Julia Roberts knows what it's like to go above and beyond as a mother, so she's pleased to showcase others who do, too.
The "Erin Brockovich" Oscar winner is the executive producer and host/narrator of "Extraordinary Moms," a special for Oprah Winfrey's OWN Network that premieres Saturday, May 7 ... the eve of Mother's Day, appropriately.
Roberts appears on camera at the beginning and end, and also to interview Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Otherwise, she keeps the focus on the other women profiled during the 90-minute program.
Among them: Rosie O'Donnell, who discusses being young when her mother died and being a gay and divorced parent herself; Christiane Amanpour, anchor of ABC's Sunday program "This Week," who reflects on balancing a sometimes dangerous career with parenthood; Margaret Martin, who encourages children's self-esteem and love of music through the Harmony Project; Mayisha Akbar, whose Compton (Calif.) Jr. Posse guides youngsters away from gang life and into competitive horse riding; and Norma Bastidas, a marathoner whose running supports research into the cause of her son's increasing blindness.
In an exclusive published interview, mother of three (including twins) Roberts spoke recently about her reasons for making "Extraordinary Moms."
Q: You have played many inspiring people -- Erin Brockovich certainly being one -- so do you consider this special a natural extension of your choices thus far?
A: I do believe that there are many heroic people in our world, and in our communities, that we may not be aware of. In my mind, heroism just goes that extra mile when it's someone who's also taking care of their own family and their own children. I know how challenging that can be.
With Margaret Martin, here's a woman who's a single parent and homeless and trying to make ends meet. She's facing incredible obstacles, and not only does she try to better her own home life, she wants to better everybody's home life. It's so unselfish and so beautiful, and I am attracted to those kinds of people. It sounds so cliche, but I've watched that footage over and over, and every time, I've walked away thinking, "What little more can I add to the day that goes beyond my front yard?"
Q: It's clear from the special what an admirer of Hillary Rodham Clinton you are. How was it for you to do that interview?
A: I must say, she is a personal hero of mine. I was really nervous, and I was allowed by her and her camp to construct all of my own questions. I was not given any parameters except time.
I have followed her over the years, as everybody obviously has, but the smartest thing I did was to send an email to a lot of friends and co-workers. I said, "If you could ask her a question, what would it be?" A very similar theme came back from everybody, which was the age-old question, "How do you do it all? How do you not feel guilty that you're not present enough at home or at work?"
She is such a wordsmith, she had great, gentle, enlightening ways of expressing all of those feelings. It was such a joy and honor to talk to her, and really such a comfort. Her greatest accomplishment in life is her daughter, which is felt by many people. Chelsea is so admired, and I think the Clintons are appreciated for how they've raised their daughter in that environment.
Q: This summer, you'll be seen with Tom Hanks in the movie "Larry Crowne," and you'll be filming the role of the Evil Queen in "The Brothers Grimm: Snow White." As actress, wife and mother, how do you do it all?
A: The great conundrum of our lives is knowing how to be present and occupy the space that you're in, and focusing on whoever or whatever is in front of you. That's really what all of these stories say, that with the right focus and forward motion, it's all right there. We can do it.
Q: Your 2010 movie "Eat Pray Love" is now making the rounds on the Starz premium cable channels. Were you happy with the reception to the film?
A: Very, and also happy with what came out of that for me, which was such a rich experience with my family. And really, on a movie, you're lucky if you walk away with one person that you stay in touch with or that you're happy to see when you bump into them.
There are very few movies on which you make lifelong friends -- Dermot Mulroney, from "My Best Friend's Wedding," is one of them -- and from "Eat Pray Love," I can count on my hand the incredible relationships that came out of that movie. They're so rich and satisfying to my life ... (co-stars) Javier Bardem and Richard Jenkins and (director) Ryan Murphy, really fascinating people.
Q: Would you ever consider playing, in a film, any of the "Extraordinary Moms" you spotlight in the special?
A: I guess that shows my own maternal instincts. I look at all of them as moms and not really as characters to portray, so maybe that's a shift in my thinking. For somebody else, that's a good idea.
Q: Do you hope to do more "Extraordinary Moms" programs?
A: Yes! I want our boss (Winfrey) to give us a regular gig. One of the brutal tasks in making this show was limiting it to just a handful of women, because we went through just piles of photographs and research material, and there are so many fascinating people out there.
Many of them happen to be mothers, and trying to shape our special into a certain number of women and a certain amount of time was the most difficult thing. We would love to make this kind of a regular series, because there are a lot of beautiful stories to share.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times