INTO THE WOODS Best Friend Interview with Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, Tracey Ullman #IntoTheWoodsEvent

Disclosure: I received an all-expense paid trip to Los Angeles to attend the Into The Woods press event. All opinions are completely my own.

Photo by Louise Bishop from
Photo by Louise Bishop from

Into the Woods Interview with Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, and Tracey Ullman

Let me preface this by saying that I still cannot believe that I sat down with these amazing women and truly laughed throughout the entire interview. It still seems surreal to me that I was given this amazing opportunity by Disney and that Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, and Tracey Ullman were so gracious throughout the entire interview.

You have to picture 25 women sitting around a conference room table, inside the Montage Hotel Beverly Hills, waiting to meet Meryl, Christine, and Tracey. We were all a buzz and when they walked in, we surprised them with applause because, truly, what else are you supposed to do when the three power-houses walk in the door? Applause seemed to be the way to go.  From the moment they walked through the door, you could see how much they meant to one another. They were smiling, laughing, and joking among themselves. Their chemistry was obvious to everyone in the room.

Settling in, we hit them with the questions. 😉 Okay, so we asked a few easy questions to get them in the mood to answer the hard-hitting ones.

Photo by Louise Bishop from
Photo by Louise Bishop from

Let’s start with how long they’ve all known each other.

That’s an easy question and Meryl and Tracey started with their answers. Meryl and Tracey have been friends since Tracey was 21 (Meryl was 10 years older), and they met on the set of Plenty and had an immediate connection. Tracey was a pop star in England at the time and was discovered by Paul McCartney.

I was a one-hit wonder here.  And an MTV vee-jay. – Tracey Ullman

I totally remember watching Tracey on MTV and I’ve been following her career since The Tracey Ullman Show premiered. I know that’s showing my age, but the woman is a comedic genius.

Meryl and Christine have known each other for “a hundred years” according to Meryl. They became close friends while working on “Mamma Mia!”

Christine said of their time on “Mamma Mia!”

…we were dynamos in Greece together, on Mama Mia.  We had to do research by being friends, so we just hung out all the time, doing “research,” so we had a lot of fun with all of that research…

Into the Woods
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The ladies talked about family, friendship, and career.

…because we’re theater babes, and we’re Connecticut moms, and our kids are roughly the same age, and all three of us had long marriages, and shared parallel experiences, and it’s a trick, being an actress, and wife, and mother, and having that longevity.  That’s — that’s a real achievement, in my opinion.  That’s the greatest achievement, not just in career, but holding your life together, and look at Meryl, with four kids,… – Christine

It’s a tribute to our husbands.  – Meryl

Yes.  Fantastic fathers.  – Tracey

Yes.  And our sense of equilibrium.  But, yeah.  Girl friends.  It’s great.  So we did (know each other) — but then I met Tracy, and it was like, “Oh, wow…” – Christine

Let’s talk about Into the Woods for a few minutes.

Christine says that they “didn’t spend nearly enough time together on the set because of the plot lines, but there was one elongated scene that took about three days with Tracey yelling at the giant. They were able to enjoy a long dinner in London one night.”

More about that 3 day scene with the giant.

…we all got really silly, and we were talking a lot.  You (Christine) were in your big platform shoes, and kept falling over. It was good fun.  – Tracey

It was mentioned that their characters are “exaggerated versions of parenting methods gone wrong.” We wanted to know if their children saw the similarity between their character and real life mom. Christine said that she “holds her girls a little too closely.”

Meryl, Christine, and Tracey offered their advice for young mothers.

When asked about offering advice for young mothers, or mothers of young children, they offered a few words of wisdom.

Speaking for the group, I feel like so much has changed.  Raising little kids now is so different from when our children were little kids.  I mean just that — and I think that’s part of why this film and its warnings and its overweening care of the mothers and — it speaks to this time when … it’s harder and harder to keep the world out.

The worst parts of them (the world) out.  To keep them in the little tower’s impossible.  And all of the bad stuff comes in, and people worried about this film, that it maybe is too dark for kids.  Kids know so much now.  And they’re aware of so much, and yet they’re so resilient, and innately hopeful.  That’s sort of what the film is.  – Meryl

There was a moment when Meryl was talking to Tracey about Tracey letting their children watch “COPS” and then Meryl’s daughter came home re-enacting the scenes from the show. The room erupted in laughter. They said the kids were about 7 years old at the time. I’m sorry, that was funny.

Christine pointed out that “visuals can really affect, and you can explain it away, but be careful what you give them (children) visually.”

…you never know what image can really get to them. – Christine

But it goes back to these Grimm’s Fairy Tales, and we all portray them as they were written. I do smack the kid ’round the head, and I was always loving him afterwards, but, when you would cut your child’s foot off to marry a prince (to Christine). And lock yours up in the tower (to Meryl). Fairy tales were so frightening when I was a kid. (…) And all of those illustrations. They were terrifying. They were for children to be scared of. (…) They did get sort of sanitized a bit, fairy tales, the last 20 years. – Tracey

Into the Woods
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The World of Imagination

Christine mentioned the world of imagination and that when she would read to her children that she would tell them, “You’re safe. If you’re in the world of the imagination, you can go anywhere, and you all come back from that, so you’re safe.”

I was always telling my kids, as read to them, that — that there was such a thing as the world of the imagination.  I said, “You’re safe.  If you’re in the world of the imagination, you can go anywhere, and you all come back from that, so you’re safe. ”

“We will read this book, and it’ll take you places, but don’t worry.  You will come back.  There is that world.”  And movies are like that.  Movies should — you go there, but, remember that you can come back.  You don’t transfer.  It can be tricky when a child is too young.  They don’t know how to do that.  So, I think — be careful, I would say.  Just take care of them,  their little psyches.

What an incredible way to explain the world of fantasy to young children. My children know the difference between reality and fantasy for the most part, but when it comes to live TV shows and movies, it’s good to have a reminder.

Another story that Christine told us about was the moment she was downstairs cooking dinner and her daughter, who was 6 or 7 years old, was upstairs watching cartoons and happened to change the channel on the TV. Her daughter ran downstairs because there were naked strippers on the TV. Seems she changed the channel and landed on a popular talk show (at the time) and they had male strippers on the TV. Christine hauled the TV downstairs and to the trash. From then on, they raised the children without a television set.

And I just said, “If I can’t control it when they’re just upstairs, and with a click of a button, they see something that’s so troubling,” took the damned thing out. I don’t know how you protect kids now.  From all of this.  All of these toys.  But I would really recommend encouraging quiet time when you just talk to your kids.And say, “Okay.  We’re just going to get rid of all of this stuff.  Let’s just be together, and experience, like, real time, and quiet.”

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Photo by Louise Bishop from
Photo by Louise Bishop from

On Favorite Roles to Play

I’m sure this is a popular question, but I absolutely loved their answers. All the answers are both honest and refreshing.

Meryl started off with a line that stayed with me.

I think each particular person you play deserves their own voice, and deserves their own place in the world, and they’re all about 5’6″ and a half, and they’re all about my weight and age that I play.  But that’s the through-line, but I feel like there are so many different women.  So many different stories.  And they each deserve their voice, you know, and their particular neuroses and needs and passions.

Christine had a very poignant answer for the question and she was eloquent with her answer. She is referencing her role as Diane Lockhart on The Good Wife.

…actresses who have an opportunity in our work to maybe move the culture forward, and show women in a deeper, more complicated way.  I love that I’m playing somebody on television who is well-educated, she runs a law firm, she actually has a relationship.  She’s not the butt of a joke.  She’s not an old crone.

You know, there’s never a mention of menopause or — or any of these clichéd things that we have put on things after a certain age.  I love that these are just non-issues, and she’s a woman who is in the world, dealing with a complicated moral topography in her personal and professional life.  So being part of anything like that — and I think that this — this movie is trans-formative, and contributes good to the world, so I think that’s — that’s what would we look for…

Meryl added that she thinks about each project and asks “is this helping? or is this hurting? What is it doing? Because everything makes a mark on the culture. Everything you do, every actress has a choice.” She said “you still have a choice, what you’re putting out into the world, and I think it matters.”

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Into the Woods Trailer

About their characters

Photo Credit: Disney

Meryl on her role as the Witch

Her answer was clever and witty, so I want to share the entire quote with you.

The part I played was so indelibly done on Broadway by Bernadette Peters.  But it’s also been indelibly done by many, many kids, throughout the country, in their high schools, and in colleges.  And it’s like any really good play, the part can morph to the shape of the person who is, you know, in there.  And, so, I felt completely free, and also a failing memory helps me in this.  In this place, because I couldn’t have remembered.

I would’ve stolen from Bernadette more, if I could remember the thing.  So I felt free, too, and he made us feel that way, Rob Marshall, and certainly Sondheim said “Do what you want.”

Photo Credit: Disney

Christine on the Step-Family.

Once you see the film you’ll realize how over-the-top the step-family really is. Christine talked about the scene with her wig. The really big wig.

I will never forget, my first day on the set was a huge, huge scene at Dover Castle, with the arrival of Cinderella.  And I had been going back and forth, doing Good Wife, so I didn’t have a whole lot of time for hair and makeup tests and all.  And this marvelous man, Peter King, he put on my blonde wig, and it was really big, because we originally conceived of them as a truly over-the-top, larger-than-life, trying-too-hard kind of family.

And I showed up and Rob took one look at me, and went…”too big.”  And I had to go all of the way back and then I thought as I look at the movie, and I see my various hairstyles in there, they’re a little bit, and then a little off, I think, but that’s exactly right.  That’s exactly right.  These women, they are trying so hard.  You know.  You look in the mirror and go, “Mmm, no, that’s not enough, I need more hairspray.  More, more, more.”  And so they’re actually — Christine

Meryl added that the step-family is “defined by their looks. ”

Yes.  And they don’t get it exactly right.  And so it’s — it’s funny.  Little accidents can be very helpful and very human, and exactly right for the character. – Christine

Photo Credit: Disney

Then, Tracey talked about her character, as Jack’s Mom.

Jack’s mom was a simple woman, who didn’t need elaborate dresses or makeup. Tracey talked about her approach with the character.

I loved my approach.  Peter King said to me on the first day, “I’m going to make you a gray wig.”  And most people would be like, “I don’t want to go gray.”  I was like, “Great.”  Made me go gray, having this wig, and I put it up in this topknot, and I had this beautiful, simple, Colleen Atwood outfit, that reminded me of a sort of Dries van Noten peasant look, and I could roll around in the leaves, and there was just no vanity, and I just loved it.

I could see, I loved — because I’d done so many things where I’d wear these extravagant make-ups.  And just to come in and just smudge my cheeks with mud and become a peasant girl, I found it just wonderful.  And it’s feeling comfortable in who you are, and getting older, and not worrying about it.  It’s just such a relief.  And there is so much pressure on how we all look, and it’s just exhausting.  Dignity, girls!  Aging with dignity.

Photo by Louise Bishop from

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What an incredible way to spend an hour. All three of these women are outstanding, talented, award-winning actresses. Their number one role, though, is being a mom. They have struggles and triumphs in parenting, just as we all do. It felt good to remember that underneath it all we’re all moms, they just have a different career than we do.

The fact that they sat down and had a conversation with 25 bloggers says a lot about how open they are and how much they want to share their stories with the public. I know I learned a ton during this conversation, and I hope you feel like you were there by reading my interview. Be sure to check out my review of INTO THE WOODS before it comes to theaters on December 25th and you’ll want to order the INTO THE WOODS soundtrack because the songs stay with you, even after leaving the theater.

INTO THE WOODS opens December 25th and is rated PG

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