Michelle Williams and Natalie Portman on Their Time as Child Actors: ''It's a Hard Childhood to Have''

Michelle Williams, Natalie Portman, Variety

Art Streiber for Variety

Other than the fact that they’re both successful actresses, it may not seem like Michelle Williams and Natalie Portman have a lot in common. 

However, they do have an interesting similarity between them: they both started in the industry around the age of 11, and they can also both agree it was a far cry from a “normal” childhood.

“It turned out all right. But it isn’t a life that I would want necessarily,” Williams explained, chatting with Portman in an interview for Variety magazine. “It’s a really long way, and not necessarily a very nice one. It’s a hard childhood to have—or a lack of a childhood to have.”

She continued, “I do love doing it, and I can’t really imagine doing anything else. I want to keep doing it. But when I see kids on the set, or when I work with kids in movies, I feel really torn about their role there.”

Portman agreed, noting, “We end up doing that a lot, too—more than men—because so many female parts are moms. I feel like I always work with a kid.”

Natalie Portman, Gotham Independent Film Awards

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Williams explained how that often leads to her acting on her motherly instincts. “I feel an extra protectiveness and also a desire to be like, ‘So, do you have any other interests?'”

The Jackie actress admitted she had a recent conversation about the same topic.

“Someone was saying recently: ‘Think about what you love when you’re 11. Adults who are feeling lost, try and regain that.’ And it’s funny that they pinpointed that age, because you say you started then,” she explained. “That’s when I started. I feel that there is something around that time where you do have an instinct about what you really love. I don’t know where it came from, because there’s no one in my family who was ever a performer.”

She revealed that she came a from a “serious academic family” full of doctors and lawyers.

“My dad pulled me aside when I was 25 and was like, ‘I think it’s time for you to go to law school or grad school.’ Not that he was saying that acting was bad, but more that he was like, ‘I think you’ll be more fulfilled if you have something more—like a life of the mind,'” Portman recalled. “So it took me a while, coming from that background, to be like, ‘This is what I want, and this is what I love. I enjoy this.'”

For that reason, Portman says she was motivated to get into directing. “I think it’s definitely motivated me to try other things, because I do find myself more fulfilled when I feel like I’m learning something from what I’m doing and pushing myself to new places.”

Read their full interview on Variety.

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