Your Teen spoke with actress Maggie Baird and her son, actor and musician Finneas O’Connell. Both are featured in Maggie Baird’s Life Inside Out, which she co-wrote.
Interview with Maggie Baird and Finneas O’Connell
Q: What’s the message of your film Life Inside Out?
Maggie Baird: There are three major themes: connecting with your kids, helping your children find their passions, and trying to be creative amidst the responsibilities of everyday life. How do we make time for creativity? When Laura, the main character, makes the time, she inadvertently unlocks the keys to her son. She’s been struggling with how to help him. When she takes the step of finding her own creativity, she unlocks her son’s passion, too.
Q: Is it autobiographical?
Maggie: It’s fictional, but it’s definitely inspired by our lives. Finneas was a pretty typical, moody, up-and-down teenager who discovered music, like Shane. My family did suffer a terrible financial blow during the recession several years ago and that definitely is reflected in the film with the family struggling to make ends meet.
Q: What’s your family life like?
Maggie: For better or worse, we don’t have the crazy Hollywood life. We definitely have auditions, and I wouldn’t say we have dinner every night together. But, we spend a huge amount of time together. We live in a small two-bedroom house. And we homeschool Finneas and our daughter Billie.
Q: What are the advantages of homeschooling?
Maggie: In L.A., there’s a large homeschool community. There are lots of activities and groups. Everybody’s always out doing things, traveling, going places, meeting for classes, and organizing field trips. It’s like going to college. You take what you want, where you want it, and you find what you need. Plus, the kids participate in a lot of other things. They’re part of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus. Billie’s got a very big dance schedule. Homeschooling allows us to let them do the things that they really love to do and not have a giant academic schedule on top of it.
Finneas O’Connell: Being homeschooled is all about self-discovery. It’s something that I’ve really enjoyed and thrived under. I’m not at a high school where I have to base my self-worth off what other people think of me. I have to think, “What would I like to be doing? How would I like to be as a person?” I think that’s an enormously positive thing.
Q: Is college in your plans?
Finneas: I wouldn’t have anything against college. In an artistic field, though, it’s not a necessity. That’s how I’ve always felt about college. My parents were always very open to me about it, saying, “If the arts is something that you’re interested in pursuing, college is not the end-all strategy. In fact, it might be better to save the massive amount of money you might have to spend going to college, and put that towards starting a career.” Already having started a career, it seems unappealing to put an actual career on hold to go and train for a career.
Q: Do you ever get star struck?
Finneas: I get star struck by very odd, specific people. If someone asked for my advice on this, I’d say, “Pick idols that are not enormously famous, and you’ll probably get to meet them. Do your research on who you really think is a cool person.” I met John Green when he was on the fringe of fame, and I remember shaking when meeting him.
Q: Which character that you have played is most like you?
Finneas: I am closest to Shane from Life Inside Out. It’s just so close to home. Especially his love of music. I am the lead singer and songwriter in the band, The Slightlys.
Q: What’s your advice to kids who want to be part of the art industry?
Maggie: It’s such a different world than the world I was in. It’s a little bit of a burden now because when I was a young actor, if you didn’t have a job or an audition, you just blamed your agent. But now, there’s so much you can do on your own. Get a camera and start making videos. And if they’re good, you never know. Things get seen. Do it, film it, make it. And an unfortunate warning to girls, the business is a little crueler to girls.
Finneas: If you love it, you should just do it. You should do it no matter what your opportunities are. If you live in the middle of the country and there are no agents nearby, grab a camera and make movies with your friends who are interested in it, too. If you like music, write songs and play guitar as much as you can. And you will get better, which is the most exciting thing about doing anything you love. You’ll get to the point where you go, “Wow. I have improved so much.” The important thing is to just do it as much as you can. Just immerse yourself. It’ll seem endless, but things really will come about.