By Nicole Pelletiere
Wife, mom, and former Clueless star—just when you think Elisa Donovan has done it all, she scores a new role in the ABC Family franchise, The Dog Who Saved Christmas. Just days after the DVD release of her latest movie, The Dog Who Saved the Holidays, Elisa chatted with us about experiencing her first pregnancy on-set, and how she balances her career with family life.
The new movie tells the story of two dogs trying to stop thieves from breaking into their family’s home. What makes the film so appealing to kids and families?
The DVD series is great for the whole family. There’s something about talking dogs—kids just love them. The comedy and humor is great for adults; the dynamic between husbands and wives, parents and children—there really is something for everyone.
When I found out that I was pregnant, I had to tell the producers. They decided to write it into the script and I didn’t know what it would be like. I was never pregnant before and I didn’t know how I was going to feel during filming. But I was very active after the first trimester. It ended up being an enjoyable experience—plus, you know, everyone’s always nice to the pregnant person! The things I would usually stress out about at work weren’t so important anymore—you discover what’s really important. Now Scarlett will be able to see herself in the movie and I can say, “Look, you were in it!”
Tell us about your character, Belinda Bannister. How does she differ from other roles you’ve played?
She’s so sweet, very kind, and a little bit wacky! I always played the antagonist, but in this movie I get to play the Mom that everyone loves. She’s sweet and supportive—much nicer than the characters I’ve played in my twenties.
What’s your favorite holiday tradition that you and your family celebrate each year?
We usually have somewhere between 15 and 20 people at my mom’s house. We do a grab bag, too, and the limit for the gift amount is $30 dollars. It has spawned a series of funny gifts. We have this piggy bank alarm clock that comes back into the grab bag every year and it’s the most ridiculous thing—it has become a tradition in its own to avoid picking it out of the bag.
What’s it like juggling motherhood, being a wife, working all at once? How do you manage?
If I had the choice, I would have planned everything beforehand, but life works on its own timetable. Things were different for [my husband] Charlie and I: We couldn’t get overly consumed in things like planning the wedding. It was an equalizer that somehow allowed us to enjoy everything that was happening, and a conscience choice to do what was right in front of us. As far as work and motherhood goes, it was easier to work when I was pregnant. It’s a whole different story when the child is outside of you and needs attention 24/7, and an everyday thing to figure out how to balance. As parents, Charlie and I are very much believers in exposing Scarlett to our lives. We do not believe that we can’t handle the challenges. We’ve found childcare for her and I’m able to incorporate her into what I’m doing. In this way it’s been very lovely. But when I go back to work shooting again, it will be a lot to tackle.
Could you describe a typical weekly routine?
Scarlett just started sleeping through the night, which is beautiful. We get up in the morning and I bring her into my bed. We hang out a little bit and then she eats. I am introducing solids now (she’s 6 months old), but she’s not interested in it. After that, she usually plays around on her activity pad while I do writing and answer emails. On the days when the sitter comes, we go for walks. I also just started taking her to mommy-and-me yoga classes, which is nice. When her dad gets home in the afternoon, the three of us go for walks together.
Any advice for moms who are stressed from having too much on their plates?
Stress is really debilitating. The best advice I can give to anyone is to really have patience with yourself and to have patience with your baby. Just know that we are built to do this. Take deep breaths and know that it’s all instinct—you can’t always try to control it. For instance, if Scarlett isn’t napping when I want her to, then I know I am not supposed to take a shower at that time. It’s a humbling, humbling, experience being a parent. You must trust that nothing lasts forever with your child; there’s always an upside and something beautiful that comes out of it.
Can we expect any more little ones in the future?
Ah, that’s the question of the hour! It’s my husband’s question at least. Charlie and I both had siblings growing up and we do want Scarlett to have a buddy. We are realistic of deciding when that’s the right time, though. I do have to think about my age and all that. There’s also a literal—when we are settled and have managed our time with Scarlett, then yes! It is inherently divine having children. I trust that when it happens, it is meant to be.