BY Jeremy Kinser
December 15 2010 10:05 PM ET
What impact has Prayers for Bobby had on you personally?
For me, the great realization is there but for the grace of God go I. I have the great advantage of living in New York and knowing, working, and loving many gay people. I don’t have the same ignorance and prejudice that Mary did, but I have the same desire to protect my children. And so now it’s even more heartbreaking to read about these kids who are so isolated and ostracized that they can’t turn to their parents or a family friend and say, “I don’t feel my life is worth living.” We have to let people know about PFLAG and the Trevor Project and all these other ways for young people to find that it’s completely natural the way they’re feeling and they have every reason to feel that way and their parents or friends will come around.
As a mother, how difficult was it for you to play someone as narrow-minded as Mary?
I have to say that when I first read the script I think the last person I thought I could play was Mary. I couldn’t understand her actions or her attitude. I think for me it was a real journey of discovery of how close we were as mothers. The terrible irony of what Mary did was that she tried to protect her son. She would be the first person to say that it was her ignorance and prejudice that made her not listen to him and not recognize the legitimacy of his choice. It was an eye-opener to me to see the genesis of where her rejection of him came from. It didn’t really come from faith; it came from fear.
What response have you had from parents of gay children?
I’ve had a number of people come to me and say, “My daughter is gay. Thanks for the movie.” People from Italy have asked when the movie is coming to Italy. I’ve gotten very moving e-mail from kids, who say, “My mother wasn’t speaking to me. She took away my cell phone and I was grounded, but she saw the movie and we’re close again.” It’s a true story, unfortunately.
You’ve played a lot of obviously strong characters throughout your career, but many of them also seem to be outsiders or somewhat marginalized. Did that help you relate to this project?
Yes, but I have to say that Prayers for Bobby is completely unique in my experience. I’ve played people who were marginalized and were loners, but Mary was so different. She’s such a strong person now, but at the time she was so fearful — not only of what would happen to Bobby but what would happen to her and her family, and not just in this life but in the next life. Her conversion to a God of unconditional love is one of the most profound things I’ve ever come across. She’s really extraordinary, so I keep her in a whole separate category. Also, she’s still alive, so I got to sit down with her and go through her Bible underlined in all these crazy colors [laughs]. I got to really talk about this other Mary with her, which is something I never got to do with Dian Fossey [the late primatologist Weaver portrayed in 1988’s Gorillas in the Mist].