Jessica Phillips plays Evan Hansen’s mom on the stage, but she’s also a mom to two teenage boys IRL. Broadway Spin caught up with the Dear Evan Hansen star to find out how she’s balancing all of her current responsibilities, what it’s like quarantining with teenagers, and finding silver linings in uncertain times.
When it comes to managing everything on her plate, Phillips and her family — which includes her husband (fellow actor Tad Wilson) and two sons — have found a way to make it work. “My kids are teenagers so they don’t need much hands-on care from me. Mostly I’m checking in with them about on-line classes and assignments, making sure they’re keeping up with long-term academic responsibilities,” she explained. “We have a pretty good system of trading off quiet corners of the house when one of us needs to take a call or write or read. So far it’s been pretty smooth.”
And even though her kids are (almost!) grown, the actress has still learned new things about them during this time of forced togetherness. “I think we came into quarantine already knowing each other pretty well, but it’s been lovely to be in the same daily rhythm with them. To be in synch with their routine. In recent years we’d gotten away from family dinner around the table because, you know, life happens – baseball practice, test-prep class, girlfriends, etc. – but one gift of this time has been to sit down together every night and share a meal,” she revealed.
“I’ve relished these dinner conversations, some rife with emotion over differing opinions, and I’ve loved observing so intimately how each of them thinks and how they communicate.” In some ways, the friction is even a highlight. “A few nights we’ve stormed off in separate directions after a particularly heated discussion. But most nights before bed, regardless of the events of the day, we come together to watch Friends reruns and laugh, or play a quick card game or throw some darts. In general it’s been a heart-expanding time for me in terms of deepening my connections with them. I feel like a shot-gun passenger on their ride into adulthood.”
When it comes to the silver lining of this whole situation, Phillips reported that it changes regularly — but she thinks having the room for that to happen is, itself, the silver lining. “Sometimes I realize I’ve spent the whole day on screens and I’ve read too much news and can’t stop worrying about my finances and I’m anxious and don’t sleep well for a few days in a row,” she confessed. “But then I realize I’m able to course correct. I think the luxury of time has given me some ability to get refocused instead of distracted. To get still instead of busy. So I recognize my spinning, acknowledge it, and coach myself back to the here and now, the knowledge that there’s truly no controlling anything beyond my own thoughts and actions.”
Phillips thinks this skill, to re-center so to speak, is something she will take with her back into the world. “I’m not sure I was able to manage myself quite like that before this crisis. My older son is having a similar experience, thinking and talking about what it feels like to concentrate on being present, to be remembering and missing, to be imagining the future. What a wild ride we’re taking together, right?”