in the van and the heat's on and we've got our booties on. And it's like, "Okay, go." The mission was drop everything, run outside, and then acting, "It's so warm and beautiful."

Once we were outside of our freezing cold set, then it was like I was put under some sort of torture techniques, because I was born in Florida. I’m the only person in the world that loves sticky New York weather when it's the heat of summer. And instead, we're shooting either on a freezing stage or outside, all winter."

You play a divorced mom. Do you feel like a lot of kids and moms could relate to that, to your character?

For sure. It's interesting because I think that there used to be such a thing about you need to be married to have children. There have been so many sort of unspoken rules. I have two stepchildren and they're big now. All of the things that we grew up with, I'm so amazed at how so often they've just kind of washed away, you know?  And I think that in terms of just what is appropriate and not, and that it really does kind of come down to each family making their own decisions and about the child being loved and having some sense of security being the most important thing. I know so many divorced parents and couples and kids who have been raised with that. So, I do think that it's become something that's sort of the fabric of our society. And also, the challenges of trying to figure out how to raise kids within that and the pros and cons that come with it, you know?

So, I do think it's really relatable. It's interesting because the one thing that I had sort of wanted to explore a little bit more in the movie, and it's a hard one to explore in the context of a movie like this just even time wise, but is the notion of why they were separated and yet still have these strong feelings for each other. It’s a tricky one, because I think that that aspect of it, in the interest of not overcomplicating it nor having that much time to have it come back around.

My only thing is, this is a completely subjective thing, that I think that that fantasy of your parents getting back together, you kind of want that to be if your parents really love each other, because the truth of the matter is, if it's not a good relationship, obviously that's worse for the children.

You work so much. What do you do when you have a day off?

"I’ve had a little bit more time this year. I'm just a total worker, it's my favorite thing to do.

I really love spending time with my friends and family. And I'm a big dinner party person and I love to travel. And I love to hike. I love nature.

What I should be doing is actually organizing my office and things like that that just have gotten sort of waylaid. If I'm in LA, I do a lot of hiking. And then, I go between LA and New York. So, then when I'm in New York I catch up on all sorts of theater and stuff like that. And I'm actually going to go to the Shanghai Film Festival soon. I have never been to Asia, ever. So, I'm really excited about that, because travel, I always feel that it’s such a good perspective-giving thing."

Do you have any advice for young kids that maybe want to get into acting, because you started as a Valedictorian? What'd you say to your parents?

"They said, "Really? You want to act?" I just love it, too, because it's you could say you want to be a rocket scientist or anything, and they say, “Great! Yes!" And then, you tell them you want to be an actress, and they think, "Really?" But, they were very supportive is the truth, probably because I was such a serious student, that for me to then say that I wanted to do this they knew it wasn't kind of a whim.

I guess the couple things that I feel are if you want to do it professionally, if you love anything else as much, I would say do the other thing. But–truly, because it is, it's just such an incredibly challenging business. The work aspect of it is amazing, but the business aspect of it is no matter how successful you are, you're turned down all the time. But, the other thing that I would say is if you love it more than anything else, then it's really just about honing your craft and getting into classes and getting good at something. Eventually you’ll be able to.

But, also even, what's amazing now is that you can film yourself doing a scene and put it on the Internet. So, if you're really good at something, you can get it out there so that people can see it. And I think that that's what I would always say. "Hey, do a one act," or do something where you can then invite people to see it.

And the truth of the matter is, the way that I got an agent was I was in an acting class and I was doing work that people seemed to think was good, and people came up to me and said, you know, "My agent is this person. Do you want to meet them?" And it really came organically through the work. And I guess that's the thing that's the differentiating factor to me is, now we have reality television where it's this sort of strange thing of becoming famous for the sake of becoming famous. "

On working with the iconic Angela Lansbury:

Angela Lansbury is also so incredible and also just witty. From the perspective of women, I mean, this woman is just so inspiring. She is just truly a magnificent woman and actress. She's 82, I think, and she's just sharp as a tack. So, Jim and I were sort of marveling at her as well.

On whether she had watched the movie:

I just saw it also just a couple of days ago. I love it when something has such a genuine heart to it. And I really feel like this movie, and in the making of it too, just was made by people with a lot of heart

In the film, Billy thinks the penguins are his birthday gift. What is the best gift you've given someone?

"This is sort of not really exactly the same thing, but I was thinking there is that period in your life where you're a kid, you're kind of about acquiring cool things.  And it's the very proper phase to be in. Then, there's the phase that probably most of us are in, at least I'm in at this point in my life, where your quality of time with people is the most valuable thing, with your kids, with your friends. Malin Akerman, who is a wonderful actress, is a dear friend, and we met doing "Watchmen" together. She just had a birthday, and so a bunch of dear friends and I had a brunch at my house for her. And I've never gotten so many thank-you e-mails and cards about something. And I think it was because we were just saying the fact that we could all be in one place at one time and celebrate. I thought, oh, that's so funny, no one could have wanted anything other than that, which is interesting."

Stay tuned, as I have a few more interviews to share over the next week with Jim Carrey and Angela Lansbury, as well as director Mark Waters and producer John Davis!

You can follow Mr. Popper's Penguins on Twitter: @PoppersPenguins or on Facebook!



Photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox