Steve Carell, now starring in 'Despicable Me 2', talks about how proud his parents are of his success and growing up as the youngest of four brothers.
MY maternal grandma was a tough, tough lady and a stern woman, who lost her husband young and raised six kids by herself. She lived in a mining community in Upstate New York and ran a boarding house for miners. She took care of an entire family and miners who lived in the house as well. She cooked breakfast and lunch for everybody every day. I wouldn’t say she was humourless, but she wasn’t wacky – a pretty serious person.
My father is Italian and I never met my paternal grandparents.
The family name was Caroselli and it was changed in the mid-1950s. I think they wanted to assimilate, which was pretty common, although I love the name Caroselli. I think it’s beautiful and it certainly wouldn’t be mispronounced and misspelled as much as Carell has been over the years.
My parents, who are both 88, are very down-to-earth, kind, smart, generous people. They both grew up during the great depression and had a true sense of value: for possessions, for family, for each other.
I am five years younger than my closest-in-age brother, so I was too little to get into fights. They protected me more than anything. My parents were middle-class (Harriet was a psychiatric nurse, Edwin an engineer). I saw how hard they worked for the money that they earned. They spoiled us in terms of their devotion to us. I wanted to play ice hockey and it required a lot of equipment, but they made it happen.
Beyond all that, Dad would wake up 5am and drive me to hockey practice before school and sit there reading a book while I practised. I learned a lot about raising children from them, because they were committed to their kids, they would do anything to expand our horizons.
I don’t think I appreciated it at the time, but I do now. Everyone has done well: my eldest brother’s an architect, the second eldest is an engineer, and the one closest to me in age runs a landscaping company.
My family can’t believe what I do for a living and they enjoy it. I think they’re astounded. My parents called me the other day from Florida, where they live for half the year, and they said: “Could you send us some more headshots?” I think they give a signed headshot of me to anyone who asks ... or anyone who doesn’t ask. They go to a doctor and they’ll say: “Would you like a picture of my son?” They’re so proud and they’re really sweet and my brothers are, too.
My wife’s from a family of six kids and everybody didn’t get everything they wanted. That’s OK; that’s life. You’re doing your kids a disservice if they do get everything they want because that’s not the way life’s going to go and I think kids have to have some reality. My children (Elisabeth, 12, and John, nine) don’t expect to get everything and I think our greatest achievement so far is that they respect us and listen to us. I don’t see that in all of their friends.My job doesn’t define my kids in any way. When we go to places, it’s about them and it’s about us as a family. I think they’re proud of me, but I’m just Dad. We try to present a unified front as parents.
The toughest thing is that they will play one of you against the other. Kids are very cagey. They’ll ask: “May I have a cupcake?” “No, we’re having dinner in 45 minutes.” And then they go to the other parent ... there’s been no communication between us; the other parent says: “Sure, that’s fine.” So the key is to have that communication.
When we had kids, my career completely changed. I’ll never forget the first audition after my daughter was born. I nailed it because I didn’t care any more. Before that I hadn’t had great success auditioning for TV shows, it was spotty at best, but for that audition, it wasn’t a life-or-death thing. All I wanted to do was get home to my baby and it changed my perspective on my career and on the world, on who I was.
The world was so much bigger than me, or any of my concerns and so much richer too. Having children is by far the most important and best thing that we ever did.
I was immediately attracted to my wife (the actor Nancy Walls). She happened to be in one of the improv classes I was teaching. She’s beautiful, intelligent and really funny. She kind of checked all the boxes in my head, but I thought she hated me because she was very quiet around me. I thought she for sure knew that I was full of it, and I later found out that she was just as nervous as I was and trying to act cool.
I knew early on that she was the right one. I’ll never forget standing at the altar and I saw her coming down the aisle – immediately a sense of calm came over me. There was an ethereal sense of how right it all was and more than anything it was very empowering knowing that person was going to be my partner and have my back. It just made me feel strong, and I’ll never forget it.
My wife is way funnier than I am. As much as I don’t really feel I share a sense of humour with my family, I definitely share one with her – we find the same things funny. We worked together on The Office and we are writing a TV show together. We’ll have been married for 18 years this August. People say what’s the secret to a marriage? There’s no secret – I think you get lucky. – Guardian News & Media
Despicable Me 2 opens in local cinemas tomorrow.