EW: Your character in My Sister’s Keeper is such a departure for you. How did you approach playing a mother battling her child’s terminal illness?
CAMERON DIAZ: I don’t have children, but I have nieces and nephews. And I think a parent feels like, ”This is my child, and you don’t let your child die.” I knew that [director Nick Cassavetes] had been through a similar scenario with his daughter [see above]. So basically I feel like I played Nick, a 6’7” tattooed hard-ass.
EW: It’s funny that you went from playing the ingenue to playing a mother of teenagers, with no in-between. Was that tricky to dive right into onscreen parenthood?
CD: You know, I always wanted to have kids young. [Laughs] Ha! I’m teasing you. When I got to the age that I’d thought I would want kids, I was like, ”Noooo way am I having kids.” And I’ve never regretted it. But the way that I was able to accept, ”Okay, I can have a teenage kid at my age” — I’m 36 — was just to think I had kids when I was young. I was 16 when my mom was my age, after all.
EW: On a film as emotional as this one, how difficult is the decompression process at the end of each day?
CD: It depended on the day and what was going on. But this was a tough film, for many reasons…. My dad died last year while I was making this movie. [Emilio Diaz, 58, died unexpectedly of pneumonia on April 15, 2008.] It’s been a year. And I can’t wait to get to the place where all this [grief] clears.
EW: When the cameras weren’t rolling, would your relationship with Abigail Breslin turn more sisterly?
CD: What’s wonderful about Abigail is that she’s very professional and she’s an amazing actress. You don’t feel like you’re acting in a scene with a child. But she’s also age-appropriate. She turned 12 on the set and she is that age.
EW: So she’s not a cynical and jaded Hollywood actress?
CD: As much as Nick and I tried to get her to be, no. [Laughs]