Patricia Arquette played a mom in the acclaimed 2014 Richard Linklater film Boyhood — a stunningly good, complex performance that won her an Academy Award. Now the 51-year-old is portraying a mother again, this time a bit older, in the Netflix comedy Otherhood. Costarring Angela Bassett and Felicity Huffman, it's about three women who head to New York City together to surprise their sort-of-slacker adult sons on Mother's Day. Empty nesters, the women are feeling a bit adrift and are ready for change.
The role is a familiar one for Arquette, who has a 30-year-old son, Enzo, and a 16-year-old daughter, Harlow. She's also, at midlife, one of the most-respected and award-winning actresses in Hollywood. Arquette has been nominated for two Emmys, one for her role as a prison worker in Showtime's 2018 series Escape at Dannemora, the other for her performance as an abusive mom in The Act, a limited series that premiered on Hulu in March (Emmy winners will be announced next month).
We talked with the actress about her career, growing older and motherhood — on-screen and off.
Your role in Otherhood seems like a natural progression from Boyhood. Now it's like you're playing the next stage of life as a mother. Do you see parallels with your own life?
Definitely. I think as an actor, you use your life experiences to connect to characters. My son had just gone off to college when I did that scene in Boyhood [where her character cries as her son packs for college], so it was very resonating for me. I had just kind of gone through that, and in that moment I felt very similar to that — that life was just flying by, and my son was taking off and beginning to live an independent life, and there are a lot of emotions surrounding that. Then you get the call a couple weeks later, “Mom, where do I get socks?"
I'm like, Oh, I'm still a mom. It didn't really stop, OK. So it's OK. But I do feel that life is really going fast now. I'm 51, and inside I still feel like I'm 20. And even though I've accomplished a lot of things in my life, there's still moments of, Is this all there is? What is this life, exactly?
Your daughter is 16. Do you think about how you'll feel when the nest empties again?
I do, but now that I've experienced some of that with my son, I know that my kids are always connected to me and me to them. And I'm excited for my kids to live their lives.
Otherhood is a comedy, but a lot of your roles are kind of dark — in a Variety interview Julia Roberts said, fondly, that you were “not sunshine and kittens.” Do you think that's so?
I do have that side of me, but I think I'm also sunshine and kittens. I have a very playful, light side, and I don't know if it's necessarily been expressed in the films that I've made, but I'm very silly. Humor is a big part of my life, and silliness is a big part of my life.
What's it like growing older as a woman in Hollywood?
I think I've kind of fallen into this weird place where the rules just don't apply. Traditionally, you don't get much work when you get older in Hollywood. There's a lot of pressure to look a certain way. Having said that, my last few roles — in The Act and Escape at Dannemora — really weren't like that at all, and I do feel like I'm having a very strange experience that I'm actually getting the best roles of my career, oddly, at an age when traditionally women are basically put out to pasture. So I'm hoping that things are changing and that there will be more stories written by people who are older, stories about people who are older. It's all part of the human story.
Right now I'm working on my memoir and just trying to get my life in order, spend some time with my kids, just try to take a break and try to de-stress a little.
And I'm excited to be a grandma someday. I already have my rules, like, grandma rules. Free babysitting whenever, but Grandma's rules go when Grandma watches the baby — so if we want to watch TV, we can. If we want to have a doughnut, we can. I'm going to be the spoiling grandma. We're going to play all night long.