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Catherine Keener on 'The Croods' and motherhood

Actors Catherine Keener, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds and

Actors Catherine Keener, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds and Nicolas Cage attend the premiere of their new movie, "The Croods," at AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater in Manhattan. (March 10, 2013) Credit: Getty Images

Oscar nominated actress Catherine Keener steps into an animated, prehistoric era to play the matriarch in DreamWorks "The Croods," a story about the world's first family. Keener lends her voice to play cave woman Ugga who struggles to keep her family safe after an earthquake forces them to leave their cave.

Due in theaters on March 22, "The Croods" also stars Nicolas Cage who voices the father Grug, Emma Stone who voices their daughter Eep and Ryan Reynolds who voices the character of a nomad named Guy.

At a recent screening of "The Croods" in Manhattan, hosted by The Moms -- the media duo of Denise Albert and Melissa Gerstein -- Keener, along with the writers/directors Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders, talked about their roles, parenthood and more. Here's what they had to say.

How do you balance work and family life? Do you ever feel mommy guilt?
"What I tell my son Clyde about guilt is that it's a waste of time," Keener said. "If you're feeling guilt you're not living in the present and that's important. As a consequence of my work I'm apart from my son at times. I've managed to take him with me when I'm traveling but now that he's in school and with his friends he wants to stay there. He's pretty secure and confident. We have a really good relationship. I think I have a lot of credibility with him; I really make sure of that. I also will go out of my way to make things easy for him -- and for me. We want to be with each other and share everything. For those of us who are lucky enough to work doing what we love to do, I think that it's important for him to know that I'm pulled away voluntarily. I'm not a victim. I want him to love whatever he does. I think it's just how it is. It's not making the best of a bad situation -- it's just that this is the situation. But, we're good."

What are your words of wisdom as a mom?
"Keep your wits about you," Keener said. "Someone told me a long time ago to keep soft walls so your kids know you have this thing around you, but if they smash against these soft walls they won't get hurt. And, that your word is everything to them."

In all the films you do, you choose your roles so carefully. What drew you to this role?
"Clyde and I see a lot of movies together -- animated movies and others," Keener said. "We saw a couple of movies from De Micco and Sanders, and we loved them. These two men -- Kirk and Chris -- are real artists. They really make beautiful films for everyone. We are big fans. When they asked me if I would try out for a part in 'The Croods,' I was very happy and when they offered me the part I was very excited and grateful."

"The Croods" has a theme of breaking the rules. What is your advice for parents when it comes to breaking the rules?
"There's a certain amount of rule breaking that's going to happen no matter what," Sanders said. "The more you try to keep things from happening, the more it's going to happen anyway. I think what we're trying to present in the film is to keep communication open. Everyone has their own side of things. With both of the sides -- kids and parents -- there's got to be negotiations."

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