Sean Anders brings instant humor to ‘Instant Family’


Hopper Stone/SMPSP

Director Sean Anders, Tig Notaro and Octavia Spencer on the set of Instant Family from Paramount Pictures.

By Katherine Savage

A husband and wife make the big decision to foster a child. What they do not expect is to end up with three, especially when one is a sassy, strong-willed teenager.

“Instant Family” is a comedy about Pete, played by Mark Wahlberg, and Ellieplayed by Rose Bryne, and their journey taking care of three rambunctious children. The film will be in theaters Nov. 16.

The film is inspired by director and writer Sean Anders’ story of adopting his own three children. During the writing process, Anders had a consultant, Maraide Green, who had been through the foster care system.

In a Nov. 7 interview with The Chronicle, Anders and Green discussed the portrayal of the foster care system, the casting process and balancing comedy with real-life problems.

CHRONICLE: How did you make sure to accurately portray the foster care system?

ANDERS: Many movies on this topic [are] either really sugar-coated and don’t mention a social worker or any kind of trauma in the past, or they’re so focused on the trauma and the tragedy they send people away with more feelings of fear and pity toward kids in the system. My goal was to tell a complete story about a family so that we wouldn’t shy away from difficult elements but where we could also get into the laughter and the joy and the love that comes from a family being created in that way.

It’s really important to show that kids in the system aren’t different than any other kids. The movie does talk about that a lot, where the family is questioning why they would want to get these kids that are so messed up or they’re afraid for their kids to be around these kids. Then they meet them and they love them.

How did you decide to include a teenager in the story?

My wife and I went to an adoption fair just like in the movie. It is real, and it’s a very bizarre thing. We ended up meeting this teenage girl who was really great, and she had a younger brother and sister. With a lot of trepidation, we put them down on our sheet. We left the fair, and we were matched with them. Just when we were starting to feel sort of ready to start that process, the social worker called and said that it’s not going to work out. The teen girl had been in foster care for about four years and she was still holding out hope that her mom was coming for her, so she refused the placement. I really wanted to include a teenager because they are the most misunderstood kids in foster care.

What’s the reaction to the movie been like so far?

A lot of families have thanked us for the authenticity of the movie because they feel like they’ve had such a hard time explaining to people they know how this works and how they got into it. Now, they have this movie that demonstrates it for them that they could play, too.