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November 20, 2012

'Odd Life of Timothy Green' star Odeya Rush: Being different is beautiful


Like her character, Joni Jerome, in Disney’s “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” out on DVD and Blu-ray Dec. 4, Odeya Rush is wise, unique and insightful. She was born in Israel and moved to the United States when she was 9 years old. The talented, 15-year-old, up-and-coming star has always known she’s wanted to act. Her early days of performing include putting on plays to keep her two sets of younger twin brothers entertained.

In the film, Joni is a complex, somewhat estranged girl, who slowly begins to open up after meeting the strange but loveable Timothy Green, played by CJ Adams, and the two form a special bond. The movie embodies a lot of firsts — first loves, first losses, first-time parenting challenges, first mistakes. Everyone will be able to relate to something in the film that’s available just in time for the holidays.

First of all, your name is so beautiful. What were your parents’ inspirations when they were choosing your name?
It’s an interesting story, actually… I’m Jewish [and] … it’s from the [Old Testament].... They thought of many other names, but they couldn’t exactly agree. My dad just opened the book and the first sentence he saw, it was in Hebrew… My name, Odeya, means “Thank God.” So that’s where they found it.

How long have you known you wanted to be an actress?
Ever since I was very young. Ever since I could remember. I’ve always performed. I’ve done plays at home. I have four younger brothers; they’re actually two sets of twins. They’re one year apart. So we had four babies at home at one time. My mom just wanted me to do something with them …. go keep them occupied. So I would sit them on the steps — one set on one step and the other set on the step above — and I would put shows on, you know, do things that I saw from TV shows or whatever my teacher did at school or things that I’ve come up with myself, so I’ve always been a performer since a really young age.

Do you go to school?
I go to regular public school. And when I’m on set, I do school on set.

What’s your favorite subject?
Math or history.

How did you prepare for your role as Joni? Were there any particular personal experiences you drew from?
I think for the majority of the film, Joni feels estranged from her environment. And when Timothy comes in, he kind of … makes [her life] better because she doesn’t like … being different and strange. And there are things about me that kind of set me apart from the rest of the people I hang out with and people I know. So I drew that and installed it into my character, Joni. And just things that have happened in my life or things that I’ve seen happen to other people — I put that all into my interpretation of who Joni is.

How was having Timothy around comforting for Joni?
Joni [has a] birthmark; [it] is something she was born with, and it’s not something you can change about yourself. It’s … the way you enter the universe. She wants to hide it. She doesn’t like it. She thinks it makes her different and ugly, but Timothy encourages her to expose it and tells her that the thing that sets her apart actually makes her more beautiful. And you have to learn to accept those things about yourself because you cannot change them. And if you don’t learn to accept those things, then other people won’t accept you for them.

How has meeting Timothy changed Joni?
Throughout the film, Timothy opens Joni up and kind of makes her … sweeter and accepting and welcoming and warm, and I think now she’s going down much easier times becoming friends with … people. She’s going to be more approachable and nicer … and let people in more. I think that’s what Timothy did; he opened her up to the world and showed her that, you know, you don’t have to be so cold and mean and guarded.

Why does Timothy’s mother, Cindy (Jennifer Garner), think Joni is a bad influence on Timothy?
I think it’s a combination of things. Timothy is just entering Cindy’s life, and she doesn’t want suddenly for her child to be torn away and spending so much time with this other female. I think it’s a mixture of jealousy and also … really a lot of protection. … You have to think of it as Timothy is almost her newborn baby because this is the first time she’s ever had a child or been a parent, and she’s so protective and always thinking, ‘I wonder if this could hurt my child. I don’t want that to happen. I’d rather him be unhappy for this moment than for him to get hurt later on.’ So I think it’s a mixture of protection and jealousy. ... Joni was a little strange at first, but Cindy gets to know her… and then appreciates that her son is actually spending time with someone who’s so … special.

What was your most memorable moment from filming the movie?
Definitely filming the underwater scene; I thought that was really cool. I learned how to scuba dive. All the hand signals from under water and filming under water is just really insanely cool. And I want to do it again because, you know, it’s not something you get to do every day.

How does scuba diving help you film the underwater scene?
When you’re filming under water, between takes, I have the oxygen that I breathe from, and they say ‘action,’ and I give it to the guy who’s holding the tank, and then I do my scene really quickly, and then they say ‘cut,’ and I come back and get more air.

Do you remember how many takes that scene took?
I think from every angle we did about three or four. We took two days to do that scene because we had one day for the outdoor and the diving in and the birthday party, and then we did the whole other day just for under water.

Did you make any lasting friendships on set? Is there anyone you still keep in touch with or maybe hope to work with again?
Yes, many people. I think definitely Peter Hedges, the director; he’s very close to not just me but my entire family. His family, we hang out a lot now, so I developed a friendship with Peter and Jennifer [Garner] and Joel [Edgerton] and CJ [Adams] and also a lot of the crew. I have a lot of makeup artist and props and everyone, and we still stay in touch. … I’m very thankful for doing this movie because of the friendships that I formed.

What is your next upcoming acting role?
I’m doing movie called “Mary, Mother of Christ,” where I will be playing the title role, Mary. It’s with Ben Kingsley and Peter O’Toole, and I’m so psyched about that, and I cannot wait. Then I have another film called “The Locals” … and I’m playing the lead there, too, so those are some big things that are coming up.

Photo/Phil Bray ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114)

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Holding Leo's Hand: Watching Little Brother

"How many autistic children do you have?"

The question stunned me. We had brought Leo, 3, and his brother Angelo, 1, to an event at Nova Southeastern University, where other autistic children and their parents had an opportunity to relax, play and mingle. Leo was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, which is on the Autism Spectrum, earlier this year. We enrolled him at the Baudhuin Preschool, where he's getting the kind of intensive educational treatment he needs to adapt to his condition and thrive. We're pleased at the progress he's been making so far. We know we have a long way to go.

"How many autistic children do you have?"

Why had it not occurred to me, before I was asked this question, to even wonder whether Leo's little brother might be facing the same challenge?

Angelo is now 18 months old. He's definitely talking more than Leo did at his age. In fact, there are times when it seems Angelo's brain moves faster than his mouth -- he wants to say things, to communicate things, but doesn't yet know the words or how to articulate them. He strikes us all as, dare we say it, "normal."

According to a recent study, the younger sibling of a child with autism has a little less than a 20 percent chance of developing the disorder. That's a higher number than I want to confront. I see my younger son laughing on a swing, running to hug me or his Mommy, saying "cheers!" whenever Mickey picks a mouse-ka-tool. I see him stacking blocks, seven, eight, nine high (Leo could barely do seven, even when he was older than that). I don't see Angelo lining up his toys, something Leo used to do with regularity.

Is Angelo going to develop PDD or some other form of autism? We do not know. We are not worried. We'll look for the signs. We'll talk to our pediatrician. We won't be afraid.

"How many autistic children do you have?"

As many as we can love.

POSTED IN: Autism Spectrum (5), Rafael Olmeda 2012 (5), Toddler (127)

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November 1, 2012

Chris Pine: ‘Rise of the Guardians’ is like ‘The Avengers’ for kids


Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Sandman — we all know who they are, but what we didn’t know is that they’re part of an elite superhero-like force, the Guardians, who silently watch over and protect us during their off seasons.
At least that’s the premise for DreamWords Animation’s newest film, “Rise of the Guardians,” in theaters Nov. 21. Children’s imaginations, dreams and beliefs are at stake in this film, as evil spirit Pitch seeks to take over the world.
South Florida Parenting recently caught up with Chris Pine, who told us about his character in the movie, Jack Frost, whom the Guardians enlist to help defeat the enemy, Pitch. But it’s not all fun and games for Jack, who’s also seeking to figure out his place and purpose in life.

Can you tell us a little bit about your character?
Well, I play a character named Jack Frost, who is the spirit of mischief and fun, and he’s the guy that brings snow days and snowball fights. And he’s been asked by the rest of the Guardians of childhood comprised of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny [and] Sandman, the bringer of dreams. He’s been asked to join them in order to fight off this enemy called Pitch, voiced by Jude Law, who is the bringer of nightmares and fear and anxiety. And really the story is about belief and the power of the imagination. And the power of the imagination … conquers all.

Jack Frost is commonly portrayed as sinister and a villain. How is he different in this movie, and what is it about him that the Guardians need to fight the enemy?
It’s a hard question because it’s kind of central to the story. I mean, Jack in our story is not the villain… He’s kind of the spirit of fun… It’s like he has a wink in his eye all the time. Jack is asked to come onboard as one of the Guardians, and Jack’s been a loner all of his existence, and he’s never really felt like he’s been part of a group. And he’s never really felt like he’s belonged, and he doesn’t remember where exactly he’s from. So Jack’s journey in this movie is wrapped up into all those questions of who am I, and what am I about, and what is my purpose? And it’s kind of really a central human question. So I think what people attach to, whether you are an adult or a kid, are these real pivotal questions that we all deal with…

People of all ages often are drawn to animated films, but what do you think children in particular will take away from this movie?
Well, I think what’s fun about it is that it’s all these characters and names we’ve grown up believing in. … I remember growing up myself that I believed ... Santa Claus, obviously, and the Tooth Fairy and Sandman... And, you know, even Jack Frost I remember from the Christmas carols. So I think what’s interesting is to have all these [discrete] characters from … childhood linked up and united as kind of one force and seeing them together. So I think the story is unique, and I think also visually it’s a lot different than what kids have seen. There is … a superhero element to this film… This is … “The Avengers” for young kids.

What got you excited about being part of this film and playing your character?
I guess really what excited me about the film was the opportunity to work with all these wonderful actors and film makers. I’m a huge fan of Alec [Baldwin] (North) and Hugh [Jackman] (E. Aster Bunnymund). And I know with [Co-Executive Producer] Guillermo’s [del Toro] involvement it sounded like it was going to be a different kind of film. And I loved the idea of all of these characters … we all knew as children and kind of grew up believing in — this idea that they all knew one another. … I thought it was a unique take on a universally shared series of stories. And the idea of linking them together I thought was very interesting.

This is your first time doing an animated movie. How does it compare to doing live action? Do you have a preference?
I don’t prefer one to the other. They are definitely different beasts, for sure. The big challenge that I had in animation … is that the only tool you have — the only instrument you have — is your voice. You have to really use and modulate your voice to paint the picture of the character because the rest is … up to the animators. So I learned a great deal watching and listening to Alec [Baldwin], who, as you can tell even from the trailer, has an incredible ability to control and shift and shape his own voice...

When you work on an animated movie, do you mostly do solitary work in the booth?
You know, it’s a really odd way to make a film. Film making is such a collaborative experience; usually, when you get on set, … you have all different kinds of film makers, and you have the … prop people and the camera men, the camera operators, the loaders, the costumers, the writers, the directors, the producers… The animated film is a lot more piecemeal. You rarely get a chance to meet everybody until … way far down the line. So most of the work was done in a booth by myself. You’re with the director, the producer and the creative team, and I only got one opportunity to work with another actor, which was Alec [Baldwin], which was great.

What is it about your family that made you who you are today? And what was the best advice you learned from your parents?
… I was lucky to have a strong family; [my parents have] been together for over 40 years, and so I was very lucky in that respect. … There is not one particular best piece of advice, but I think a lot of times actions speak louder than words, obviously, and I felt at least growing up a constant belief in me from my parents. So I always felt like no matter what I chose to do or who I ended up becoming, I would be loved regardless. And that implicit support is probably more important than anything.

You seem to have a natural knack for comedy. What’s your favorite kind of character to play? Do you like to play funny, romantic, tough, animated?
I think you’ve kind of hit them all. I think in acting you get a chance to do everything. … I love action, and … I used to pretend that I was a spy when I was a kid. … I love comedy; I like characters that don’t take themselves all that seriously and can be made fun of.

Photo/DreamWorks Animation

POSTED IN: Entertainment (114)

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About the authors
Gretchen Day-Bryant has a son in high school and a daughter in middle school. She’s lived to tell about the struggles of juggling little kids and work.
Joy Oglesby has a preschooler...
Cindy Kent Fort Lauderdale mother of three. Her kids span in ages from teenager to 20s.
Rafael Olmeda and his wife welcomed their first son in Feb. 2009, and he's helping raise two teenage stepdaughters.
Lois Solomonlives with her husband and three daughters.
Georgia East is the parent of a five-year-old girl, who came into the world weighing 1 pound, 13 ounces.
Brittany Wallman is the mother of Creed, 15, and Lily, 7, and is married to a journalist, Bob Norman. She covers Broward County government, which is filled with almost as much drama as the Norman household. Almost.
Chris Tiedje is the Social Media Coordinator and the father of a 7-year-old girl, and two boys ages 4 and 3.
Kyara Lomer Camarena has a 2-year-old son, Copelan, and a brand new baby.

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