“I know its kind of last minute, but would you be interested in interviewing Finola Hughes?” asked the editor of Playground magazine. “She’s a soap star, among many other things, and I’m not sure how we can fit the interview into our editorial plan yet, but it’s an opportunity,” she continued.
She was right. It turned out to be quite the opportunity. The very next day I was sitting with Finola in the Saks VIP room at Florida Mall. That’s right, the VIP room. I was unaware department stores had VIP rooms, but apparently they do. I suppose it’s for events like the one Finola was emceeing, Fashion Funds the Cure, a charity event involving kids having cancer performing a fashion show to raise big bucks for the foundation.
Now I don’t watch soap operas, but I imagine those that do become very attached to the characters. Because as I began Googling and doing some basic background research on Finola, my friend Michelle, who is a General Hospital fanatic, freaked out. I had written her in hopes to get some good dirt or questions for the soap star. Instead, she responded to my e-mail by writing, “OMG! How did that happen? Let me think about this. I’m going to have to get back to you.”
I waited for her response, but she never got back to me. To her credit it was short notice, just over an hour before i was to be at the interview. I, myself, barely had twenty-four hours to prepare for this interview (which means nothing when you’re simultaneously writing a research paper). What caught my attention was learning Finola and her husband, music photographer and painter (remember George Michael’s Faith album?), Russell Young, had adopted two of her three children. Immediately, I became super interested in taking part of this project for two reasons. The first was because I, too, hope to adopt one day (although this day seems to get further and further away) and so consequently, most of the questions truly were for my own curiosity. Secondly, I like challenges. Some how I would need to tie the soap star mom from Santa Barbara, California, to a magazine based solely on Central Florida and it’s parents.
“What was she like?!” It was the question everyone seemed to want to know, especially Michelle.
Amazing. She’s one of those people you feel yourself gravitate towards. The kind that makes you feel comfortable, even though you feel it should be opposite, like you should be the one putting the most effort in. It didn’t even dawn on me that she is the most famous person I’ve ever interviewed until someone asked me exactly that: Is she the most famous person you’ve ever interviewed? (Of course, this depends on how much you appreciate the lead singer from Rusted Root, Michael Glabicki. I interviewed him years ago for the Wall St. Journal, the downtown bar paper, not the actual newspaper).
Unfortunately, Playground never found a place for this interview in their magazine. Although, I am super grateful to have had the opportunity to meet Finola. As this interview is one of my favorites and definitely made for good memories.
Jana: How did you become the host for today’s event, Fashion Funds the Cure?
Finola: I actually hoisted myself on them. I met Tara, back in October, when there was another event here at Saks. I was talking about my husband who is involved in a charity called Art of Elysium. They bring art to hospitals where children are kept long term. Tara brought up Fashion Funds the Cure. After I listened to what it entailed: how it helps children that might want to be involved in a clinical trial by giving money to the Pediatrics Cancer Foundation, I said, “And so you do a fashion show? Do you need someone to emcee?” And she was like … well what could she say? I kind of pushed myself on her. [Laughs]
What do you hope this event achieves?
It takes $12,000 to put a child through a clinical trial. I really hope we raise enough money to put as many children through who need it this year.
How many times have you visited Orlando?
Oh gosh. A lot. We used to do this thing called Soap Weekend, and that was at Disney World. I came to that a few times. I’ve been to Tampa and I have a very good friend in Miami. So I’ve visited quite often.
What do you think of our city?
I think downtown is so cool. I like it. I think all cities in America have their own little flavor—sometimes you just have to look for it. Some cities, like New Orleans, throw it right in your face. Other cities you have to search it out. I like that. I like finding where the vibe is and where the vintage clothing stores are.
What are places you like to frequent when you are visiting here?
Let’s see … that last time I was here I went out with a friend. I wanted to find the best sushi bar. She took me to a sushi place … but I don’t remember the name. [Laughs] You’ll have to forgive me.
It’s okay. I’ll let you slide, but just this one time. Would you consider Orlando a good place to raise children?
Yes. I just talked to someone about it on the airplane. I guess the world is split into two types of people: the people who don’t speak to the person they’re sitting next to on a plane and then the ones that do. I am the latter version. I talk to anyone. What do you do? Where are you from? How long have you lived here? Are you going home? Is this your home? I say whatever until they cut me off. Then I’ll stop talking.
I sat next to a woman who had moved from somewhere really expensive—I think it probably was Brooklyn or something like that. She was explaining that she was raising these two children and she had nothing left to raise them with. She moved down to Orlando into a house with a pool for the same amount of money she was paying for tiny little bedroom in New York. I just listened as she talked about how it was home. Home is where you make it, I guess. It’s the wonderful place you raise your children.
Everywhere I go, I am aware of that. I think, “Can I bring my children here?” Just today, I saw a playground at this beautiful hotel they’ve set me up in, and I’m like, “Gosh, I could come here, get my nails done and the children can play.” [Laughs] You’re always kind of thinking on that level. So I would say Orlando is a brilliant place to raise children. I live in Santa Barbara. I look for things like the ocean, and wide-open spaces, swimming pools. I look for things that entertain the children, like horse riding and other sorts of things.
Having adopted two children, what are your thoughts about the adoption process?
I think the adoption process in America is very well thought out. The system is incredibly protective of the children. I think in Florida they need to open up, in my opinion, and allow same sex marriages to adopt children. I think that needs to be addressed because I’m in great support of that.
I’ve had the amazing opportunity to adopt two American children. I felt we should start at home, because there are so many children in foster care here. It’s been mine and my husband’s privilege to be selected—if you’d like to say that—by my birth mothers twice. Through it, we’ve been able to build a family that we are extraordinarily proud of—we have three bright, funny, careless, crazy short people that look to us for guidance. It’s a great trip.
Adoption is at once incredibly private and instantaneously intimate. You go into it not knowing whom you’re going to meet. You meet these unbelievably brave biological mothers who have a wish for their children that they carry in their own hearts, but maybe can’t fulfill themselves. As an adopted parent you feel great responsibility; you feel responsible for the child and also maybe somewhat responsible to fulfill the biological mother’s dream.
Has it been difficult to blend the family together?
Not at all. My husband was also adopted— not by me [Laughs]—but by someone else. He feels a great responsibility to make sure that the children are aware of the process.
What kind of family things do you do together?
Everything! We live five minutes from the ocean, so that’s usually our 5 o’clock after dinner event. After we have dinner together, we go down to see whatever the seas have washed up. My two sons go to the same school, The Waldorf School [of Santa Barbara], so we spend a lot of time involved with the school. We draw. My husband’s an artist. He likes to bring all his mess up from downstairs and plunk it in the kids’ room where they’ll play for hours. If it rains and there is a lot of mud, they go outside and get covered in mud. Then we hose them down. We’re very much about having them involved with the elements. We play music all the time—there is always music on in the house. We try to do everything as a family, and then when the kids don’t want us involved we try to step back.
Um, will you adopt me?
Was it a long process for your family, starting from when you decided that you wanted to adopt children to when it actually happened?
It can take a year and a half. I had problems getting pregnant. But we had decided before we had Dylan—who’s my biological child—that we wanted to adopt. I think my husband wanted to adopt anyway because he was adopted. It has been so amazing for him. He has an adopted brother and a great family. So I think it was always in the back of his head.
I’ve always wanted to adopt, even before I was injured and in a wheelchair. I think it’s something you just know early on in life.
Right. When I was a kid, probably 7-8, I remember watching something on television and telling my mother, “I want to adopt.” My mother thought it was a great idea.
Are there three tips you could give to someone who has/or is considering adopting children?
You’re mantra should be: it is what it is. Everything going through that process is what it is. You meeting the birth mother for the first time—it is what it is. She is who she is. Everything that evolves does. The next thing I would say is your child is out there. Don’t get disappointed or lose sight that it will happen. If an adoption falls through—it is what it is. It can’t be anything else. And then, just stay the course. The child is out there.
How did you choose the names for your children? Specifically, I’m talking about Cash Justice—I love that name.
[Laughs] When Cash was born we looked at him and thought he was a cowboy. He had squinty blue eyes, and they remained blue. He is just a cool kid. We had that name in the back of our heads because we’re huge Johnny Cash fans. Justice turned into Jude at the end of the day. My husband made the point that he has three things he’s named after: cash as in money, justice as in the law and then young as opposed to old. We decided we needed to give him a real name. And because we liked The Beatles we chose Jude—Cash Jude Young. He is super cool, way cooler than either of us.
Is he musical?
On New Years Eve last year, my brother’s birthday, he brought over all ACDC music. He’s a big fan; it doesn’t do it for us. So it was the first time Cash had heard that music—he was three and half at the time. Well, he ran into the playroom, found his guitar, came storming out and proceeded to play guitar like a mad man for the entire song, to a whole room of people. None of our children watch TV. So he just knew how to do it; he just knew how to rock out.
Then it sounds like he will live up to his name.
I know right. We came up with Dylan because we are Bob Dylan fans. Plus, also my father was a huge Dylan Thomas fan. For Sadie, I wanted a name that was old-fashioned but cute at the same time—she just had that vibe. Now, she’s a pistol. She’s more trouble than the boys. I can’t believe it.
Is there a secret to balancing your career and motherhood?
Yeah I don’t balance it at all. It’s a total steamroller. I feel like I’m on one of those big roller coasters. It starts in the morning when I jump on it, having no idea where I’m going. And then it ends at night when I tuck the kids into bed. There is no balance involved, it’s just go.
Do the kids get to travel with you?
Yes, they do. I just went to shoot a movie in Vancouver. I took Cash with me and he went skiing for the first time. Dylan had gone with my husband last year to England, so we split it up.
Do you think the kids can benefit by traveling?
Yes, absolutely. I think if you can do it, take them with you and travel as much as you can.
You mentioned earlier that your kids go to The Waldorf, which is also an eco-friendly school. Why is that important to you?
The eco side of it was just a plus, we didn’t know much about that before we got into it. What drew me to the school was how it nurtures the child from the inside out. There is a no media rule, so they don’t see television, they don’t play video games, or anything like that. They have to rely on their own imagination all day, every day. That may sound taxing to some parents, but when you rely on the television to take care of your kids for an hour or two you actually put yourself back a couple of hours. As soon as the TV is shut off, they will want you to entertain them. If children learn from the age of 1-1½ that they have to entertain themselves, they do it. My 4-year-old just goes off and does everything on his own. My 1½ year old is beginning to figure out how to entertain her self. They just do it. They’ll turn boxes into anything…
I find this no TV rule a little bit ironic considering it’s coming from a television star. [Laughs]
I’m sorry. The irony doesn’t stop there. [Laughs] I don’t know what to say. They won’t be watching anything I’ve done. [Laughs]
Is there any correlation to playing a mother on TV and being one in real life?
My friend Kimberly McCullough who played my daughter, recently sent me some YouTube videos, some of it was even from the 80’s. And I never watch myself on TV. I haven’t seen anything I’ve done…
I don’t usually read my writing after it’s published. So I completely understand.
Right? It’s like, you were in it at the time. You trust what you did. You’re done with it. So I feel the same way. I don’t care to revisit it because…
Then you will over analyze it and find errors and…
Yes! And I’ll put too many of my insecurities into it. So I’m glad we’re on the same page. So she sent me some videos that I had never seen ever. And there I was playing a mother to her, a teenager. I wasn’t a mother at the time. I was twenty-something years old. The thing I thought when I looked at it was that I didn’t have much pathos. I didn’t have much compassion because I didn’t know about being a mother. Now when I go back to play the mother, I do feel like I have more compassion. I realized when you have kids, you look at life from such a different angle.
After my first child, I couldn’t go watch a movie that was a thriller or a war movie because if anybody got killed or beaten up, all I could think was, “That’s someone’s son! Or that’s someone’s child!” Even though I know that it’s just characters and they’re pretending, I still would think that. I think you just put yourself in a position as a global mother and I think once you’re there, you have such empathy for other mothers and the universe. Often times, in hard situations of the world, mothers and children are the first to suffer. Is hard as that is to swallow, it’s what happens. Whether that says it’s the men that are making the rules, I don’t know. But it says something.
What do you think mothers should do now in our economic times?
I believe in not giving things energy that don’t need to have energy. I think mothers are very good at keeping their eyes on the ball and knowing what’s important, and they should stick with that. Don’t give energy to things you can’t control, and don’t get attached to it. Let the people sort out the thing that’s happening in America and let them get on with it. The moms should focus on what they can control and other things that are important, which are making sure your children are happy and that they are fed, washed, watered … [Laughs] all of that.
How do you maintain being a stylish mother?
Well today I’m very cazh [said like the first part of casual], but I think you should get up every morning and … actually first, get rid of all your clothes that are sloppy. If you don’t have them, you won’t put them on. If you only have stylish jeans and stylish skirts to put on, put them on! What are you doing holding on to them for years? You’ve got to put them on. Don’t worry if you’re going to get peanut butter on them, because you will get peanut butter on them.
Literally, all my tops have this bit of white shoulder thing from babies. I go out sometimes and I’ll be talking to somebody, then I might take my cardigan off and I lay it on the side. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh. That thing is gnarly! Not only does it have yogurt on the sleeve, I don’t even know what that is on the shoulder.” Just go with it.
Does how you look really matter?
I think it matters to you. I think it’s important for your own self-esteem. And it’s also artistic; it’s your greatest canvas, if you want to look at it that way. Now, it’s not my greatest canvas but Sadie is. I have the best time dressing her and when she walks away I’m like, “Does that really work?” Then for God’s sake, I’ll chase after her and want to change her top. It’s pathetic. It’s ridiculous. But it’s fun. I don’t know if I’m turning her into a monster, or if by the time she’s 8-years-old she’ll want to be in overalls for the rest of her life saying, “Leave me alone.”
I just think it’s an artistic endeavor. How do you wear your hair? How do you wear your make-up? How do you do your clothes? That’s really cool. Make up makes it easy for us and right now eyeliner is in. It takes one and a half seconds to put on a slick of eyeliner on, so do it! Even if that’s it, that’s you’re statement. You can be like, “Yep. Damn. That’s my statement. I read Allure magazine, what can I say?”
Look to other moms to pull you up. If other moms make it to the school-yard wearing a cool pair of jeans and cowboy boots, then do it. You know?
Where are your favorite places to shop for children’s clothing?
Online. I like—eh what’s it called—something Lu Lu. Then, anything on sale. I always look for things on sale. There’s a thing called hautelook.com, I go on there and they have things that are 80% off. I also love hand-me-downs. Two of my friends have baby girls and they get all of Sadie’s stuff.
How does your husband contribute to your being?
My husband is all things, artistic, crazy, unpredictable, punk, punk rock, wild, and stable all at the same time. He’s a cool dude. Yeah.
What is your favorite “General Hospital” moment?
You know what I think now? It’s probably coming down off the helicopter and kicking Scorpio, knocking him out for all the things he’d done over the years. That was a cool moment.
Why do you think you got more fan mail than any other actor while on Charmed?
What! I didn’t know that. Holla! Out to my fans.
What’s next for you and your family?
Well for the family, we’re having spring break. We are looking towards the summer and having lots of family time. We manage to block out our summers and try to do a lot of family time. My husband’s family is coming over from England. So we’ll all just be hanging out really. We don’t do big stuff. I don’t over-schedule my kids. They play violin once a week and we’ll have a play date once a week. We don’t do lots of things because this is the only time they’ll be stress free. Once they hit their teens, it’s over. It’s like from then to the rest of your life you’re booked, so we want them to kind of smell the roses. So that’s what we have planned, along with some artistic things, and we’ll probably go to LA to visit the museums, stuff like that.
If I researched this correctly, I believe you’ll be turning 40 this year …
What! 40! I’m way over 40, I’m like 48.
Well then, I was going to ask about what motherhood is like in your 40’s but instead I’ll just ask about what it’s like in your late 40’s. [Laughs]
You know, I don’t think about it. I feel young. I stay active. I do lots of yoga. I meditate. None of that makes me feel of age. The one thing that does affect me is in living in a town that really resents you for doing anything … like aging. [Laughs] That’s kind of tricky to dance around. But I mostly ignore that and just allow them to be resentful. [Laughs]