Actress Brittany Snow has a half-brother and half-sister, but contemplating having dozens of them, or more, leaves her struggling for words.
That’s the extraordinary situation in “Almost Family,” her new Fox dramedy premiering on Wednesday, Oct. 2, and the first prime-time series to tackle the world of the donor-conceived. In this case, only child Julia (Snow) is stunned when her prominent fertility doctor dad (Timothy Hutton) reveals he secretly used his own “genetic material” to help couples conceive children. Julia’s unexpected sibs start popping up— from troubled ex-Olympian Roxy (Emily Osment) to uptight attorney Edie (Megalyn Echikunwoke) — and the series follows how they learn to cope with this new reality, and connect.
Snow, 33, known for the NBC series “American Dreams” and the “Pitch Perfect” film franchise, lives in Los Angeles with her fiancé. She spoke by phone with Newsday contributor Joseph V. Amodio.
I know a woman who’s very curious about your show. She had an only child via sperm donation, and managed to find other families who used the same donor. Now the kids all get together at these “extended family” reunions. It’s a new kind of family.
Exactly. Since starting this show, I’ve had a couple of friends who’ve recently told me they had similar situations, where they found out they were one of many siblings. One found out her father wasn’t her biological father. It’s funny how many people — well, I guess it’s not funny — it’s shocking and interesting that there are so many people who have this going on. I hope this show brings up a lot of conversations about it.
How do you think you would handle it?
I’ve thought about that. It’s hard to imagine, because I’m really shy with new people in general. Then having the added pressure of knowing you have this innate connection, because it’s your family, and you’re supposed to bond. Maybe…I, I, I don’t know how I would deal with that—the struggle of wanting to get to know the person, because you may share some genetic traits, but at the same time you’ve grown up with different backgrounds, different parents, and so your natures might be completely different. It would be hard, but I think it would be kind of nice to feel that you had somebody who could be a new friend, somebody you’re supposed to belong with.
In the pilot, you and your two new donor-sisters discover you have some weird behaviors in common — you each roll your tongue, which is a genetic trait. That was a lucky casting coincidence.
I didn’t know it was a genetic trait. I just knew not everybody could do it. My whole life, I thought you could just learn. I don’t know —I was living under a rock, maybe. It was in the script. Annie (Weisman), our showrunner, said that if we couldn’t do it she would’ve picked something else, but it was meant to be…. It IS something we can all do.
What’s it like working with Oscar winner Timothy Hutton?
Timothy Hutton is an amazing human being. All around. He’s become one of my close friends. He’s a genuine, genuine guy. An icon, obviously, but you would never know that. He’s like my buddy on set. It’s important we get along. If we didn’t like each other I think you’d see that.
Most viewers will be unfamiliar with this subject, but for donor-linked families a show like this could be important. What impact would you like to see?
While there are funny moments in the show, I hope the weight and reality of the situation comes through. This is actually happening to many people, and these feelings we’re going through are valid and real and shouldn’t be made fun of or taken lightly. Of course, there’s always comedy in tragedy, and vice versa. But I think that the real moments are hopefully the ones that families going through this will relate to. We are trying to show how to become a family, and how hard that is. And also how beautiful.
Just as you’re preparing to start your own family. How do you juggle all the wedding plans when you have to shoot a new series. Are you getting anything done on the nuptials front?
Umm, not as much as we’d like, because we moved to New York (to shoot “Almost Family”). My fiancé (Realtor Tyler Stanaland) is the best, and moved with me. He’s a surfer so he gave up his waves for the New York City streets.
Do you surf?
Tell him to head out to the East End of Long Island. There are decent waves, especially now during hurricane season.
Exactly. The only persons to be excited about hurricanes are surfers.