LOS ANGELES — With The Hunger Games in the rear-view mirror, the ensemble comedy What to Expect When You’re Expecting just out, and a 14-month-old at home, Elizabeth Banks is tired.
“I’ve signed on to being exhausted for the next 25 years,” the 38-year-old actress says, kicking off her studded stilettos and settling into a sofa at the Four Seasons Hotel.
That’s the price of being a working mom with a successful career that includes starring in three films this year, a recurring role on 30 Rock, a burgeoning production company, and various other projects in different stages of development and production.
“I do like to work,” she said. “I’m very much a sleep-when-you’re-dead person.”
Banks has a very personal connection to What to Expect When You’re Expecting. She read the pregnancy manual while preparing to start her own family and said it kept her sane during the scary transition into first-time parenthood.
She and her husband, producer Max Handelman, welcomed son Felix last year, opting to use a gestational surrogate after facing infertility. Banks connected to the film adaptation of What to Expect because it’s less about pregnancy and more about parenting.
“When I was going through my battle with infertility, I got wonderful advice, which was: Why are you so worried about the pregnancy? Just get the baby whatever way you can get your baby,” she said. “Pregnant women would say, ‘Yeah, pregnancy is really great and lovely,’ but the part that’s important is mothering the baby, and at the end of the day, that’s what this movie is about.”
Banks plays Wendy Cooper, a perky lactation expert and pregnancy authority whose own expectant experience isn’t the glowy, blissful one she’d hoped for.
“All the not-so-wonderful things about pregnancy that are possible — like flatulence, acne, constipation, swollen ankles, fatigue, and anxiety — happen to Wendy,” said director Kirk Jones. “Elizabeth Banks is just a genius comedian and she played everything so beautifully.”
Though Banks wore a fake tummy in the film, “a prosthetic belly is not the same as being pregnant.”
“It’s an approximation of the physicality you have as a pregnant person,” she said. “It makes you walk differently and sit differently, eat differently, and it provides a wonderful shelf for your coffee mug. And it’s heavy, so your back aches, so it’s a wonderful approximation.”
The actress will be back on screen next month in People Like Us, which she describes as “a beautiful, wonderful story about people who find family.” Next up is Pitch Perfect, which she produced with her husband: A comedy set in the competitive world of collegiate a capella. Banks said it’s the hardest she has ever worked.
“It’s like birthing a baby almost!” she said. “Until it’s out to the world, there’s no end to worrying about it.”
The film is due in the fall, right when she returns to the world of The Hunger Games to film its second installment, Catching Fire.
Her turn as the super-coiffed Effie Trinket has won Banks younger fans and reinvigorated her passion for acting.
“I just love Effie so much,” the actress said. “She’s a really amazing character, a complicated, interesting, wild character to play — the type of character that when you’re a young actor you dream of getting to play, and I get to do it now.”
Even if it is all a little exhausting.