momsnightout-posterI admit that I was a little tense going in to Jon and Andrew Erwin’s Moms’ Night Out when I saw that it was being billed as a “Christian comedy.” Nothing against movies that are aimed at people of faith, but the few that I’ve seen have been fairly heavy-handed with their religious message and I didn’t feel like being preached to in a family comedy. But this film, starring Sarah Drew and Sean Astin, doesn’t go there at all. Yes, the characters come from a religious background, but the film doesn’t attempt to pit their beliefs against anyone else’s. I’ve always admired Sarah Drew and how her character on Grey’s Anatomy, Dr. April Kepner, also a woman of faith, is presented as a fully rounded human being devoid of the usual stereotypes. Drew, a real-life preacher’s daughter, does the same thing here with Allyson, a harried mother who simply wants to have one grown-up night out with her friends. I think you can guess that things don’t quite go according to plan! I enjoyed sitting down with Sarah Drew and Sean Astin (who plays her husband in the film).

Danny Miller: When I heard this film was being referred to as a “Christian comedy,” I have to say that I was nervous since I’m not exactly part of that demographic. But I was delighted that the film didn’t try to shove anything down my throat.

Sarah Drew: For me, it’s a family comedy that just happens to be about three church ladies. It’s really about motherhood and family — the fact that they’re Christians is just the lens that we’re seeing this story play out through.

Sean Astin: I understand why that term has some baggage for you. Unfortunately, Christians can often be the worst ambassadors for Christianity. This movie is the best face of modern Christianity — it’s about love and triumph of family. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your station is, sometimes you’re just not happy in your life, things don’t feel right. And the journey of self-discovery that you need to take when you’re feeling that way to help you connect with your family, connect with your friends, and interact with your culture is ultimately very positive and inclusive.

Sarah: This story is all about honoring moms and what people go through in their families. It’s definitely not a shoving-a-message-down-your-throat kind of thing!

Sean: It’s sad that the phrase “family values” has been politicized to such a degree. I think the people of faith who are lining up in droves to support this movie are relieved at how this story presents itself. I think they’re tired of being spoken for by people who are antagonistic toward others. It is definitely not consistent with the message of Christ to be derisive or to be negative about other people. The overriding premise of the story of Jesus Christ is forgiveness.

Did you bring your own experiences with your families to these characters?

Sarah: Yes, I think we all did. It was such a collaboration. We were always hashing things out and adding our own stories and anecdotes. What do we say when we’re in an argument with our husbands? What do we do in this and that situation? There was a constant conversation about how to make this story as grounded in reality and relatable as possible.

Sean: Every scene in the movie is infused with the personal situation of our lives. There was lots of improvisation that sprang from personal experience.

Sarah: I have a two-year-old myself. And our filmmakers are family men and they drew from their experiences left and right so it ended up just being this big mishmash of everyone’s personal journeys all put together in one hilarious ball of goodness. I related to my character on so many levels.


How was it working with all those kids?

Sean: The filmmakers were so intuitively elegant with how they organized the shooting day according to the rhythms of children’s personalities instead of being rigidly fixed on a shooting schedule where you have to force the kid to do something in a moment when they don’t want to do it. The way they handled it was very clever and emotionally intelligent.

In the film, Patricia Heaton is married to a pastor and at one point her daughter complains how a pastor’s daughter always has to be so perfect. Sarah, did you have that feeling growing up?

Sarah: You really do live in a fishbowl as a pastor’s kid, no doubt about it, but my parents were really wonderful about giving us freedom and letting us take the space to find God on our own terms. They didn’t force us to go to Bible Study or anything that we weren’t interested in. My brother and I found our way in our own time and I will be forever grateful to my parents for that. But I will say that I put very unrealistic expectations on myself in every area of my life, starting in high school when I decided I would never get anything below an A. I lived in that prison of perfectionism for a long time.

I think the scene when your character expresses her frustration with her life, despite having everything she ever wanted, is really well done.

Sean: That’s my favorite scene in the film. You can see my character’s frustration in that moment because he doesn’t know what to do.

Sarah: I think there are so many women who seemingly have everything but because they’re making their lives crazy and trying to be everything for everyone they don’t feel any joy. I think looking at that and actually saying those words out loud gives moms out there who have felt those things an opportunity to relate to that and to deal with their guilt. “How dare I be unhappy for a split second?” But if you always stuff those feelings down, they just fester.

Sean: Because of the way Sarah portrays those feelings, I think the film might help people learn about how to deal with this kind of unanswerable question. I hope guys watching the movie will think about what they would do in that situation. Maybe they like how my character responds or maybe they think they could do it much better. The best thing about my character is that he’s not defensive in that moment even though he’s frustrated that he has little to offer her. I think guys will identify with that.

Sarah: I love that my character is allowed to go through all that. In the end, she just recognizes and accepts that she’s a mess — but a beautiful mess, and that’s enough!


It’s a nice message, and one that I think your character on Grey’s Anatomy conveys as well. Knowing you come from a religious background, were your parents worried about you wanting to be an actor?

My parents are amazing. They saw that I had a gift which they considered a gift from God and they did everything possible to support me in this journey. My dad and I did community theater together when I was little and my mom worked on the stage crew.

When you moved here, were you worried about some of the parts you might have to play? Don’t most new actresses have to go through a period playing junkie prostitutes?

(Laughs.) I had some fear when I was starting out. I worried what I’d do if I was offered something that I felt might compromise my morals. But, you know, that never really happened. I’ve turned down a couple of things but at the end of the day they weren’t the right projects for me to do professionally, anyway. There’s not really a moral dilemma. I know that there are some conservative groups that are very opposed to anything in Hollywood that isn’t specifically Christian but I just don’t think that way. I think there’s truth and beauty and goodness and grace and everything we hold dear as people of faith in all stories — including ones that show the darkest times and people who are completely broken. It’s the entire human experience.

Sean, we talked last month about your political radio show, Vox Populi, which just started its second season. It’s such a great show.

Sean: Thank you! I’ve been surreptitiously working on it in the middle of the premiere and the press junket for this film! Our first new episode aired last week and we’ll be live every Thursday from 12 to 2 (PST). All the shows are also archived so you can listen to them whenever you want. I’m really excited about this season.

Do you ever get through a day without someone asking you about Lord of the Rings or Goonies?

Not really! Especially since Dick Donner decided to cork off to TMZ about a Goonies sequel! I think that absolutely will happen and if they want me to be involved in it, I’m sure we’ll be able to work it out.

Moms’ Night Out is currently in theaters everywhere. Click here to find out where it’s playing near you.