Olivia d’Abo: “Being A Mother Isn’t A Popularity Contest”

Celebrity Baby Scoop
Nov 3, 2011
by Jenny Schafer

Olivia d’Abo: “Being A Mother Isn’t A Popularity Contest”

The Wonder Years alum, Olivia d’Abo, is returning to the small screen on November 12th in the Lifetime move, We Have Your Husband. The mom of 15-year-old son Oliver is also getting ready to debut her duet single Broken with one of our favorite celebrity dads, Seal.

Olivia opens up to Celebrity Baby Scoop about her “bright and conscientious” son, her best advice for parents who are co-parenting together, and her cherished memories as Karen Arnold on the classic TV sitcom The Wonder Years alongside costar Danica McKellar.

CBS: Tell us about your upcoming Lifetime move, We Have Your Husband. Tell us about the movie and your role.

OD: “The film is definitely a gripping and suspenseful drama. I think viewers will find it to be quite a roller coaster ride. There’s some great elements, the cast is strong, it’s well directed and shot like a cool freestyle documentary. I like that it looks like a little film rather than a TV movie.

The shooting schedule was only about 15 days which is a pretty quick time frame. But it worked well for us as everyone had a chance to bond, stay focused on the story and it kept us on our toes. Eric Bross the director did a great job checking in with us and establishing the right amount of tension needed to portray the story accurately. So, there was a sense of underlying urgency with most of the scenes.

We Have Your Husband is actually a book and a true story that’s been aired on Dateline recently. I watched the segment myself after being cast in the film, and was intrigued by the interview with the real life Jane and Eduardo Valseca. It was so compelling to hear them tell their story, which clearly became a life altering experience… it struck my curiosity immediately. It’s amazing that this couple were able to overcome and live through such a terrifying situation and then put it behind them and carry on with their life.

The film is about a woman who fights to get her husband back from kidnappers down in San Miguel Mexico. I play the role of Olivia — Teri Polo’s bohemian ex-patriot best friend who’s sort of a ‘butterfly.’ I fly in and out of the mayhem. Olivia’s an artistic, free spirit who met Jane when she moved down to San Miguel a number of years ago with her husband. In hindsight, through the film my character has a big lesson to learn about herself and where her depth of character lies.

For the record, I really enjoy playing characters who have some flaws, yet also have a vulnerability that gives them a chance to gain perspective so they can be more human and honest by the end. I feel Olivia ‘s character in We Have Your Husband has that arch.”

CBS: You are mom to 15-year-old son, Oliver. What grade is he in? What is he into?

OD: “What isn’t he into? It’s so hard to keep up! Oliver’s in 10th grade. He’s bright, conscientious, curious and extremely passionate when it comes to discussing Art history or current worldwide affairs. He’s the ultimate ‘great debater’ so both my husband and I have to make sure we’re ready to shift gears to be on top of it enough to keep up with him. He usually kicks our butts with a pretty strong argument. It’s like getting a history lesson by ‘Aristotle the Tasmanian devil.’ Such as the pros and cons of how a society works — or doesn’t for that matter.

He’s definitely a deep thinker and has a pretty sophisticated appreciation for music and the arts already under his belt. He plays guitar, piano, speaks German and Latin and loves to go to museums to see some of his favorite paintings. He’s starting to think ahead, especially about his future and how he sees himself fitting in. The funny thing is, what he’s into the most right now seems to be studying! He goes to a wonderful school and I think he realizes how fortunate he is to have that advantage, so he’s trying to make the most of it.

As a parent today, it’s evident that things have changed a lot as we live in a different time. Education is just as critical as ever as a core foundation and the competition is getting fiercer. So I’m really proud that he’s taking his academic workload seriously to ensure as many possibilities and opportunities that may lie ahead.

We’re fortunate enough to travel a lot so he’s becoming more familiar with identifying with different cultures and traditions apart from his own. He’s lucky he is getting a chance to see the world so young and visit places where historical events have actually taken place, as apposed to just reading about it in text books.

At the end of the day, aside from him being quite mature for his age, it’s refreshing to know that Oliver’s really just a totally normal teenage boy who happens to obsessed with football. Chelsea is his favorite team and he loves paint balling, airsofting, snow boarding… oh, and lets not forget girls!”

CBS: Tell us some of your best tricks/tips/advice for raising a teenage boy. What are some of the greatest rewards of motherhood? Greatest demands?

OD: “Argh! Yes the tricks and tips of raising a teenage boy, what fun! I really wish there was a book out there for that subject as it can be a bit frustrating sometimes. Well, in my experience you learn as you go along and you learn by your mistakes, but I’m told this is part of being a parent and it’s a process.

It’s pretty much a given that all kids benefit from a consistent routine so they feel safe and know what to expect ahead of time. Alongside that, I believe if you implement a strong set of principles and underlying moralistic values it can only help. But If you wait too long, they get to an age where it’s too late and the repercussions can be difficult, especially with teenage boys and their mothers. Once boys become teenagers they challenge you more and it gets harder to reach them or reel them in without an already established foundation.

So rule # 1: Don’t wait ’til they’re a teenager to ground them, discipline them, have them do chores or pick up after themselves, or it’s not going to be pretty. Trust me. Some of these things I’ve mentioned teach them responsibility or make them feel part of the household and ultimately through contributing your child tends to be more balanced in their home. I think that’s positive because it gives them a sense of pride and purpose.

Though I dislike grounding, it’s how they learn and they’ll think twice before they do the same thing again. The earlier you start to plant a solid firm no-nonsense attitude with good manners and common respect the better off you’ll be by the time they reach about 13 and the hormones are running wild. Understandably, by that age they’re beginning to test out their manhood, and guess what? You’re the litmus test! But just stay firm and stand your ground.

Talking back after you’ve told them what to do is one of my favorites. I used to be close to tears, but now I just smirk or have a little chuckle under my breath. Because yes, I do have tricks and rules now. If my son is disrespectful I say, ‘I’m afraid there’s no room for discussion here. This is a moot point and while I’m standing in the doorway why don’t you hand over your computer, your Xbox, your iPod and your iPhone and they’re off limits ’til I say otherwise.’

That ‘trick’ helped me overcome being completely ignored by my child playing video games for too long, with the famous teenage zombie blank stare. This has been one of my greatest demands by far, as is not taking their behavior so personally. That wasn’t really working for me. They’re the child you’re the adult, so there’s no room for you to whine as well. Remember, they’re a teenager and not fully developed yet and being a mother isn’t a popularity contest.

Lastly, I will never stop persevering in the arena of having respect for yourself and others. I feel it’s a huge quality you have to nail if you want to find happiness. It prepares you to go into this world right side up. My greatest reward as a mother is watching my son grow into the young man he’s becoming. I’m quite proud of him. Though the thought may sound a bit strange – maybe even a bit sad – our job is to get them ready to leave the nest. So we prepare them as best as we can with a colorful toolbox, to be sure they’re well equipped to survive and shine.”

CBS: Are you co-parenting Oliver with your ex? If so, what are some of your greatest tips for parents who are co-parenting together?

OD: “Yes, Oliver’s father and I are good friends so there’s openness and trust. We’re gaining a greater understanding of how to lean in and listen to each other so we can be better at working as a team. We were really young when we met and not quite ready to get married but we decided to have a child together. Luckily we do have English roots and similar fundamental values which are extremely helpful components in co-parenting a child together.

After my relationship ended with Oliver’s dad I met and married my husband Patrick when Oliver was just 5-years-old so really the three of us have all been co-parenting Oliver for about 10 years. It’s been a work in progress and at first it was challenging but now we all appreciate how much support we have and so does Oliver. I think we all feel like we’ve achieved something really special and important, as it’s been proven through hard work that it can be quite fluid.

It takes time to see where your strengths and weaknesses lie and who should take the lead in certain areas at certain times. However one thing is for sure, there is a time, at a certain age, where a child needs his mother more and also a time where a child needs their father more and the two parents must really be grown up enough to honor that.

A good important tip when co-parenting is that selfishness and your own need for self satisfaction has to go out the window. For example, it shouldn’t be about who gets more time. It should always be about what’s right for the child in that particular moment. If the parents live apart it’s really wise to draw up and lay out a proper schedule at the beginning of each year that you’re absolutely sure you can stick to for everyone’s comfort level, most importantly for your child, so they feel the organization is dealt with between the adults ahead of time. The most important thing a parent can do is stay neutral for their child so you never bring them into any unnecessary tension. if you can pull that off your child will only benefit.”

CBS: Would you like more babies in the future?

OD: “We have a pretty big family already. I have Oliver and Patrick has three children from his prior marriage with their mother. Though my husband’s children are now grown up and living on their own, they visit a lot and we’re all close which is really nice. They’re all such great kids and I’ve really enjoyed seeing them blossom and strive to be the best they can be. I feel really lucky because I’ve gained tremendous insight and experience from being both a mother and a stepmother. So in many ways I feel quite fulfilled in the motherhood department. But if another child were to come along at this stage in my life I wouldn’t be opposed to it.”

CBS: You starred on TV’s popular The Wonder Years. What was it like being on such a popular show at such a young age? Have you kept in touch with your past co-stars, such as Fred Savage and Danica McKellar?

OD: “Well first of all, it’s just a real honor to have been part of such a nostalgic piece of American television and I’m so thrilled that finally all 115 episodes are available on Netflix Instant. Whenever I get a chance to watch the show now, I get a warm fuzzy feeling from everything about it including the music which is nothing short of epic.

I feel like the show has set a very high bar for television and inspired many other shows to follow because of its thematic style and characters. But most importantly it really captured a special time through adolescent innocence as well as some of the groundbreaking transformations happening in our country in the sixties. I think that’s why I love it so much and why it will always be timeless and appealing to those who continue to watch it.

I was a teenager when I started the show; I was still growing up trying to find out who i was just like my character Karen so I really related to all the things she was questioning, her inner conflicts and where she felt lost and confused. I can still remember delivering my first line in the original pilot episode where I tell everyone at the diner table, ‘Oh by the way I just wanted you guys to know that I’m going on the pill!’ Needless to say, I had had a lot of fun milking her stubbornness and her sudden spunky teenage angst.

None of us were expecting to win an Emmy for Best New Show so soon. We’d only just finished the pilot and were in the mist of production, finishing our next guaranteed 6 episodes. So, the Emmy created a whirlwind with the press and the public because people just couldn’t seem to get enough of the show. And with that came some pressure to really stay on top of things and retain the magic we’d created in the pilot. Luckily we did.

The cast do stay in touch as much as we can at reunions or sometimes at Q and A’s . We just did a Q and A recently at USC for up and coming film students who’ve studied the show as a prototype for structure, writing and strong formulaic story telling. It was really great seeing everyone and was even more special that Carol Black and Neal Marlens the original creators of the show were there, sharing stories of how the show’s concept was conceived through their own personal childhoods. It’s been heartwarming to see the transformation in all the actors from the cast of the show as most of us have families now Fred, Danica, Josh, Jason and I all have kids.”

CBS: What’s up next for you?

OD: “There’s several things coming up that I’m quite excited about. I’m guest-hosting Second City on the 12th of November which will be fun as I’ll get a chance to do live sketch comedy and play funny characters — my favorite! I have an awesome album out right now called Not TV that consists of 10 narrative pop songs I’ve written that are both reflective and introspective in theme, and is available at retail stores now including Amazon.com. The digital release of Not TV will be released on the 22nd of November and is available at Amazon.com with two free bonus tracks singles. The first bonus track is a smoky, sensual duet I wrote and recorded with Seal called Broken and the second track is a song I recorded called Alright which appears in the newly released film Waking Madison.

I’ve also just come off a very high paced, well received run playing the role of Kath in Joe Orton’s classic Entertaining Mr. Sloan directed by Stan Zimmerman. I’m really proud of this most recent playing against type role and all the wonderful, talented people involved as it’s been quite a stretch for us all. I, for example, wear a fat suit in the first act, am pregnant in the second act and get to dig my heels in deep playing a gritty, frumpy yet hilariously lovable human being.

Both the director and the whole cast have just all won StageSceneLA awards for best comedy in production, direction and performance for 2011. Due to popular demand, the producers are in negotiations to remount the play in New york early next year. I’ve recently finished the upcoming post Apocalyptic action thriller film Nuclear Family and Justice League Doom for Warner Brothers animation, both films are due out in 2012.

Aside from that, I’m constantly reading material to consider doing in film, theater and television and always writing songs. The creative process is a deep commitment for me and hopefully always a mysterious one. You just never know what’s going to come along or what you’re ready to challenge yourself to seek out and play. I’m very much looking to do another wonderful, strong role role on television with the same gravitas that Nicole Wallace had on Law and Order Criminal Intent.

I’m still amazed at Dick Wolf’s brilliant Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty premise for Bobby and Nicole. It really created a great chemistry for Vincent and I. Also, it was Dick’s idea to shoot two endings of one of the episodes and then give the public an opportunity to vote on the internet after watching the endings whether Nicole should live or die. I thought I was a goner for sure however, she did live and became this character people loved to hate. It was genius, and so is working with Vincent D’enofrio.”

We Have Your Husband premieres on Lifetime on Saturday, November 12th at 8pm ET/PT.

And watch for Olivia’s debut song Broken, featuring Seal, to debut on iTunes in November.

View Article