‘Mother of the Bride’ Duo Brooke Shields, Miranda Cosgrove on Navigating Child Stardom, Finding Their Voices on Set and Rom-Coms

by 24USATVMay 10, 2024, 7 p.m. 23
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On paper, Brooke Shields and Miranda Cosgrove share a lot in common. They both began their professional careers as child models who went on to find early success as actors. While Shields rose to fame in late-’70s and ’80s films (Pretty Baby, The Blue Lagoon, Endless Love), Cosgrove made a name for herself in the aughts on small-screen sitcoms (iCarly, Drake & Josh). As young women growing up in Hollywood, they both became cultural touchstones for their respective generations but, in turn, were forced to weather intense scrutiny under the limelight.

In that respect, it seems particularly fitting that Shields and Cosgrove would team up to play mother and daughter in Mother of the Bride, which launched Thursday on Netflix. Directed by Mark Waters (Mean Girls, Freaky Friday) and written by Robin Bernheim (The Princess Switch), the breezy new romantic comedy follows Shields’ Lana, a widowed single mother and world-renowned geneticist who discovers that her only child, Emma (Cosgrove), is getting married in Thailand in a month. Upon arrival in Phuket, Lana is dismayed to learn that her daughter’s fiancé, RJ (Sean Teale), is the son of Will (Benjamin Bratt), the man who broke her heart in college. Old grudges and dormant feelings are reignited between the former lovers, whose unresolved issues risk detailing their children’s destination wedding.

For Shields, Mother of the Bride is as much a love letter to mothers and daughters, as it is a celebration of older women being given another opportunity to fall in love and be the object of desire in a romantic story. “It is the kind of [film] that I think will initiate conversations with mothers and daughters, and with women in my age bracket who want to feel sexy and want to feel loved and yet want to know that they did right by their children,” Shields tells The Hollywood Reporter in a joint interview with Cosgrove.

During a recent call from Los Angeles, Shields and Cosgrove discussed the nuances and challenges of mother-daughter relationships, how they found their own voice and agency in Hollywood, and the key to their longevity in an industry that has not always taken too kindly to child actors.

Both of you are at a stage in your careers where you arguably have more agency and creative control than ever before. How does this film align with the kinds of stories you are both looking to tell now?

SHIELDS For me, this was one of those situations where I really wanted this script to be right, and I really wanted to push it through, and I had a lot of say in trying to get it seen by the right people. That was important for me, just because these kinds of stories are multilevel where there are different stories being told. A portion of it is not just the mother-daughter relationship, which is really at its core, but [it’s also about] a woman in this era of her life. I’m 58, and [I think it’s important for] anybody over 40 to be given the opportunity to be the love interest, and have a second chance or a new chapter as her daughter is starting her new chapter. I was very glad that Christina Rogers, who’s our executive at Netflix, wanted to champion these types of stories.

COSGROVE I was just so excited to get to be a part of a rom-com, because rom-coms are my favorite genre of movie and I’ve never been in one before. And having Brooke as an executive producer was awesome. Literally the first day, she said to me, “If you need anything or you have any questions or whatever…” I just felt so comfortable the whole time, so that was just really nice. It was just a really fun experience getting to be in this movie.

Mother of the Bride offers a more novel take on the rom-com genre by centering a mother and daughter who are both looking for love. After a number of the Father of the Bride movies, what were some of the complexities of mother-daughter relationships you were looking to delve into? Brooke, as a producer, did you have any input in the writing of the script?

SHIELDS I just gave notes. But what was really most important to me is [exploring] the complexity of a mother-daughter relationship where they’ve been in your care for their whole lives, basically. And as they’re starting to begin their own lives, what role do you play? If I’m not just mom 24/7 then, who am I? And, where do I fit in? And it’s that type of really letting go and not making your daughter’s wedding about you — that happens with mothers, and it’s hard not to. You dream about that day. You take your daughter shopping for her wedding dress, and you pick out colors and all that stuff, which is just a rite of passage. To be put in a situation like Lana was in, where she was basically excluded from all of those decisions — she didn’t want to be separate [from the wedding planning], but she knew she wanted her daughter to be happy, and that took precedence over her comfort.

COSGROVE I have such a close relationship with my mom in real life. So when I was reading the script, that was a huge thing that stood out to me. I love their relationship, and I think it’s really realistic in a lot of ways. Because I think every daughter wants their mom to be proud of them, and to be okay with who they’re marrying or who they love. But it’s just so much pressure a lot of the time. The great thing about this movie is it shows all of that [natural conflict]. But definitely by the end, I think they both really understand each other in a new way that they never really had before. And the whole time through, you see how much love they have for each other and how strong their bond is, so I think it’s a pretty realistic version of a mother-daughter relationship. It reminds me of me and my mom.

There’s one line in particular that beautifully sums up the evolution of a healthy parent-child relationship as the child grows into adulthood. At one point, Emma says to Lana, “You can just take care of me a bit less and take care of yourself a little bit more.” Have either of you found yourselves having that conversation in your own lives? Have you found it difficult at all to let go?

SHIELDS We’re both coming at that relationship from different perspectives, because I do have girls that are 18 and 21 and I am now exactly in that place. They’re not currently engaged or getting married, but there is that [feeling] where you have to keep talking to them about it. And what I’ve said, more than anything, is that I need a little time to be able to disengage in the healthiest way from you to allow you to know I’m still here, but that I’m proud of you and want you to fly and be free and begin your life. That was something I never did for my mother [Teri Shields]. I was so enmeshed with my mom, and it made her very happy. But once I started growing up, it was sort of soul-crushing for her, and I just didn’t want that for Lana, and I also don’t want that for me with my girls.

COSGROVE I’ve definitely felt those feelings of dating somebody and being like, Would my mom love this person? What would it be like when I introduced this person to my parents? And it was nice watching this movie with my mom, because I’ve never really said something like what my character says in the movie to Lana, to my mom. But she was super emotional watching the movie, so I think it brought out a lot of those thoughts and feelings in her. It was a nice bonding experience. (Laughs.)

SHIELDS I think that’s what people are going to do. It’s coming out on Mother’s Day, and it is the kind of film that I think will initiate conversations with mothers and daughters, and with women in my age bracket who want to feel sexy and want to feel loved and yet want to know that they did right by their children. There’s so many little nuances.

Brooke, this film has allowed you to return to your comedy roots. Dating back to your earliest days on Broadway and your work on Suddenly Susan, you had an opportunity to play up some of the physical comedy with Benjamin Bratt as your main scene partner. Just to name a few highlights, you fell into the water together multiple times and even hit him in the balls with a pickleball!

SHIELDS Ball sports! (Laughs.) Well, I was worried at first, because I knew he was not exactly wanting to do this movie. He wasn’t sure; he hadn’t been in the rom-com world. He said it’s a muscle he hadn’t exercised in a while. So when we convinced him, then I had the added pressure of, “Oh, God, I hope he’s okay with it, because there’s a lot of physical comedy.” But Mark Waters knows how to find that balance where you earn these more sincere, more vulnerable, more heart-crushing moments [in between the physical comedy]. But it was great to be able to, first of all, not scare him. Because our first scene together we had to just leap into this lagoon that had — what were they called? Monitor lizards or something?

COSGROVE There were these huge lizards. (Laughs.)

SHIELDS They looked massive! They looked prehistoric, and there were koi the size of small 2-year-old children. And I was like, “Okay, I’m game. I’m really going to go for it. Are you going to go for it?” And he’s like, “Sure, if you do it.” To have a partner in those moments where someone doesn’t leave you hanging and they go along with you with the journey was wonderful. I knew that day, “Oh, we’re going to be fine. This is going to be great.”

Mark Waters told the press that you guys shot the big wedding dance scene, which is shown in the final credits, at 3 or 4 in the morning, but you couldn’t cheer or applaud because the venue had already threatened to shut down the shoot. What are your memories of that final evening of shooting?

SHIELDS We worked so hard on that dance! For weeks, we worked on that dance! Every free day and free moment, we were either on the pickleball court or learning the dance. And then to get all this way, get to the final day of filming, and not get to do it, we were like (whispers), “No, no! Come on, come on!” We had to do it with no music. It was down to [volume level] two, so we were just going based on memory and hoping to follow each other. We were silent, because they were literally going to just ruin the take and step in front and call it off. So we all did it in one take!

COSGROVE We were all supposed to clap at the end. We had to go like this… (Laughs and mimics clapping without the hands touching.) It was so fun, though.

Brooke, you’ve likened the experience of shooting for three months in Thailand to that of Blue Lagoon, in the sense that you were in a remote location and bonded with your cast and crew quickly. How did you go about creating these relationships that, in the story, have so many years of established history?

SHIELDS That was partially on me. I took on that responsibility, because I know what it’s like [on a film set]. You’re thrown together. Nobody really knows anybody. We don’t have homes and families to go to at the end of wrap, and I wanted to make sure that we got enough time together off-screen so that we could start to have a sensibility and get our own inside jokes. So I kept planning dinners, planning excursions and planning boat rides. And then I’d be like, “Okay, we’re all meeting in this [place]. Or, “Tequila shots in my room! And then we’re going to go!” So I became a little bit of an annoying cruise director, but I do think what happened and what ensued was this comfort level that we’re supposed to have after knowing each other all so intimately for so long.

COSGROVE She planned a whole day where we went to an elephant sanctuary in Phuket, and it was one of the most fun days in Thailand.

I’m not sure if you two ever discussed your past experiences while working together, but there seems to be an implicit understanding between former child actors who have grown up in front of the camera. How have you both navigated growing up in an industry that doesn’t always allow for that kind of longevity?

SHIELDS Well, first, let me say that working with Miranda was such a testament to what I believe equals longevity — and that is work ethic. She showed up ready every day. You never waited on her. This is true professionalism — and not everybody has that, especially younger people. But also, if you’ve been in a machine for as long as we both have been from such a young age, you learned to navigate it.

I believe the relationship with a mother is very important. My mom was adamant about my work ethic and keeping me grounded. We had that type of a relationship where she was saying, “Don’t buy into this industry as if you’re better than anybody.” From what little I did know [about Miranda’s] mom when she visited, it’s important to have that type of grounding person in your life that says, “Be a professional.” And I believe that bad behavior does not get rewarded in the way it used to.

COSGROVE Having a strong support system helps a lot. I do have a really close relationship with my mom and dad — and not only that, but my main core friends are all people I’ve known since elementary or middle school, and they don’t really think that acting is that big of a deal, because I’ve known them for so long. I feel like I didn’t realize when I was younger how important it is to have people around you like that, who have known you forever know you for who you really are. I feel like that’s been really helpful, being in the entertainment business for a long time.

Having experienced both the good and the bad that comes with growing up in this business, do either of you feel a particular responsibility to help pave the way for the next generation of women who are coming up in the business? How are you advocating for change on sets as artists with more creative control in the work you do now?

COSGROVE I did a revival of my show iCarly, and I got to be an executive producer, and that was a really life-changing experience. I was super excited to be an executive producer for the first time, but I didn’t really understand what that meant or exactly what I would be doing, and I didn’t really understand how much it was going to help me find my own voice, really come out of my shell and feel stronger in my opinions. It was a really helpful thing in my life, so I definitely want more people to get to have that experience. Also, getting to work on this movie and have Brooke as the executive producer was such a different vibe on set. It was so nice to know that I could go to her at any moment — that’s such a nice feeling. So I definitely hope there are more women on sets, and that more women get to have experiences like that and find their voice too.

SHIELDS It’s funny because you walk into a situation and [Miranda] is a young woman, and I want nothing more than for the people on the whole team to feel respected, heard and seen. I learned at a very early age that much of that responsibility did fall on me [as an actor] for those who didn’t have a voice necessarily on set, or who I would see people not necessarily treat kindly. I felt the need to step up because that’s part of what I believe the responsibility is. It’s interesting to me because I feel very maternal without feeling condescending.

But as far as agency is concerned, it took me a very long time to even understand that I had a voice, because especially in my era, you didn’t [speak up] and nobody cared for your opinion. And it really wasn’t until I was much, much older that I started to really say, “Oh, I have my opinion. I have my voice. I will be heard.” Not because I’m screaming, but because I’m very sure of my opinion — and that took a long time. It’s interesting because comedically, I’ve never had a problem with that. Comedically, it’s like a trance or something [that goes over me], and I’ve never questioned that. But in life, just being a woman, it’s taken me a long time — and having children and having ups and downs in a career — to realize that I have to be my own best advocate.

Brooke, your powerful documentary last year coincided with a rise in former child actors who have begun to speak out about their earliest experiences in the industry. It’s anyone’s guess why some actors manage to make it through that gauntlet better than others. But talking to both of you now for the first time, I feel like you’ve been able to emerge with some semblance of normalcy, despite growing up under an unfathomable amount of scrutiny.

SHIELDS (Turns to Cosgrove.) We’re probably two of the real, actual, normal ones. I looked at my documentary, and I didn’t have anything to do with it. I just was interviewed for it. I didn’t produce it or direct anything. I just handed over my archives and prayed and hoped for the best. What I hoped for was that it would be a story about a bigger topic — not just me — and I believe the director, Lana Wilson, did achieve that. [Editor’s note: Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields used Shields’ story as a conduit to explore the power structures that have been complicit in the objectification and sexualization of young girls.]

But I look back at my experience, and I sat there slightly dumbfounded thinking, How in the world did I survive? How did I make it through? How did I manage to find a humility and find real life and find real people that I could trust? To me, I attributed a lot of [my own survival] to everybody else. Oh, I didn’t grow up in L.A. Oh, I went to regular schools. I had all these other reasons. And when I saw the documentary, I saw, in the beginning, in that little baby girl with the squeaky voice, there was something in her that just wanted to not become a disaster or a train wreck or have [the industry] win — and I did that through hard work. I just became really a hard worker, and that was sort of my rebellion. And then going to college was my real rebellion.

COSGROVE I grew up making sitcoms most of my childhood. And looking back now that I’m 30, I feel like something that maybe could have really helped would’ve been having a mental health professional on set. I don’t know if they need to come up with a new name or a new job, but it’d be nice if there was somebody on set like that who could be around to help you navigate all that [as a child], because it is really crazy. It’s already crazy growing up and trying to figure out who you are. And then being somewhat famous, being on a TV show, having an adult job — it’s just so complicated, so it’d be nice if there was someone extra around to be there to help you navigate all that.

Mother of the Bride is now streaming on Netflix.

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