Director Katie Locke O’Brien On How She Balances Work And Motherhood
Her honesty is refreshing.
Any parent will tell you — everything changes once kids are in the picture.
For actor, writer and director Katie Locke O’Brien, having her son, Julian, came with a special set of challenges. She’d been working in both New York City and Los Angeles for years as an actress, as well as writing and directing her own independent productions. Then, in 2017, Julian came along.
“My husband is also a TV writer and he got his very first show picked up to series on my due date,” said O’Brien. “And then I was home with this newborn, like, ‘Oh my God, what happened?'”
Still, with a little nudging from friends, O’Brien applied to a new initiative at NBC called Female Forward, a program that fosters women directors and offers opportunities within the network’s scripted TV series. While she waited to hear about Female Forward, O’Brien wrote, directed and starred in a comedy short, “Have It All,” based on her experiences as a new mom in the L.A. hustle.
Then everything changed again. O’Brien was accepted into the first class of Female Forward and directed an episode of the network’s buzzy comedy series “A.P.Bio.” Meanwhile, “Have It All” racked up award nominations and wins at short-film festivals.
“Practically overnight, all this stuff just took off,” said O’Brien.
Just after her episode of “A.P.Bio” aired on April 11, O’Brien took a moment to chat with Simplemost about her network directing debut and the unspoken expectations for working moms.
You already have lots of experience on set as an actress. How was it sitting in the director’s chair?
It was the best thing ever. I had been on TV sets a lot as an actress but had written, directed and produced my own independent work. And that is absolutely boot camp. That’s sort of how you develop your voice.
People were like, “Oh, are you sure you’re ready for network?” I was like, “Oh, you mean doing what I already do, but with money and help?”
The only worrying part for me was deciding that I deserved to be there. At a certain point, I was like, “This is dumb. I know what I’m doing here.” And I didn’t have to make lunch for everybody in the middle of the day.
How do you balance the huge demands of parenting and working in Hollywood as an actor and director?
I feel like every day the answer is different. One the one hand, I don’t understand how it must be to have a regular sort of 9 to 5 job … but it’s hard to be in a job that’s kind of freelance — no predictability to it, but it’s so self-driven. It’s the Catch-22: If you’re doing one, you feel guilty that you’re not doing the other one. The pendulum swings both ways.
I think you just do your best and try to reassess all the time — check in with yourself.
Do you think things are changing for the better for women in your industry?
Not yet. I think certainly people are doing what they can to be more supportive. Even I, in my pre-parenthood life, didn’t think about these things. For me, what was important [in “Have It All”] is that none of the characters is the enemy, the expectations are the enemy: Be a perfect mom, and still not drop a tiny piece of your workload, and show up with a perfect blowout.
If I want to have a career, I have to pretend that nothing has changed — when everything has changed. Because it’s not really part of the conversation in society. There’s this weird sense that we should pretend it’s not hard.
There’s so much space between the types of moms you see onscreen … their kids are total hellions or [the moms are] drunk disasters. On any given day, I’m not a disaster and I don’t hate it! It’s hard. Even when it goes well, it’s a mess.
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
I have a couple of shows that I’m just starting to pitch as a writer. Then, really, because my episode [of “A.P. Bio”] has aired now, the next month will be hardcore pounding the pavement so I can keep directing for the rest of the year.