We first got to know Josh Malina on The West Wing and Sports Night. Now we’re loving him on the ABC hit Scandal. Your Teen recently caught up with the actor to talk about his “favorite role ever”–raising a teen and tween. Well, that, and Twitter, rap, and those West Wing movie rumors.
Interview with Josh Malina Of Scandal: Raising Teenagers
Q: What kind of parent are you?
Malina: I’m going to pat myself on the back here because I do feel confident that I’m a supremely dedicated parent. It is absolutely the number one thing in my life, far more important than my career. My wife, Melissa, and I are very— possibly to a fault—focused on our kids. One of the upsides to the amount of down time in my career is that I can drive field trips and be around my kids a lot.
Q: Do you helicopter?
Malina: Well, sometimes you can get so focused on your kids’ lives that you forget that your own life is still unfolding. I’m not all over my kids; I get that they need space. But when they leave, I will be bereft. I remember my dad pining for me when I went to college. I get that now.
Q: What are the challenges of parenting a teenager?
Malina: My daughter is a teen, and that calls for letting her have her own space. She is entitled to not tell me everything. But at the same time, I want her to feel that she can say what- ever is on her mind. It’s finding that balance.
Q: Do your kids care that you are famous?
Malina: First of all, I am really not famous. Everything is relative. We live in Malibu, and frequently, you will see packs of photographers tormenting Britney Spears or some other star. Thankfully I don’t have that. My kids don’t care very much that I am an actor, and they aren’t interested in the stuff I have been on. When my daughter was young, there was an episode of The West Wing on and she asked: “Can we watch something that daddy is not on?” I did an episode of iCarly out of desperation to get some interest from them. My kids visited the set and were briefly proud of me. They got a kick out of that.
Q: Are they interested in acting?
Malina: My son is not interested at all. He does not like to be the center of attention. He is a skater and a soccer player. My daughter is interested in acting. She likes to do school plays. My guess is if you would ask her what she wants to do, she would say act.
Q: Would you let her pursue acting in her teens?
Malina: Once she’s an adult, it won’t matter much what I think, but I would certainly be reluctant to have her pursue acting while she’s still a kid. As a young actor, the business can overwhelm the rest of your life. I wouldn’t love for her to be tutored for several hours on set each day so that she could do a sitcom. Frankly, I hope my daughter decides to do any- thing other than act. I would not wish this life on anyone. It is very difficult, and there is so much luck involved. There’s also so much that is out of your control. You aren’t tall enough, short enough, thin enough… You need a very thick skin.
Q: We notice you’ve embraced the Internet as a creative outlet: a web series and Twitter feed.
Malina: I made the show Backwash for the web. It was a success from my point of view because I wrote this crazy thing that couldn’t have been done anywhere else. It made me very happy to produce it. I made it with a great cast, and it came out pretty much the way I hoped. The Internet is really a playground for edgier or riskier material.
Q: We’re following you on Twitter.
Malina: Twitter is where I let my edgier comments fly. I am not super fastidious with my language, and I have to admit, my kids listen to horrible lyrics in music.
Q: How do you handle that as a parent?
Malina: I worry more about the messages in the music than the language, and I give my kids carte blanche to listen to music with bad language if it has a good message. For example, I like Macklemore. In Same Love, he raps about the regrettable homophobia in the rap world. And in most of his songs, he has very positive, substantive things to say, so, who cares what his language is like? My son has turned me on to the spoken-word rapper/poet, Watsky. He made the YouTube video, “Pale Kid Raps Fast”, and ended up on Ellen. That’s part of what’s so exciting about the Internet. The public is the arbiter of what it wants to see more of. It levels the playing field for performers. It is a brave new world.
Q: Okay, let’s get serious . . . when’s The West Wing movie coming out?
Malina: That is an entirely false, scurrilous rumor that I started. I got together with some friends from The West Wing and I said: “Do you mind if I tweet a couple of pictures and pretend that we’re making a movie?” The Internet is a great tool for pranking.
Q: Which of your characters is most like you?
Malina: Aaron Sorkin (producer of The West Wing and Sports Night) makes me appear more intelligent and nicer than I am. Maybe Jeremy from Sports Night: I am not quite as high strung and neurotic, but I share some of his weak points.