- Nia Vardalos wrote the runaway hit movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"
- Her struggle with infertility and the adoption of her child inspired the book "Instant Mom"
- She wrote the book to advocate for foster care and adoption after her experiences
- Vardalos says that going from red carpet to kid duty isn't seamless
Actress, writer and director Nia Vardalos talks to CNN's Jack Gray about infertility, her new book and reprising the blockbuster role that made her famous.
CNN: OK, full disclosure, we're friends. I've been to your house for Thanksgiving. Your book is called "Instant Mom," so I'm assuming it's about how you'd like to adopt me. On the off chance it's not, please tell me what it's about and why you decided to write it.
Vardalos: True, we are one slumber party away from being BFFs. And it's all thanks to the virtual wine bar where nice people now connect: Twitter. OK, back to me. I wanted to write about the tenaciously stubborn quest for happiness I believe lies within all of us. Plus I'm trying to blow the lid off the silent failure women feel about infertility. For years, I was ashamed, then via foster care found my daughter ... when she was almost 3 years old. I didn't adopt a baby. Hence the title.
CNN: People feel like they know you by way of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" -- because that was a personal film in many ways -- but this book is actually much more personal, much more emotional. Was it tough to write? Because you're actually a very private person.
Vardalos: I am nauseous from the acid reflux I'm having because I am going public in this book. Sure, I enjoy making fun of my family for fun and profit, but to reveal vulnerable truths like this is completely unlike me. However, I have a nagging feeling that the success of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" happened because I'm supposed to be using my big mouth to talk about adoption.
CNN: You're primarily identified with comedies. Was it difficult to write about the incident when you were the victim of a crime?
Vardalos: Terrifying. When I finished that chapter, I debated keeping it in because, well, now people will know. And although I describe it in what was, for me, excruciating detail, I eventually found the humor in the experience when I was writing about it because of the human idiocy I encountered after the incident. Anyway, it may be a mistake, but I kept it in. Then I told my mom.
CNN: What have you learned from your own mom? And, for that matter, what have you learned from Lainie Kazan, who played your mother in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"?
Vardalos: My mom taught me to always conduct yourself as if a video camera is on you at all times. Lainie Kazan taught me to never sleep with my co-stars.
CNN: Let's talk about the title, "Instant Mom." Be honest, did your publisher want to call it "My Big Fat Greek fill-in-the-blank-with-something-about-parenting"?
Vardalos: Here's a humblebrag: There were about 10 offers for this autobiography, and several wanted to call it "My Big Fat Greek Baby." Which is why I went with HarperCollins.
CNN: What's that "instant" transformation like? One minute it's game night with Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, and the next minute you have a daughter in preschool, right?
Vardalos: Yep, one evening I'm waving on a red carpet whilst sucking in my gut, and the next day I was waving goodbye to my daughter as she walked into preschool, whilst sucking back my snot-bawling and wiping her spilled apple juice out of my Prada purse.
CNN: Adoption advocacy, particularly adoption for children in foster care, is something you've been vocal about since long before you wrote this book. Do you feel like you're making progress?
Vardalos: No. That's why I wrote this book. I wanted to write about these kids and the compassionate work these social workers and adoption attorneys do to place them in permanent homes. I call them super-pretty angels. Even the men. There is a how-to-adopt appendix, fully vetted by a social worker. This is the book I wished was out there when I was searching for credible information on how to adopt.
CNN: But it's not just a book about adoption. It's actually not even a mom book. I think it's for everyone.
Vardalos: Oh, you're good. Keep that in.
CNN: Rachel Dratch, who, like you, is very funny and very smart, said your book made her laugh and cry, which is kind of the highest of compliments, rights?
Vardalos: It is. I wrote this book in the same way I wrote "My Big Fat Greek Wedding": I simply sat alone and poured my guts out into a computer keyboard, not caring how it would be received, not letting my mind wander into worrying what people would think of me. I didn't show it to anyone until it was printed, so it would be too late to make changes. I wanted to write unfettered by critique and concern on how it would be received or what it would do to my image. It's the most honest I've ever been, and yes, I'm petrified. But I write in the prologue that if something scares me, I tend to lean into it. I'm not brave. I'm more of a fearless idiot.
CNN: Your husband, Ian Gomez (who stars in TBS's "Cougar Town"), cooks a nice chicken dinner; you cook really good lasagna. Whose food does your daughter prefer?
Vardalos: Her grandmother's.
CNN: How did parenthood change your Hollywood life? Less clubbing, I assume.
Vardalos: No, you've been over for dinner. You see we still snort poppers after dessert.
CNN: My Greek grandmother will yell at me if I don't ask you about the chances of a sequel to "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." I know you've got a book tour to focus on, but at least give me something to tell her on our weekly phone call.
Vardalos: Tell her hi from me, and yes, I have been approached to the write the sequel. I am finally coming around to the idea of doing it because (co-star) John Corbett and I hung out recently, singing and playing guitars until 3 a.m. In that moment of clarity that only comes with too much wine and the haze of approaching dawn, I suddenly visualized where Toula and Ian end up. I saw their world very clearly. Toula and Ian's life is very similar to the easy and solid friendship I felt with John that night. But with less guitars.
CNN: This has been fun. Let's go ask your husband to cook us some chicken.
Vardalos: He said he will in the morning, but for now we have to shut up and put the dogs out.
"Instant Mom" by Nia Vardalos will be released by HarperCollins on April 2.