1. Your younger daughter, Paloma (“Pippa”), has Down syndrome. Instead of talking about the “risk” of having a child with Down syndrome, you say that we should talk about the “chance” of that happening, just like the “chance” of having a boy or a girl. Why is that important?
I want to help people expand their understanding of what it is to love a person who isn’t “typical” or who is living with a disability. Down syndrome is a genetic variation, and there are lots of genetic variations. There isn’t one particular way that a person should be to have value. Life with Pippa is one of the richest gifts our family has ever received.
2. How did you and your husband, Rob Giles, react when you found out that Pippa had Down syndrome?
The truth is that having any child is challenging! You get to know your baby and you figure out her needs just like you do with a typical kid.
3. What is the relationship like between Pippa and your older daughter, Eliza, 6?
We wondered if Pippa having Down syndrome would affect things between them, but it has really unfolded just like any other sibling relationship.
4. What have you learned from getting involved with a community of families who have kids with Down syndrome?
5. You helped out with your niece’s birth and worked with a midwife when you first came to Los Angeles. What was that like?
After I was the doula for my sister’s home birth, I read the famous guide to natural childbirth by midwife Ina May Gaskin, who founded The Farm Midwifery Center in Tennessee. I was so inspired that I decided to go to The Farm and train to be an assistant midwife. Then I came back to Los Angeles to apprentice with some midwives here.
6. Did that affect your own experience of pregnancy?
Oh, yes! It’s fundamentally redefined pregnancy and birth for me, to see it as an incredible, miraculous, powerful thing that women have evolved over millions of years to do really well.
7. How are you most and least like your Grey’s Anatomy character, Dr. Amelia Shepherd?
We’re alike in eye color, height, and facial structure -- that’s about it! One of the things I really like about acting is that it helps people develop their capacity for empathy and compassion. Her character began as someone facing addiction and trauma, and over time we’ve taken her from being stuck in her trauma to someone who’s being of service to others. I love portraying that journey of healing.
8. What’s the one thing that’s most important in taking care of yourself?
I’ve been practicing yoga since I was 16 years old.
9. Does yoga help you as an actor?
Definitely! Breath control and body awareness can be a great way to connect to a character and also to connect to yourself.
10. What are your goals for yourself for the next year?
I want to approach community building in the present moment and doing small things with care and with love, as opposed to setting my eyes on a later date or a bigger role that might bring community to me later.
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