British-born Emily Mortimer rose to fame on England’s television show Notting Hill and has dazzled American audiences with her roles in Lovely & Amazing, Match Point, and Lars and the Real Girl, to name a few. In the past few months it’s been nearly impossible to enter a theater without one of her films playing, from Harry Brown to Shutter Island to City Island. We sat down with her to talk about her life with husband, actor Alessandro Nivola, son Samuel (6), and new baby May Rose (almost 4 months old), her addiction to a certain diaper rash cream, and why you should never leave cigarettes in your purse during a Mommy and Me class. – Mara Siegler
Is it easier having kids the second time around?
I was less terrified than I was the first time, but I’m not less sleep deprived, so that part doesn’t change.
How is your husband helping out?
When my last baby was being born, my husband was doing a play so he didn’t get up in the night very often since he was in the thick of an intense and very brilliant performance. He’s more than made up for it now. He’s very peaceful and sweet. May very cleverly saves all her best smiles for him, so he’s fallen madly in love.
Do you feel like motherhood has changed you?
No. I wish it had more. I don’t feel like I’ve become any more sensible or less of an idiot than I was before. The thing that’s the pleasure about having children is it’s not really about mothering or knowing what to do. These things come along, and you obviously just love them as much as you possibly can, and it’s not difficult to do that. They’re sort of fully formed people when they arrive in the world and I think it’s a whole process of getting to know who they are. I don’t feel like I am capable of instilling much wisdom. I feel like they’ve luckily come with their own – luckily. It’s a process. They might as well have been delivered by a stork. You can really glory in them since they are really nothing to do with you at all, and instead these sort of magical things that have been dropped into your lap.
What are your children’s personalities like?
Sam is hilarious and a real liver of life – just so funny. May I’m not quite sure yet, but she seems very self-possessed and mysterious – not a bit like me. I wish I was more like May. She’s very dignified, and I wonder what’s going on inside her.
Do you have any tips for working mothers?
Dry shampoo is the best! You can just put it in your hair, and you don’t have to have a bath for about three days. You can have non-greasy hair without ever having to wash it.
Any baby products you love?
Jurlique baby cream for diaper rash. It’s wonderful and smells of lavender. It’s brilliant. I’ve been putting it on everyone and everywhere. I put it on my son’s lips, and he was so pissed that I was putting diaper rash cream on his lips, but it completely worked. I had a zit which I squeezed, and I put it on there and it worked. Everyone in the house is being smothered by the Jurlique diaper rash cream.
Do you feel pressured to lose weight quickly since you’re in the spotlight?
Yeah, I guess so. You don’t really want to or feel like parading yourself about town [if you] look like a house. There’s pressure if you have to have your photograph taken. But Spanx are amazing. They really are brilliant. Whoever came up with them – it’s the most genius invention of the 21st century. I have more than one pair on. With the help of Spanx and dry shampoo, I’m more able to face the world.
How are you getting your body back into post-pregnancy shape?
I should be working out more than I am, but it’s a miracle if I get my teeth brushed by 6:00 in the evening, let alone go to the gym. What’s amazing about having a baby is that it makes things like going to the gym pleasurable. Normally it’s a chore, but to have half an hour on your own, even if it’s surrounded by a lot of sweaty depressed-looking people, is great. I had to have seven fillings after my first baby and I remember sitting in the chair at the dentist’s office knowing I was going to be in there for about three hours, and I was thinking to myself, “Oh, this is heaven. This is so nice. I have three hours to myself.” That’s what it’s like.
Any horror stories?
I was at YMCA with my little boy when he was really little, and I took him to a Mommy and Me class like I thought you were supposed to do. I was boasting to the other parents how he’d come first in a fancy costume parade for Halloween. He’d dressed as a tiger, and I was so proud he’d won and was telling these mothers that and their faces fell and they looked so horrified. I realized they were looking behind me and I turn around to see Sam walking across the room with a pack of Marlboro Lights raised above his head. He’d been rummaging in my handbag looking for his pacifier and instead pulled out this packet of cigarettes and walked through the Mommy and Me class at YMCA like they were some trophy. It was awful! Everyone was so shocked. I think it would have been less shocking if he’d pulled a small handgun from my handbag. I was shoving them back in my bag so fast. It was awful! I never went to one of those again.