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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

No Nepo Babies for Laura Dern and Michelle Williams

The two actors, who are mothers both in real life and on screen, draw a hard line in an otherwise soft conversation.

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Photo: VALERIE MACON (Getty Images)

A new Calm app episode has dropped except it’s Laura Dern and Michelle Williams interviewing one another for Variety’s “Actors on Actors” series. It’s 25 minutes of the kindest, gentlest conversation I’ve listened to in a while, and I might start incorporating it into my morning routine. The tensest moment of the dialogue, which ultimately was about as tense as a purebred dog getting its leash wrapped around its paw for a few seconds, was when the two women succinctly turned down the possibility of letting their children be child actors.

Dern, who was born to famous actors Bruce Dern and Diane Ladd, filmed her first movie, Foxes, at age 11. Williams was also 11 when she played April Porter in Lassie. Williams posed the scenario to Dern, asking if, when she thinks “about your own children, you think about them being in these environments…” The two then rattled off the following exchange like little sparklers exploding.

“Well, no”

“No”

“Never”

“Never”

“Not in a million years”

“No”

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Michelle Williams and Laura Dern

Dern admitted her daughter, Jaya Harper, had expressed interest in acting but Dern staved off that conversation until she turned 18. Dern also expressed this while appearing on Ellen in March. “I’m basically making her wait,” she said, explaining that she personally “saw the consequences of not being in school.” But the time has come because her daughter turned 18 this year.

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Harper’s IMDB page says she was in one Slamdance-recognized film a year ago, and while that’s certainly impressive, one indie flick isn’t going to send a 17-year-old down a path of depravity. Dern also has a son, Ellery Harper, who she shot a Proenza Schouler-Mercedes Benz fashion spread with, in 2021. But other than that and a Models.com profile, he doesn’t seem to be in the acting mix. Williams’ kids are 17, 3, and 6 months old. And it seems like none of those kiddos have any projects in the pipeline. The two “soul healer mamas” (Dern’s description of Williams’ portrayal of Steven Spielberg’s mom) have done well.

Also notable in the half-hour chat was when Williams asked Dern, “where does your childhood live in you?” For Dern, it was watching movies. For Williams, it was her grandpa allowing her to ride a horse bareback because he’d seen too many people get dragged behind a horse with their feet caught in the saddles. If you have any mother wounds that need healing, I can’t recommend this enough.