Interview Transcript: Sean Astin on Family, Patty Duke, and Lutheranism, Buddhism, and Catholicism

The players of Mom’s Night Out

Andrew Erwin
“Our first goal is to tell a good story”
Alex Kendrick
We want to present stories that would draw people to a relationship with the Lord.
Patricia Heaton
I don’t think of movies as Christian or non-Christian. I don’t think God categorizes us like that.
Sean Astin
My Christian faith takes a lot of time to unpack.
Sarah Drew
So much beauty and truth can be found in every show.
Mom’s Night Out
A day on the set of a “Christian” movie

May 29 on the set of Mom’s Night Out, partial transcript of group press interview with Sean Astin. Most of the questions are not mine.

What attracted you to this movie? 

I think in my life and my family, I think we very directly relate to the circumstance of this movie. Basically the reason I did this part was because it’s like me. This movie is like my family. The situations in the film are very like the situations we face. As recently as yesterday.

What happened yesterday?

I can’t say.

Um. Well we this weekend was chock full….I haven’t been spending much time at home, I’ve been all over the world, really. I came home. Next thing you know, I’m at the..

I can’t say. I don’t want to betray the trust of my kids. But basically everything from nine different people sleeping on the couches who we aren’t related to swimming pool antics to high school plays, you know it’s just a full on normal weekend. And at one point my wife looked at me and said, ‘Are you ok with all this, it’s a lot of activity.’ And I think I must have looked a little shell shocked. And I said no this is the way it’s supposed to be. It’s the way I was raised. Tons of activity and people around. It’s like a revolving door on the front door. It’s how my wife was raised. For several years, we were kind of a little bit more middle of the road people but that’s gone.

It’s better than being bored.

Oh, there’s no boredom. And there’s pets. So many pets.

Does [a love of animals] come from your Christian belief system?

I had a couple experiences as a kid with animals where I hurt them kind of unintentionally and when I saw a human being could hurt an animal it really affected me.

Tell me what you hope moms walk away from this film experiencing.

I hope, I know, I don’t even hope I know, that moms will take away from this movie a little sense of permission to take it just a little easier on themselves than they did before.

One of the cool things about this Christian movie is that it has a strong female and she’s going through an experience, usually I see it’s a guy going through the experience. So her self doubt and anxieties and everything else they pale in comparision to what you know people that are depicted in crisis situations have, but it’s real. It’s very real. So I think women will appreciate that some filmmakers have identified the fact that what women go through is complex and funny and worthy of consideration.

So you are a Presbyterian…

Lutheran, technically, I think, but in this room I can be a Presbyterian. [Laughing]

My Christianity takes a long time to unpack, but basically if you want to cut right to the judgement of it all, we were all baptized in my wife’s Lutheran church in Indiana.

I understand you studied Buddhism at one point?

My dad was a Buddhist when I was young, so when I was begging to become a Catholic he was saying no and imparting Buddhist precepts.

Are you talking about John Astin?

Yes. He’s my father. He’s not my gentetic father, but he’s my father.

Your genetic father is Jewish, isn’t he?

He is. Yeah. He said something interesting to me though, at one point. When we were living a somewhat agnostic existence, he just said you know, pick something. We said what do you mean? There’s a lot of Jewish people in our community. My daughter when she was 13, she went through the bat mitzvah circuit which is the most extraordinary thing in the world and I assumed he meant pick Judaism.  He said Judaism, Christianity, Hindu, Muslim… you need community. Just pick something and stick with it. So I think we arrived at a Christian posture.

Is [Sean Astin's mother] Patty Duke a Catholic?

Depends when you ask her…. I know when my sister died, she insisted that, there’s this group of nuns that live in a convent near her, she insisted they be there. So when you talk about self-identifying verus how people practice versus their culture, I think my mom feels very comfortable with Catholicism.

Did your biological dad give you good advice? Was it good advice?

Yeah. I think it’s good advice. I don’t think you should pick something just for the sake of picking it like he was saying but I took his point. Religion is most noticeable when someone dies. We all seem to experience a lot of death. Different generations, different tragedies, cancers, things. I think it snaps us back, always, to a keep appreciation for what formal religion can do to bolster families and communities.

The rest of the time, we like to pray, we like church, we don’t get to church enough, my daughter goes to a Christian school, that she picked. She wanted to go there. We went there.. Even thought I’m a Christian, I was very worried about a heavy handed religious pedagogy but what we’ve found is a place that has seamlessly interwoven Christianity with a secular values, I guess you could say. It’s all about academic excellence, creativity, leadership, by the way the foundation for all those things is being a good relationship with the church.

She comes home all the time with scripture we need to know.

I found myself counseling one of her friends. He said he was an atheist, I’m an atheist. Ok. You’re an atheiset. He was so upset with what he was being taught in Bible class. I said ok do this, study it as though it is absolutely factual 100 percent and at the end of it, you’ll know what that is, and you’ll have an informed viewpoint. But if you fight it the whole way through, then you’re not getting anything. He did great.

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey


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