Felicity Huffman Dishes on Her Directorial Debut, Lesster

11/25/2010 at 07:00 PM ET

Felicity Huffman already has a lot on her plate — marriage, motherhood, her successful gig on Desperate Housewives. But the actress recently stepped up to tackle two more roles: director and writer.

This fall, Huffman signed on to Liberty Mutual’s Responsibility Project, a campaign encouraging people to do the right thing when it comes to caring for our environment. The Oscar-nominated actress wrote, directed and starred in a short film called Lesster, about a plucky boy who tries to show his parents that their actions are hurting our planet. (Actor Danny Glover directed another film for the cause.)

Huffman recently spoke to PEOPLE Moms & Babies about her film — and what she and her daughters are doing to help save the world, one step at a time.

Courtesy Liberty Mutual


Why did you get involved with the Responsibility Project?

I’ve been interested in the word ‘responsibility’ for a while. When you break it down, it’s your ability to respond. When people say, “I don’t take responsibility,” or “We need to take responsibility,” it comes down to, “Am I able to respond to the situation at hand?” That always interested me. On a moral, ethical and personal level, and for the global community, where we are now.

So I said I’d love to direct. But I have a friend — Eva Longoria — who always takes opportunities and makes more of them. I’m not that way, but I wanted to emulate her. So I said, “I’d like to direct … if I can write it.” And unfortunately, they said yes!

Is the environment a cause that’s close to your heart?

The environment is near and dear to my heart. It’s the start of everything. If we don’t have a clean planet, we can’t help save anything. I wanted to do a project about that. It was hard for me — I couldn’t quite find a way. It took me so many months to write, what, 10 pages, in a way that didn’t sound like scolding or preaching. All my early 10-page drafts were that way.

It took me calling my producer and saying, “I’m sorry, I have to cancel, my scripts are terrible.” And he said, “We have a month before we shoot, you can’t quit now!” After I gave up, I rethought it, and I came up with Lesster.

Was it hard to come up with the inspiration for the piece?

It’s interesting how it came about. I always had a little kid in it, but suddenly I thought, “What’d I like to do when I was a little kid? I liked to dress up!” I’d pin capes on my shoulders, put underwear on my head.

I was also talking to a friend of mine who said she’d had a fight with her husband because he always left the shower on forever. One day she came into the bathroom, the shower was full on and he was doing push-ups, and said he’d just put the water on, even though she knew he hadn’t. So it was a lot of pieces of common sense that came together.

What do you and your family do on a daily basis to help the environment?

At our house, we’re always trying to unplug things, turn off the light. And my daughters (Sofia Grace, 10, and Georgia Grace, 8½) point out hypocrisy. If I don’t turn off the lights, or I leave the water running, and they say something, I figure I’ve taught them well.

We also decorated recycling boxes, and once or twice a week collect items from our neighbors, go recycle them, get the money and donate it to an organization that plants trees across the globe. I’m making us sound more philanthropic than we are, though — we could always do a little more.

— Kate Hogan

FILED UNDER: Exclusive , News , Parenting

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mary on

Oh my Gosh, I swear they just took a page from my life, except that the child in my life is a 6 year old girl. My daughter is ALWAYS, ALWAYS telling myself, father, brothers and sister, classmates, teacher and her principle and strangers how to save the environment.

I carry gloves in our cars and because if we are in a parking lot and she sees garbage she will pick it up. Same at school during recess she will pick up garbage on the playground. Even while driving on the express way if she sees garbage in the road or on the side she will scream “we have to pull over and pick it up, it’s bad for our environment” at this point I tell her two things, one, we live in the city of Milwaukee, no animals live here, and if they do they are rats and I am sure our environment will do without a few mice. Two I could get hit by a truck and then you have that little problem. Her answer is always the same, “mommy you are wrong, our planet needs rats and you won’t get hit by a truck if you park off the road” so then I play the ‘tax card’ my very high taxes pay for a special truck to pick up all the garbage once a month and sometimes bad people who are in jail are made to pick up the garbage as a punishment. She always ponders this answer for a while and then will ask me to call the city to make sure they get that spot.

ARGH she can drive me insane at times. She is very persistent and insistent. But she is also right and so I am now more cautious about running water, lights and how much trash we make all because of her. But I will admit I have scary dreams that she is going to become a hoarder or join Greenpeace. At least that’s the joke we all have here at home.

Tee on

Mary, your daughter sounds precious! It’s wonderful that she takes such an interest in preserving the environment.

This was a neat interview to read! Thank you for posting it, People/CBB!

Sophie on

Yay for Felicity! It’s about time people become more educated about the environment, because let’s face it: a lot of people still don’t get it (or are too narrow-minded and don’t WANT to get it). Anyway, I really hope it will make a difference.

@ Mary: I can totally understand that it becomes annoying after a while if your daughter wants to pick up every piece of dirt she finds on the side of the road, but you should also keep in mind that it’s actually a very good thing. It means that she’s a very bright and intelligent young girl who cares about the planet and every little creature living on it. TOTALLY LOVE HER FOR THAT! Bless her!

sara on

global warming, blah, blah, blah. This is all a bunch of crap. Mary, where did your child learn all that crap? Who is the parent here? If my child yelled at me to pull over and startled me while driving, she would be doing it with a lisp because she would be missing her teeth at that point. She learned her crazy ways somewhere, my guess would be a combination of the liberal school district where you live and at home with her nutcase parents.

JM on

sara…troll? what the hell is the matter with you? i hope you don’t have children!

sara on

As a matter of fact, I have 5 with 1 on the way and I am a horrible Republican who is raising my children to beat up your children and carry on my evil ways. why is it with people like you that it is your way or the highway? There is never any middle of the road with you enviro-nazis. I hope this illustrates for you how there is no room for such extremism on either side. If I was not already expecting number 6, I would off to create another evil Republican right now.

JM on

wow sara…deeeep breaths. come on, breath. where does all this anger come from. you are allowed your point of view, but suggesting you would knock your child’s teeth out is neither funny nor clever.

and clever how you use the word nazi – it is a sign of your own ignorance that you do not understand the weight that word carries and how offensive it can be to people when you use it in the wrong context, thus trivialising its horrible history.

erm, i think you were also the one who started insulting people on this thread. does the term “nutcase parents” ring any bells? wow, hard to believe people like you actually exist and scary that they are possibly raising kids to be just like them. filled with anger and hate.

Sophie on

Really weird how this all of a sudden becomes a Republican-Democrat thing… You guys all live on the same planet don’t you? (I’m from Europe btw). Anyway, I think it’s never a bad thing when people care for other things/people around them and if that is not a Republican characteristic, then I suppose I’m a Democrat ;-). Sara, I really hope you’re the only Republican thinking like that.

JM on

Sophie, i’m from Europe too, just for the record…. so yeah, neither republican nor democrat. seems sara is a LITTLE bit paranoid if you ask me….

Jacqui on

Mary, your daughter is a gem.

Here is a possible solution for the trash dilemma, because you do have a point that it’s not always practical or safe to stop and pick up every bit of trash you see. . . Remind your darling daughter of the popular environmentalist’s saying “Think Globally, Act Locally”. Then you can arrange to go with her to pick up trash in your neighborhood, at your local park, etc. You can tell her that if you’re going to be effective guardians of the planet, you have to pace yourselves or you’ll burn out. And that’s actually true.

Good luck with your little sweetie, and well done! 🙂