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Mary-Louise Parker on Momhood and Marijuana

The "Weeds" actress talks about blended families, acting, and legalizing pot.

Mary-Louise Parker on parenting continued...

In her own life, Parker puts her kids first. She became a mother for the first time at 39 -- her son, William Atticus Parker, is now 5. (Dad is actor Billy Crudup, who famously ended their relationship shortly before William was born.) Three years later, she went to Ethiopia to adopt daughter Aberash, who’s now two and a half.

"I think I hit both ends of the scale, from permissive to disciplinarian," she says of her real-life parenting. "Sometimes we’ll get up in the middle of dinner and have a dance party, just because there’s music on and everybody's happy. There's also one wall in my living room that the kids are allowed to paint on, and sometimes we’ll empty all the food that's gone bad out of the refrigerator, put it in a bucket, mash it around, and call it witches' brew. In that sense I’m free.

"But on the other hand, this is your bedtime, and no, we're not buying any more of that right now, and you can't have everything you want, and you have to say thank you and may I, please."

With such a clear sense of both fun and boundaries for her own children, does it trouble Parker to play a mother who’s so clearly damaging her kids? Not at all -- in fact, she revels in it.

"Anything that's polar from your own experience is sort of freeing. It allows you to use your imagination in a broader way than you might if it was something you felt you could relate to," she says. "I want to play people who are different from me in extreme ways, and who do things I can't quite conceive of."

Adopting Ash Parker

Although she'd dreamed of adopting a child since she was young, bringing home a baby from Ethiopia was something Parker couldn't quite imagine -- until she did it. "I didn’t know a lot about adoption," she says. "I finally just decided, OK, I'm going to do this, and it's going to be really hard because I'm single, and I'm going to do it anyway. I had a couple of countries floating around in my mind -- I had thought of maybe Vietnam -- but it was all vague and blurry.

Then she met with Jane Aronson, the "orphan doctor" and renowned expert on international adoptions. "After an hour of talking to her, I was, like, Ethiopia. It had never occurred to me before, but she showed me some pictures of the kids and showed me the need level there, and I wanted to go somewhere where there was a need," she says. "It's not like I only wanted to enlarge my family. I really wanted to give a child a home."

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