Kyra Sedgwick on Directing Husband Kevin Bacon and Daughter Sosie in Her New Movie
It's been 35 years since Kyra Sedgwick made her screen debut on the NBC soap opera Another World, and now the Emmy-winning actress is giving another Hollywood profession a shot—this time behind the camera.
This Sunday night, the 51-year-old star makes her directorial debut with Story of A Girl, airing at 8 p.m. ET on Lifetime. And it's an exciting night for Sedgwick's entire family: Both her husband, Kevin Bacon, and her daughter, 13 Reasons Why star Sosie Bacon, have supporting roles.
Based on Sara Zarr’s 2007 novel of the same name, Story of a Girl follows a young teen (Ryann Shane) whose life is turned upside down after an explicit video of her and an older boy goes viral.
The heartbreaking read struck a chord with Sedgwick. "To me, the most fascinating thing about this story is that it’s called Story of a Girl," Sedgwick recently told InStyle. "It’s a heroine’s journey about how she can grab hold of her own narrative and change it. She did something at 13—but we see her dealing with the consequences of her actions [well after that]. That includes living with a father who can’t look her in the eye, being slut-shamed at school, and continuing to get herself into bad situations in the hopes that it will be different this time."
Sedgwick felt personally connected to the story, she said. "It resonated so much with me—her insight, what it’s like to feel really crappy about yourself, and what it’s like to try to find an identity in the midst of everyone projecting an identity onto you. She goes to this really dark place and comes back with the strength of Wonder Woman. She is a f—ing badass.”
Here, Sedgwick opens up about what it's like to direct family, the advice she's given 25-year-old Sosie about Hollywood, and why she and her husband use the term “cyberballs” to talk about online bullying with their kids.
VIDEO: Watch the Trailer for Netflix's 13 Reasons Why
What initially drew you to this project?
I bought the novel Story of a Girl in 2007, and I’ve been trying to get the movie made ever since. It’s been that long. I just loved the book, and I found it to be timeless in it’s understanding of what it’s like to be a teenage girl. There was also this dysfunctional family at the center of it. I’m fascinated by how, as humans, we are the products of our upbringing and environment and the ways we break away from that. How do we grow further than our parents? How do we break some of the bad traits in our family? And also things like how do we forgive ourselves for making a mistake? How do we forgive others for being angry at us because we make mistakes?
For you, what's the biggest difference between being behind and in front of the camera?
Being behind the camera, you just don’t have the anxiety of having to get to a certain emotional place for the camera—and of getting it perfect. You don’t have that weight on your chest all day long. I felt like I had less pressure on me as a director, which doesn’t make any sense, but it is the way I felt.
It’s something that I didn’t think I had the knack for—but in some ways, I feel like I have more of a knack for it than acting at this point. I had been thinking about directing for a year before this opportunity came along, mostly because I got a lot of encouragement from people I love and people who love me, more so than from my own impetus. My husband was like, ‘This has got to be the year that you direct,’ and I was like, ‘That’s not happening.’ It ended up happening, and now I’ve completely fallen in love with it.
Was there any pressure involved with having your own family star in your directorial debut?
I was concerned about Sosie because I think it’s hard when your parents are looking at you critically—and as a director, you have to look at your actors critically and go, 'Okay, what do I want to change?' You're looking at them with love and support and cheerleading in the corner, of course, but you’re also thinking, 'How was it? Do I need to shift it? Do I need to do that again?’ I was concerned about that with Sosie, but when I told her that, funnily enough she said, 'Oh, I wasn’t worried about that at all. I just wanted to do a really good job.' You really never know what your children are thinking or feeling—even though as a mother, you think you always do.
You’ve been working to get this film made for so long. Did you always know that you wanted Kevin and Sosie for these roles?
I always wanted Kevin to play [his character] Michael, and he had said that he would do it. But then when it came time to actually shoot the movie, my friend who co-authored the script and produced it with me said, 'What about Sosie for Stacey?' I hadn’t even thought of it. I was like, 'Oh my god, that’s perfect.' She’s the perfect age for the part, and we were lucky to get her—she literally squeezed us in between Thirteen Reasons Why and a new Alan Ball show on HBO. She is on a roll, that kid. She was basically doing me a favor! My son, Travis, actually did the music for the film, which is incredible. I honestly had no intention of hiring him but asked if he could just pitch me a couple of ideas, and they were so beautiful that I fell in love with them and hired him.
When your family went home from set at the end of the day, did you talk about work?
We definitely talked about it. Kevin and I talk about our work all the time when we’re in something together—and even when we’re not in it together—so this was no different. When I was in prep, I talked to him a lot about the choices I was making. But when we were on set, it was very much director-actor. I was trying not to be mom and wife in those moments. Actually, it’s not that you’re trying not to be—it’s just that you have a focus on something else. And you don’t want to make everybody else uncomfortable by, like, making out in the corner or something!
When the book first came out, your kids were around the same age as the characters. Did you have them read it at the time?
Yes—I totally did! Sosie was actually a little younger in 2007, but she was like, ‘Oh my god, Mom, this is exactly what its like to be a teenager.’ That just tells you about the timelessness of this story. We updated it a bit, but the book and movie both just get it right about teenagers.
At the time, did you talk to your kids about how to protect yourself on the Internet?
I didn’t really have a clue. My son, Travis, was 8 when we got our first email, and I didn't know enough about how to shield them. I got more of a clue when they wouldn’t go to sleep at night because they were online, instant messaging while doing their homework. Then we started taking their phones and computers away at 10 o’clock every night.
I do know that they were hurt and cyber-bullied by people, and I’m sure they possibly did their share—although I can’t imagine that because they’re such good people. But they both definitely got cyber-bullied, and we were horrified and shocked. We actually coined a new phrase in our family—"cyberballs”—because, in person, you’d never have the balls to tell someone the kinds of things these kids would write.
The parents in your film struggle with that as well. How does your parenting approach compare to theirs?
I’ll say they are perfectly imperfect. As parents, we have no idea what we’re doing, and we just hope that were making the right choices and not completely f—ing our kids up. That’s really the truth of it. Kids tend to trigger your deep-seated s—t: stuff that you haven’t dealt with, your own fears, concerns, insecurities. So if you haven’t done any kind of interior work, you tend to project all of your worries, fears, and concerns onto them.
I think that this mother and father [in the movie] don’t have a lot of tools. They don’t go to therapy. They’re not super aware of how they feel about having seen their daughter having sex on the Internet. So I would say that the difference between me and these parents is that I have a lot more tools and awareness. But I certainly feel for them, and they’re trying to do the right thing, they just don’t know how to. We all make mistakes. We all screw up our kids. We can’t help it. We’re human.
Sosie starred in Netflix’s similarly heavy teen drama 13 Reasons Why. What kind of career advice have you and your husband given her about taking on such serious roles?
First of all, we don’t give our kids advice unless they ask! Most people don’t want to hear your advice, and if you wait until they want to hear it, they actually might listen. But honestly, the only advice I have for her—and I don’t know if I've even told her this—is to make sure you have a personal life. Because as Amy Poehler says, this business is like a bad boyfriend. They’ll love you one minute and tell you you’re the greatest thing in the world, and the next minute, they won’t call you and they’ll go out with another girl. It’s so not personal, but it feels really personal.
I think the best advice we’ve ever given her is our actions: We have a family, and that’s always been of paramount importance to us. And we work incredibly hard. I still go to acting coaches. We never stop learning, and we never stop trying to be better. She knows how hard it is, and she still chose it.
It sounds like she's inherited your work ethic. In what other ways does Sosie take after you and Kevin?
Both of my kids are who I want to be when I grow up. I feel like our kids are better versions of us, and they’ve taken after us only in that they’re kind and humble. That’s it. Everything else, they’ve just far surpassed us. They’re more together and aware of the world around them than we were at that age. I admire the hell out of both of them. It’s very scary out there right now to be a young person. And yet if you still have the courage to go out there and do what you need to do, be a good citizen, have your own convictions, and do the right thing even when everybody around you isn’t, that’s incredibly admirable.