In a brief interlude from his satirical combat of Islamaphobia on the Daily Show and his web series, Halal in the Family, Aasif Mandvi co-stars in Mother’s Day, a wacky holiday comedy directed by Garry Marshall. Much like Marshall’s Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Day, the movie features multiple intersecting storylines and a star-studded cast. Mandvi plays Russell, an Indian American doctor, husband, and father. His wife Jessie (Kate Hudson) has managed to keep her interracial marriage and toddler a secret from her conservative southern parents. But when Mom and Dad unexpectedly show up for a visit (spoiler!), Jessie can no longer shield her husband from her narrow-minded family. Racist antics and slapstick hilarity ensue.
The full star-studded cast includes Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Timothy Olyphant, Britt Robertson, Sarah Chalke, Hector Elizondo, Margo Martindale, Shay Mitchell, Jack Whitehall, Jon Lovitz, and a pug. If you and/or your mom are hankering for a turbocharged, action-packed cornball rom-com, Mother’s Day is the movie for you. I caught up with Mandvi on interracial romantic comedies, working with toddlers, and Donald Trump’s inner child.
I watched Mother’s Day this morning and it was hilarious.
Oh thanks. I take all the credit for that, I take all the credit for all the humor in that movie.
As you should. [laughs] Mother’s Day was much more sentimental than your work on The Daily Show.
I know, right?
When you got started in show business did you ever see yourself playing Kate Hudson’s husband in a heartwarming comedy?
It was the one thing my mother always told me. Make sure one day you play Kate Hudson’s husband in a comedy. No, it was really great. When Garry Marshall called and asked me if I wanted to be in his movie – he didn’t even have to finish the sentence. You know, because I grew up watching his television shows and I wanted to be the Fonz when I was a kid, so for me the idea of working with Garry Marshall was the first thing that enticed me and I was like – I’m in.
And then getting to play Kate Hudson’s husband was really interesting to me because we see an interracial couple dealing with interracial issues inside of this rom-com, you know? I thought, well, that’s really kind of progressive in terms of a Hollywood romantic comedy with all these big stars. So I was really excited about telling that story.
Yeah, your character’s Indian heritage is a major problem for Jessie’s (Kate Hudson’s) parents. They assume you’re the houseboy. What was it like to play the unwelcome foreigner in a white family?
Well, you know, that was really interesting. Look, you see what’s going on in our culture today with Trump and Trump supporters. I imagined that Jessie’s parents are like those people. People who view otherness in that way and are threatened by that outsider, foreigner sort of person. But what I love about this movie is that you ultimately see these people overcome their prejudices and come together to make a family. That’s the heartwarming part. That’s what makes this is a Garry Marshall film, you know?
Did you receive any unusual direction from Garry Marshall?
Direction from Garry Marshall always comes in the form of him having a lot of food in his mouth while he’s talking to you. So sometimes there would be like egg salad splattered all over me while he was giving me direction. [laughs] So that was the most unusual part of direction from Garry Marshall.
That’s beautiful. [laughs] Did you have some opportunity to improvise?
Yeah, I asked if we could improvise and Garry said improvisation is allowed! Once he said that, I was off to the races. So we played around, we tried out funny alternative lines. Kate and I had a whole sort of game we would play where I would play the role as if my character was performed by Al Pacino. So we did a whole X-rated version of Mother’s Day just for our own amusement that sort of ended up on the cutting room floor, I think.
So there are outtakes of…
There’s outtakes of me being like, [in Al Pacino voice] “Listen Jessie, you take that child, hoo-AH! You take that kid and you will never see me again.” And she loved it, you know, she was cracking up the whole time. She would play the sort of hot and bothered wife, you know. We sort of turned it into a Stanley Kowalski and Stella thing a little bit just for our own amusement.
Are you doing anything to celebrate Mother’s Day this year?
Well, my mother is no longer with us, but my sister is a mother and we have a lot of mothers in our family so we usually do the old go out for brunch and all the guys pay thing – you know, the moms all get mani-pedis and massages and that kind of stuff.
The toddler who plays your son in the movie was adorable. What was it like working with a toddler?
Yes! He’s so great right? Well, I’ve worked with a couple of toddlers now and he was super cute, but I don’t think he initially wanted to be in the movie. He was scared of the boom mics, like if the mics got close to him he’d start crying. But eventually he warmed up to us. And then I saw him at the premiere six months later – and for a toddler that’s like half his life – so now he’s like a celebrity. He saw me at the premiere and came running over, like “movie daddy!” So obviously he’s adapted very well to being a Hollywood star.
What do you think about our current political climate?
Oh, I think it’s great. I think it’s just great.
If you had five minutes in a room alone with Donald Trump what would you do or say?
If I had five minutes with Donald Trump, I’d sit him down and be like “Donald. It’s okay. I know you never intended for this to go this far. I know your ego won’t let you drop out. I know that you really don’t have anything good to say or any real ideas about how to change America. So it’s okay. No one will blame you if you decide to drop out.”
I would sort of want to release him of the burden of having to continue this. Because I feel like inside somewhere when he’s alone at night or in bed maybe next to his immigrant wife, he’s sort of saying to himself what the fuck? What did I do? Why did I do this? And like, My ego won’t let me back out now! So I would want to – like a therapist – give him the courage and the freedom to say, “Let it go man, it’s okay. It was kind of a joke. It was kind of a lark. You’ve gone further than you thought you would and now its sort of a, ‘be careful what you wish for’ kind of thing.”
Like I imagine myself giving him a back rub. No, not a back rub – a shoulder rub. Just saying, “Dude, its okay, you can get out. We’ll still like you. Or we’ll still not like you as much as we not liked you before.”
That’s a very compassionate approach. [laughs]
It is! But I feel like everyone’s dumping on him but somewhere inside him there’s a little boy who’s like, Please let me be president, I told everybody that I would, I told everybody I would be president, please just let me be so I don’t have to look bad. So I think he’s so afraid of being a failure and I think that’s the gift I could give him: That it’s okay to fail at this. It’s okay to say, Hey listen guys, I really don’t have any real ideas about anything, but now I’m sort of in it. He’s gotten to the point where he can’t get out. He’s got to play this out and he’s hating it. You know? He wishes people wouldn’t ask him hard questions. He wishes people wouldn’t ask him questions about anything really, except questions where he can just kind of sound off platitudes. [laughs] So I think, the poor guy, if you were to get into his mind you’d see a very stressed out little boy.
Uh huh. [laughs] I could see that.
He’s like I might become president and then what? I don’t know what I’m doing! I don’t know what I’m doing! It’s like he’s afraid to say the emperor has no clothes. You can say it! Just say the emperor has no clothes.
What do you think are the odds of Donald Trump seeing Mother’s Day in theaters?
I don’t know if this is the kind of movie he would see. That’s a good question. He might see it. You know, I would like to think that somewhere inside he has space for a heartfelt romantic comedy. I bet you he’s a big softy in some ways. Like, you know how Sadaam Hussein used to write poems? This is how it always goes. On the one hand you have a guy who’s talking like an autocrat and a dictator – but then like, Hitler used to be a great painter! So you know, I think Donald Trump could enjoy a rom-com.
Mother’s Day opens in theaters this Friday.