Curtis on Parenthood & Her Career
Wallace: Your new book with illustrator Laura Cornell is about competition. Are you competitive?
Curtis: I am really competitive. But this book was born because my little boy, Tommy, came home from school one day with tears in his eyes, looked up at me and said, "Is there really a human race?" The subtext of what he was saying was, "Why didn’t you tell me I’m just here to perform?"
Tommy is a child with a profound learning difference. He’s in a special school for kids who all learn differently. And I think this question was prescient of him. I think it was clear that he couldn’t do the monkey dance like everybody else, and he was starting to feel, "What’s wrong with me?" He’d gotten a message that it was a race, and he was losing. I said, "It’s not a race, Tommy. You misunderstood, Sweetheart. It’s not a race. That’s just an expression people use."
I’m not saying there can’t be healthy competition. But the obsession with competition is what this book is about.
Wallace: One of my favorite lines in the book is "Sometimes it’s better not to go fast. There are wonderful sights to be seen when you’re last."
Curtis: Right. Who ever talks about being at the end of the line? It’s always about being up at the front. How many times do you see people with those freaking foam fingers that say, "We’re #1!"?
All of us are on a hamster wheel. There’s no stopping and taking a deep breath and going, "Why am I here?" If anybody runs as fast as they can to keep that hamster wheel going, it’s me. But ultimately, all that hamster running left me empty.
Wallace: Are you finished with acting?
Curtis: The great majority of my time now is spent advocating for my son. Even with his wonderful specialized school, he does need extra help, and it’s my job to help him get it. This is a time in my life to focus almost exclusively on Tom. He deserves it. I deserve it. Our family deserves it. Chris told me someone came up to him the other day and said, "Hey, I’ve got a script for Jamie. Can I send it to her?" And he said, "Where is it being shot?" They said, "Canada, for two months, this summer, and she’s in every scene." Chris said, "If you can shrink it to two days in Santa Monica, she might take a look at it." And that’s really where I’m at. Up the street from our house last night, they were shooting a movie. And the trees were illuminated with bright light. And I looked at Chris and I said, "I’m so happy that I’m not the one in that trailer." I know it’s fun for some people. And I hear some actors in their seventies say that they still love to go to the set. But I don’t love it anymore. I just don’t. I like it. I’m happy to do it, if it works out. But I am so protective of my time.
Now, a lot of women are going to read that and say, "Oh, sure. Thanks a lot for making me feel that because I’m working, I’m somehow not doing right by my children." I know that I am lucky. My point is, if you can afford to, you have to look at how much time you’re spending. There is nothing you will regret more in your life — nothing — than not being present for your children.
Curtis on Creating a Life for Herself
Wallace: You made a point, the last time we talked, of noting that this house was bought with money you and Chris earned, not inherited family money. Why is it so important to you that people know that?