Precious Chong Pushes Boundaries
An interview with actress Precious Chong
Bunch talked to actress Precious Chong about motherhood, growing up with Tommy Chong and her show, Push… One Mother Of a Show
Q: Are people surprised to hear about your childhood?
A: I was straight and academic growing up. I wanted to be the opposite of my parents. It’s like in that TV show from the ‘80s where Michael J. Fox was really preppy and really normal. I wanted a normal name like Luisa. I wanted to fit in. I eventually embraced the fact that my dad is who he is. Now I have a happy and interesting life. I get to have all these different experiences.
My parents are still together. In some ways, my childhood wasn’t as chaotic and crazy as some spawn of celebrities. I didn’t do jail time. It was an interesting mixture of very strange things and stable, normal, sure. My dad went to parties and stuff, but it was a different time then. Being a celeb wasn’t so crazy as it is now. My dad did a People magazine interview, but there was no paparazzi. He kind of is embraced as being this counterculture icon, but he’s approachable. He’s mellow.
I left Los Angeles when I was 13, but I could have been around and going to parties when I was really young and doing the fast lifestyle.
Now my son is like me. You have to find yourself and individuate. It’s healthy. In the past I made the mistake of defining life in opposition to my parents rather than discovering what life would be.
My dad is really excited and very supportive of my career. He comes and sees my shows. It’s really how my dad and I bond. It was hard going into writing and comedy. My mom wants me to have security, have a kid. I didn’t necessarily want to be actor. My dad was always very much the risk-taker.
Q: What is your attitude about your son smoking pot?
A: The first time I smoked pot with my dad, he said “I’m so proud of you.” I guess I would be open and talk about it. If he smoked pot excessively…so strong for young kids. A teenager’s brain is still developing. In good conscience, I’d be, like, totally anti-drug. I would not be one of those parents that gets high together with their kid. I’d talk about it and make sure he knows what it can do to you. I’d tell him to find something he’s passionate about, like sports and skateboarding. I’d try to destigmatize it.
Growing up, smoking pot was so not interesting to me. It was something my dad did. The smell of it reminded me of my dad. I’d hope to create an environment where it’s not taboo. I used to pick friends with parents who let them have sugar cereals. I hated cigarettes. Smoking pot makes me neurotic. It’s not good for me.
My dad became much more into it. He was more of an activitist. He couldn’t have been so prolific and got so much done if he’d been a total stoner. For his 70th birthday party, someone made pot cookies. My mom’s friend ate them, it was like a disaster.
Q: Do you have any advice for parents about talking to their kids about pot?
A: Hopefully just talking about things. Listening, not tantalizing.
Being a parent is a privilege. You get a privilege to help this person, and your job is to sort of foster that the best you can.
It was different when we were younger. In the ‘70s, people were rebelling against their parents.
I let Jack play with my iPhone and I’m like, “What am I doing?” I can’t pretend I don’t know TV is bad for him. Sometimes part of being a human being is learning how to do it their own. You want to protect them, whether it’s by giving them money, but you want them to learn their own lessons.
Q: What’s Grandpa Tommy Chong like?
A: He loves being a grandpa; he’s a good grandpa. One time when my son was quite young, he came across a toy figurine of my dad, dressed like he is in Up in Smoke with the red bandanna, and my son points to the figurine and goes, “Grandpa!”
Q: How does Push push boundaries of what it means to be a mom?
A: I’m not drawn to shows about moms or being a mom. It makes me cringe, even though I’m a mom. I feel stifled by it. Push is pretty dirty and pretty honest. It’s kind of more absurd. We’re trying not to be safe about it, but it can be pretty tricky. People have an idea about what it is to be a mom, how you’re supposed to be. People like me happen to be parents.
First of all, my ex hates that I call myself a “single mom.” He prefers “co-parent,” which is a whole other thing. The weird thing is me and Wes [Precious’ ex] and his new partner, we’ll go to school functions together. Jack has an extended family. At the same time, you’d be surprised. People have this idea that Mom and Dad are together. I guess what we do as performers is different than the norm.
We want to make fun of stuff that we’re dealing with, such as only being friends with people who have kids the same age as yours. Parents feel like actors in the role of a parent. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel about mothering.
Q: How do you keep your identity?
A: I’m conflicted, because I love my son. I didn’t want to sacrifice doing what I loved but I’m not seeing him as much as think I should. Sometimes parenting is a pain in the ass, and it’s slightly taboo to really look at that. You feel pressure, you feel like you’re failing when you think “I hate readng this book.” You can’t say that out loud. You need patience to play certain games with your kids. So we’re just exhausted all the time. Jack is a little older now. But it’s hard when you’re sleep-deprived and expected to do all these other things.
Q: What else should people know about Push?
A: Push is basically a fun, irreverent show about being a mom. It’s not saccharine, it’s not too cutesy. We are comedians, this is a new experience we’re taking on. A lot of parents relate to it and laugh. They think of the failures of being a mom.
My parents never gave me a bedtime. It was a different time. I was pretty precocious, I went to the corner store when I was 3. And there’s some worth to that.
It’s very autobiographical. I play a single mom who’s kind of pretty human and messing up all the time, competing with her ex’s fiance who is also an actress. I’m completely the anti-hero mom. It’s based on myself.
It’s playing on the idea, the stigma about being a single mom. It deals with contradictions. The single mom thing is just something I struggled with. I was so afraid of becoming a single mom so I didn’t have kids, I was so afraid.
Push… One Mother of a Show plays at the Tarragon Theatre through tomorrow
— Amanda Factor
Photo via PreciousChong.com