Joan Cusack on 'Mars Needs Moms,' Raising Kids and Her Famous Brother

Filed under: Celeb News & Interviews

Joan Cusack

Joan Cusack attends the Los Angeles premiere of "Mars Needs Moms." Credit: Jeff Kravitz, FilmMagic

In Disney's new animated kids' movie "Mars Needs Moms," Joan Cusack lends her voice to the character of Mom, a mother who is kidnapped by aliens and rescued by her previously unappreciative son.

In real life, the actress beloved for her comedic turns in modern day classics such as "Broadcast News," "Working Girl" and as the voice of Jessie the Cowgirl in the "Toy Story" movies, is mom to Dylan, 13, and Miles, 10.

ParentDish recently caught up with Cusack, 48, to talk about her voice-over work, motherhood and growing up with that famous brother of hers. An edited version of the interview follows.

ParentDish: Why do you think you do so many cartoon voices?
Joan Cusack:
Well, this one is a performance capture -- that's what they call it. It's not really a cartoon. It's not like a regular film, although you do perform the whole thing. Some of it is just that technology's changing and there are more of these kinds of movies and there have been a lot of animated movies in general.

PD: You're wrong. It's because you have a great distinctive voice.
Oh! There you go! I never really think of that. See, it's my Chicago accent, which my mother would be appalled at. She says my As are all flat.

PD: Was it amazing to be involved with something as successful and beloved as "Toy Story?"
If you had told me 15 years ago when I did "Toy Story 2" that it would have been this big, I never would have believed it.

PD: Did you audition for the role?
I don't think so. I think they liked that I had a Chicago accent for a cowgirl.

PD: "Mars Needs Moms" is all about how kids don't appreciate their moms. Do your kids appreciate you?
I think that they do. I think it's probably more if you're really doing your job right as a mom ...

PD: ... They should hate you a little bit.
Yes. Because you're not their friend. It kind of reminds me of "The Wizard of Oz" a little bit -- this dream world in which kids think, "Oh, it's so hard to be a kid. Wouldn't it be nice if I didn't have to learn all these things and just be free?" But then kids, of course, really need that structure and guidance and love and having someone who cares that much about them.

I think there are plenty of moments when you feel like you're a nagging, harsh, repeating-something-40-times person, but then there are also the moments when you really are saying something to them and they understand it and they appreciate you and it's the best thing in the whole world.

PD: What's the worst thing about motherhood?
For me, it's making dinner. I'm not a good cook. I don't want to even talk about it, it's just too painful. I try to be good, but for me it's the worst part about being a mom.

PD: Do your kids agree with your assessment?

PD: Has your brother (John Cusack) ever made a movie you haven't been in?
Oh, yes, but he's sweet because if he's producing a movie I usually have a part in it.

PD: Would you be like, "What's up with that?" if he produced a movie and didn't put you in?
Yes, I would. I would feel hurt.

PD: Were you close growing up?
We grew up -- there were five of us and he's four years younger than me -- and he was a boy. He just wasn't on my radar and, obviously, we were never up for the same parts. But then, at a certain point, the movie industry is so illusory and it's nice to have someone else who's in it, who can figure it out and understand it. It's like having a comrade.

PD: What are you working on now?
I did this Showtime series, "Shameless," but mostly I'm a mom full time because I feel like it goes so fast. I've had to say no to a few things here and there over the years because of timing, but I've been very fortunate.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.