Tammy Blanchard may not have the name recognition of her co-stars in the new Netflix original film, “Tallulah” — women like Ellen Page (“Juno”), Allison Janney (“Mom,” “The West Wing”) and Uzo Aduba (“Orange Is the New Black”) — but after seeing her performance, you’ll want to commit her name to memory. She’s an actress you need to watch.
In this darkly humorous tale of modern-day motherhood, which was written and directed by Sian Heder and starts streaming July 29, Blanchard plays Carolyn, a boozed-up, worn-out businessman’s wife and mother with a baby on her hands. She mistakes the title character, known as Lu (Page) for a hotel baby sitter. Alas, Lu’s a homeless drifter. Blanchard expresses so many emotions at once you’ll want to hug her . . . or throttle her. Lu decides the next best thing — to take the baby, turning to her ex-boyfriend’s uptight mom (Janney) for help. Meanwhile, a detective (Aduba) is on her trail.
Blanchard, 39, is no stranger to complicated roles, having played young Judy in ABC’s “Life With Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” winning an Emmy Award. She’s also earned two Tony nominations (for “Gypsy” and “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”). She’ll next star with David Spade in the thriller “Warning Shot.” She lives with her 8-year-old daughter in Bayonne, New Jersey.
How are you doing today? It’s a scorcher.
Great. Barbecue, swimming in the pool. I’ve got my aunt, my mom, my kid. The Jersey thing.
That sounds more wholesome than your character in this film.
Yeah, when you first see her, she answers the door in her Spanx, a push-up bra and curlers. She obviously has no shame — or sense of reality.
She’s a hot mess. Was she hard to get a handle on?
No. I love those classic stars — the Judy Garlands and Marilyn Monroes. In our day — Lindsay Lohan and Brittany Murphy. Tragic, vulnerable women.
You understand them?
I always feel like the most vulnerable person in the room. You can dress me up all pretty and stuff, but I’m still standing there thinking, “Ohmygosh, am I talking right?” On the inside, something’s missing. For me — I lost my dad at a young age. That always stuck with me.
In the film you express emotions many parents feel, but don’t admit. How you want to murder your kids sometimes, or leave them on a doorstep.
Especially in the first few years of having a child. When I had [my daughter], Ava, I was so happy. But I was lost, stressed out. I’d watch her to make sure she was . . . breathing. I didn’t sleep the first two years. You think, “I’m not a mother, I can’t do this.” It’s easy to lose yourself, especially if you have no family support. So I hope this film gets moms talking.
I gather you’ve had support.
My mom’s the best. Yet she tells me that I’m the best mother she ever met. I’m like, really? I’m a single mother and feel, at times, selfish — going away for a month to shoot a film. You always feel you’re not doing enough.
You grew up in Bayonne?
Yeah. [She chuckles.] And I can’t leave. I love it.
Never wanted to pick up stakes?
I’m close to the city. I can get to auditions. If I had to choose whether to leave and chase fame and fortune — losing out on time with my mom and stepdad — then I’d choose this over fame and fortune. I got thyroid cancer two years ago. That big moment came where they call you — “Get down here, it’s bad.” You think, “I’m dying.” Then I thought, “I have no regrets.” [She laughs.] I chased my dreams, but stayed where the love was. It’s the only thing I truly lived for my entire life. So I had no regrets — I was ready.
Wow. I envy you.
Did you have to leave your family to write?
No, they’re not far. On Long Island. It’s just — I feel I have so much more to accomplish. You don’t feel that?
It’s a decision you can make to pick up the phone and call the people you love. Or go and visit. Make those memories. Because if that day ever comes, when you hear you only have six months, the question is going to be: Did I love? And was I loved? As long as you know you made the effort to do that, then you’ll feel what I feel right now.
Guess I gotta call my folks, as soon as I hang up with you.
That’s right, that’s right. [She pauses.] I mean, they drive you crazy! Love drives you crazy. But it’s worth more than anything in the bank. Anything.