Monday a sharp-eyed reader informed me of a tweet by actor Eric Roberts, about Kate Gosselin. It read:
“I know she's fading from the news, but hopefully someone's still got their eye on the well being of her kids. Kate Gosselin is a child abuser.” (11:17 PM Oct 31st via web)
I met Eric and his lovely wife Eliza years ago, briefly, at a red carpet event in NYC and he seemed very nice. He wasn't one of those celebs who didn't want to mingle with the Little People. He was as courteous and respectful of those of us working the event as the "talent" who were there to be celebrated. Based on this brief impression of him, I decided to email him and see if he would be willing to be interviewed about his tweet. Eric was in Europe but was game, so I sent him some questions and he responded via email. The following is our interview.
Small Town Gosselins: Your tweet about Kate Gosselin was quite passionate. What exactly precipitated it?
Eric: Simple, really. Thank goodness there is footage of Gosselin hitting her kids, and apparently feeling fine about it. I say thank goodness, because behind closed doors makes it that much tougher to stop. All I ask is that any caring parent or non-parent take a few minutes to read material from Alice Miller's FOR YOUR OWN GOOD, or visit this site www.naturalchild.org, or listen to the audio book THE NATURAL CHILD, or review materials from Prevent Child Abuse America http://www.preventchildabuse.org/index.shtml and then decide.
STG: The Gosselin children have literally grown up in front of the cameras, with private moments such as having their diapers changed, tantrums and vomiting being displayed for entertainment. These moments will be available to anyone for the rest of their lives in medium such as YouTube and DVDs. You have been in the public eye for many years and have had your own ups and downs, along with all the usual public commentary. How do you think the public display of their lives is impacting the Gosselin kids or may impact them in the future?
Eric: This trend to document life as it happens, and to have the documentation studied by strangers, is not going away any time soon. I don't think it's inherently bad. I think the Gosselin kids' private lives are their problem, not the fact that their private lives are public. They have an awful mother, and a father who doesn't stop her.
STG: TLC states that it has earned $200 million in the past five years from Gosselin-related shows. TV Guide reports that Kate Gosselin is paid $250,000 per episode. The eight children split 15% of that income, so each child gets 1.875% while the mother gets 85%. Comments?
Eric: The number of kids Kate and Jon have are the reason Kate and John have money. It would be awful if financial stress was added to those kids' problems. But the money should be divided 10 ways.
STG: According to IMDB, your daughter Emma has been acting since the age of nine. Did you sign contracts on her behalf and if so, what safeguards did you insist upon in order to ensure her safety and fair treatment?
Eric: Never signed a contract on Emma's behalf. Her mother and her manager handle her career. Emma is extremely fortunate to be successful at such a joyous job.
STG: In dealing with acting contracts involving your daughter, have you ever had the right to stop the filming and take back your authorization of consent if the production involved scripts or activities that you hadn't anticipated and felt were inappropriate for your child (like the old script switcheroo, for example)?
Eric: I'm sure the parents of some working minors have those rights, and hopefully those parents know the business and know the needs of their kids.
STG: The parents whose children participated in the reality TV show Kid Nation signed contracts stating that the producers would not be responsible in the event of their children dying as a result of being on the show. In your experience, how common is it for parents to neglect carefully reading the fine print before signing acting contracts involving their children?
Eric: I think some parents know what they're signing and some don't . Most have lawyers who know these contracts quite well. People who are popular with audiences are considered commodities and products. There are death clauses in most management, label and studio contracts.
STG: The film Bruno has a scene where real parents agree to have their babies be in all sorts of outrageous dangerous situations, just so they can possibly become stars. Some people seem to think that almost anything would be worth having their children be stars. Why do you think this is?
Eric: People equate fame with immortality. That's as ridiculous as equating anything else with immortality. There is no immortally. I think endangering a child is an obscene crime.
STG: A Minor Consideration, the group advocating for children in entertainment which boasts over 600 former child star members, is working on drafting a national bill to end the federal child labor exemption for child actors. As an adult actor you have unions and laws to protect you. What do you think about legislation that would put similar laws into place for children?
Eric: I love what Paul Petersen does.
STG: Are you a member of A Minor Consideration, and if not, good grief, why not?
Eric: I'd like to be. Thank you for reminding me!
STG: About Reality TV. All actors experience the challenge of being confused with their characters, but this is especially true with reality TV participants. In reality, Reality TV characters are sometimes created by the producers eliciting certain responses, setting up fake scenes to create drama, and of course the magic of editing. I worry about how this might impact children who are too young and immature to understand differences between acting and reality. What are your thoughts on this?
Eric: I do think this is unfair to children, as they are not fully willing participants. But kids are not fully willing participants in anything during childhood.
STG: Over the summer you filmed the VH1 show “Celebrity Rehab.” Just how real was your reality TV experience?
Eric: Pretty real.
STG: As a society we want to believe that all parents have their children's best interests at heart, but many of us know that unfortunately this is not always the case. You have probably been exposed to all sorts of stage parents over the years. How common is it for parents to overlook their children's best interests in the field of entertainment, in your experience? (For example, allowing their children to be exposed to adult situations, having their children work when they don't want to, not ensuring their children will be adequately financially compensated upon reaching adulthood, not allowing their children to have normal childhood experiences because they are too busy acting, having the children be financially responsible for supporting the family, etc.)
Eric: Most parents love their children very much, just not very well. The home is an unregulated place to work. This should change. Parenting should be earned and licensed. Violence, emotional or physical, against or around a child or an animal (or anyone) should be a one-strike situation. Kind people have to step up to take care of the children who are being raised by unkind people.
STG: I have always had the impression that the prevalence of addiction and child abuse is higher in former child stars than in the general population (and we know they're epidemic in the general population.) Have you found this to be true? Why do you think this is the case?
Eric: On my website, there are some of my thoughts about that. www.ericrobertsactor.com. Quote: I think people who are drawn to acting and music tend to be very emotional, and people who are emotional tend to be easily intoxicated by intoxication of all kinds...including love.
STG: I have a theory that being a child star imposes codependency on children because it forces them to think about how they can be marketable rather than allowing them to naturally become their own authentic selves the way other children are allowed to. It forces an unnatural self-consciousness that is necessary for financial success. Thoughts?
Eric: Well-Said and very valid!
STG: Jon Gosselin has stated emphatically that he does not want his children to be filmed anymore, that they have said they don't want to do it, and that they are now having behavioral problems as a result of having grown up in front of the cameras. Yet Kate Gosselin refuses to stop the filming. What do you think this is all about?
Eric: I think Jon is being unrealistic. How is that family going to live?
The kids could have a great time doing the show if their mom wasn't a cruel horror who is clearly repeating generational abuse. Jon's got his eye on the wrong ball. The kids, however, should not be forced to do anything.
STG: Do you feel differently about the Kate Gosselin than you do other reality TV parents, and if so, why?
Eric: Can't stand Kate. Most of the other reality TV parents seem gentle and loving. I have a feeling David Charvet's wife, Brooke, isn't all that nice either, unfortunately.
STG: What advice would you give Kate Gosselin, and why?
Eric: My advice to Kate Gosselin would be to get out of denial and receive anger management with Dr. Richard Green in Woodland Hills, California. Next time she feels herself lifting a hand to harm one of her children, she should instead make a call to her local 12-step program. Those programs help with patterns of violence, among the more expected things they treat.
STG: What advice would you give her children?
Eric: I would want the Gosselin kids to know that their parents' rage is not their fault, and to please do therapy to keep themselves from continuing the pattern.
STG: Advice to Jon?
Eric: Make a legally binding arrangement whereby Kate loses her financial security any time she hits those kids. She's playing the role of good mom. When she stops playing the role as it's written, she should be fired.
STG: Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule for this interview. We actually met briefly several years ago at a red carpet event at Radio City Music Hall and I always remembered how nice you were. I appreciate your sharing your thoughts for my readers today. It has been a pleasure interviewing you and I wish you and your family the best of everything.
Eric: Thanks for asking! Important subject.
* * *
One of Eric's views is that the show is the lesser problem and insensitivity to the children and their needs is the larger issue. Yet when children in entertainment are managed by insensitive parents who are dependent on those children for their livelihood, can those issues be separated out? I look forward to your comments on that as well as your other observations.
~Special thanks to Cindy Leong, Eric Roberts and Eliza Simons for making this interview possible.~