Encore Act

Six Feet Under star Rachel Griffiths' hit show.


For the past five years, Australian actress Rachel Griffiths has played the sultry and complicated Brenda Chenowith on the popular HBO series Six Feet Under. Mom to 18-month-old Banjo Patrick (he's named after beloved Australian poet Banjo Paterson, who wrote "Waltzing Matilda") and married to Australian artist Andrew Taylor, Griffiths, 36, is expecting the couple's second child, a girl, due on June 25.

As Six Feet Under enters its final season, her pregnancy was written into the show's plot, to Griffiths' delight. We talked with her in Los Angeles on a well-needed day off, as between spending up to 14 hours a day on the set, being nine months pregnant and caring for a toddler, she was understandably a tad tired.

Your pregnancy was written into the final season of Six Feet Under. How did that go? Fantastic. It meant that I was never asked to do anything inappropriate, nor was I banished behind furniture. It's such a joke when you try to hide it and everyone is making snide remarks behind your back about how fat you've gotten.

Did being on TV during your pregnancy make you overly conscious about weight gain? Not at all. I'm conscious about gaining an appropriate amount of weight, and I'm pretty much exactly as I was last time. I gained 30 pounds, which is losable. I think there's tremendous pressure to rebound, but I don't think there's tremendous pressure not to get big while pregnant. That would be evil. How has this pregnancy been compared with your first? It's gone a lot faster. When you already have a child, you don't have as much time to sit around and stare at your navel or have those long conversations with your baby that I had with my boy before he was born. Apart from that, I've been working, which I didn't have to do during most of my last pregnancy. What did you learn from your first pregnancy that's helped you the second time around? I don't know if this is coincidence, but I have such a chilled-out little boy. He's very clear in all his signals—none of that confusing anxious crying. I do feel that because I had such a relaxed pregnancy, he came out relaxed. So the big thing this time is trying not to get stressed out.

So how are you managing to stay relaxed? I'm doing prenatal yoga. I also hike with my boy. We only go about 100 meters, but it takes an hour—a perfect pace when nine months pregnant. We stop and look at the flowers and pick up rocks. I do things like that to fight against the modern pace that we're all juggling.

Do you eat differently when you're pregnant? I cut out sushi even though my obstetrician says that women in Japan eat raw fish all the way through. I just eat smaller portions of everything and eat more often. I consume more protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains, and don't eat much white flour. I also just started craving ice. I like chewing it. I do believe in listening to your cravings, except when they involve Starbucks and candy bars.

What do you love about being pregnant? Pregnancy can be very sexy. I've really enjoyed how I've felt in my body. If you keep fit and active, you're more likely to feel like a big gorgeous Amazon than a blubbery old whale. My husband finds me very sexy, too, so that's really nice.

Do you and your husband share similar parenting philosophies? Pretty much. I think the only difference is that I read books and he learns by experience. Already I have four books on siblings; how to stop your 2-year-old from killing your new baby. I am a bit more informed, but I think we're equally committed to creating a really safe environment that we can be relaxed parents in.

What's been the greatest challenge this time? Keeping my energy up through the day. There's a good three hours each afternoon that are really, really, tough at work. Every moment I am not working, I try to find a place to lie down and breathe for 10 minutes.

How did your first labor go? Very fast—seven hours from start to finish. In Australia, they don't want you to get to the hospital too early. For this birth, I just don't want to get stuck in L.A. traffic trying to get to the hospital.

Did you breastfeed Banjo? I breastfed him exclusively for six months. I weaned him very slowly from six to 11 months by cutting down one feeding per day every month or so. It's kind of funny, I really thought I could not wait to stop—my theory is that women with small breasts like to breastfeed much longer, but women with large breasts can't wait to stop, as they want their D cups back after lugging double F's around. I tried to wean, hoping I would go down to my regular size. But even though I was only doing one feed a day, I found it really hard to give it up.

How has motherhood changed you? It's slowed me down. It's a weird contrast: I can juggle more and, at the same time, I can sit on the floor and play with blocks for an hour and not notice that the time has gone past. They're both great skills for adults. On one hand, I get more done in a day, but when I go for a walk, instead of making it about getting to the top of the mountain, it becomes its own journey of pointing out horse poop or collecting flowers to bring home to dad. Thank God those two things coexist. But the most surprising thing is that becoming a mother is like meeting a new friend.