EXCLUSIVE: For Amber Tamblyn, Having a Child Is the Ultimate Expression of Art

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It has been a busy year for actress-director-author Amber
Tamblyn
. She’s released her feature directorial debut, is starring in a play
and just gave birth to her first child.

At 34, Tamblyn is more than used to juggling a personal
life and a professional one. She’s been working for over two decades, beginning
with General Hospital and then becoming a household face as
Joan on the CBS drama Joan of Arcadia before playing Tibby in The
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
. But it’s this new job that’s
completely unique to her.

“To have my first Mother’s Day as a mother is just wild,”
says Tamblyn, who married actor David Cross in 2012. And since her
self-ascribed motto is “Never mind, I’ll do it” — also the same name as her
production company — she’ll most likely be taking to her new and busier schedule
as mother, writer, director and actress like a moth to the flame.

MORE: Why Amber Tamblyn Likes Pal Amy Schumer’s Balls

“I’ve always felt a sense of, ‘Nothing’s going to get done
unless I do it myself,’” she says over the phone from her apartment in New York
City. “So often I’ll ask someone to do something and then they do it wrong or
they don’t do it at all.”

Unwittingly proving her point, Tamblyn is pumping milk for
her 3-month-old Marlow while also talking to us over the phone as she readies
for the opening of Paint It Black, her directorial debut that she
co-wrote with Ed Dougherty and adapted from Janet Fitch’s novel of the same
name. (The film opens in theaters on Friday, May 19.) In addition, it is her
mother’s 70th birthday and her own birthday was a day earlier, on her very
first Mother’s Day. ET gets a few unbridled moments of Tamblyn’s dwindling time
to discuss new motherhood, why men get in the way of women’s success and what’s
next to add to her busy schedule.

What has being a mom taught you about your own mother?
Oh boy, do you have five or six hours?

I think that I’ve always appreciated mothers and women, but
my appreciation and understanding is at another level now. Women are so
incredible, and what we’re able to do, even those of us that don’t have kids —
because it’s not always just about having kids — is absolutely exceptional. I
mean, men are amazing, but they’re just not women. Women are on another
game-changing level.

[With the timing of everything today] it’s interesting you’d
ask me that question, because it’s certainly been heavily on my mind. Even in
the early days of being a mother, it has challenged me in so many ways. It’s
also made me more sure of my art than I ever was. Before, I would question
things, I would wonder and really have to mine for something. Now, I just feel
like I’m on fire with ideas and I can’t put the fire out; it’s just burning up
everything in a great way.

So having had a child has made you more creative?
Yes, it has. Perhaps because it feels like the ultimate expression of art;
I feel like I have an understanding of my voice and what I want to say more
than I ever did before. Much of my life has been on the interior recently —
meaning I’ve been talking to this person that’s growing inside of me and
singing to that person at night, and my interior monologue just going all the
time. The voice in my head is different [from my exterior voice], and because
that’s been able to grow and flourish, it’s made my exterior that much
stronger.

Independent filmmakers often describe bringing their
first film out into the world as bringing their first child into it. This is
usually from women; was that true for you at all?

I would say not for me, but only because I have been acting for 24 years. I had
a real understanding of the dynamic that happens on set, what a director does,
their purpose, what makes a good performance and what kind of shot tells what
needs to be told in the moment. With a baby, I think I’d maybe changed two
diapers in my entire life. That learning curve was so steep. Directing was not
a steep learning curve at all for me. I would say that [directing and
mothering] are both very importantly rooted in your gut instinct, and that is
something that women are taught not to listen to from a young age.

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