THE SCANDAL STAR DISHES ON PARENTING AND WHY HOLLYWOOD IS NO PLACE FOR YOUNG TEENS.

By Rachel Naud / Photo by TJ Manou

IT WAS 26 YEARS AGO when George Newbern played the perfect boyfriend, Bryan MacKenzie, on the hit movie, Father of The Bride, alongside Steve Martin and Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Fathers of daughters everywhere can surely remember and relate to that awkward scene when MacKenzie squeezes Paisley’s bare knee in front of (gasp!) her father. In fact, today, Newbern himself, a father of two college-aged daughters, says he relates to Steve Martin’s character now more than ever.

“I have been relating to Steve Martin’s character since my oldest girl turned 13,” he says in a phone interview from his Los Angeles home. “I am more of that guy than I ever thought I would be. Right down to the barbecue wedding. I’m thinking “My backyard is really nice” And I look at how much a wedding costs and I’m like “We can just do it in the backyard, it’s really nice back there.”

From clean-cut boyfriend to contract killer, Newbern is now starring in Scandal, the Shonda Rhimes political thriller that has taken nighttime television by storm since it launched seven years ago. Newbern plays Charlie, a contract killer who tries to make things right, in his own unorthodox ways.

“I’ve done a lot of nice guy parts my whole life and it’s great to have a part that is not that at all,” says Newbern. “Charlie has a great edge to him. It’s fun to do things that are outside the norms of society.”

As the show nears the end of its seventh and final season, Newbern isn’t worried about keeping busy as he has another—even bigger role—to take of—being dad to two teen daughters and a son.

FOR THE LOVE OF THEATRE
Newbern started his acting career as a young teen in the theatre, something he encourages any young aspiring actor to do.

“Hopefully young actors come to a love of acting through getting up on a stage and being completely vulnerable and completely exposed,” he says. “In movies and TV, you can do different takes if your performance isn’t right. But in theatre, if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re going to be exposed immediately. If you do theatre, you’ll know right away if you like it or not and if you’re good or not. It’s a way to test yourself quickly as to your level of passion and talent.“

While he says his kids, as young tweens and teens, were impressed by his gigs in Disney movies, starring alongside some of their favourite actors, Newbern says his kids haven’t caught the acting bug.

“I’m not sure they really want to do theatre,” he says. “They are welcome to do it, but I haven’t seem them really jump out to take the plunge. But I’m all for it if they want to do it.”

NO BUSINESS IN SHOW BUSINESS
Newbern, while supportive of the arts and theatre, says he drew the line at exposing his young teenagers to the Hollywood scene.

“I certainly wouldn’t take them to any TV or movie auditions. The opportunities have come up with both my girls and I just said, ‘When you’re 18, you can decide. But I’m not going to let you audition for a Disney Channel or commercial because there’s way too much downside for young kids in Hollywood.’ I wouldn’t want to expose my kids to that.”

Newbern says the attention young teens get from being on a popular TV show or movie is often too much for them to handle at that age.

“It’s really difficult for young kids and teens to handle all the stuff that that goes along with being on TV, before they’ve had a chance to develop as an artist or a person. There’s so much attention not routed in anything other than you’re on a TV show. When it goes away and you’re back in regular high school, everything seems boring and you still crave the high of being on a TV show or movie before you even understand what it is. My feeling is once you’re 18, then fine. Go for it. You’ve matured enough. But when you’re 12 or 13, you get dragged to auditions and on a set, it’s not a healthy environment by every measure.”

THE ROLE OF CELLPHONES
At home, one of the toughest jobs Newbern says he has is dealing with his kids’ cellphone usage. While cellphones, undoubtedly contribute their own advantage—you can get in touch with them whenever, wherever—the hand-held devices give teens freedom, while simultaneously stripping away control from the people who often pay for them—the parents.

“My generation of parents are all struggling with the freedom that cellphones gives teens,” he says. “In a weird way, it has taken parenting out of our hands, way too early. And I know we have control over the cellphones but it’s really hard. Knowing where my kids are makes me feel better, but, at same time, that freedom has taken away some of our ability to keep tabs on them and know who they are talking to and what they’re doing.”

And while Newbern admits he and his wife often fight the urge to ask ‘Who are you talking to?!’ every time his kids are on their phones, he says the best thing you can do is just learn to trust them.

“You can put the security things on the Internet and on their phones and all that stuff. But at the end of the day, there is so much that you cannot control. And you just have to give it up and say ‘Man, I trust you and be careful and call me if you have a problem and all that stuff.’”

In the meantime, Newbern says he’s simply enjoying this stage of life—parenting his kids from teenagers to young adults.

“There’s a certain reward in seeing them as they’re maturing,” he says. “I can talk to them as an adult and not feel like I have to parent them in those moments. I’m starting to see instances of that and it’s really gratifying to see them out in public and go out for dinner and talk about adult things and not, ‘Did you do your homework?’ It’s surprising and I can see down the road how gratifying it’s going to be.” ■