Christine Lahti on starring in the QFest film ‘Petunia’

Christine Lahti plays an experimenting mom in "Petunia," playing at QFest. Credit: Getty Images
Christine Lahti plays an experimenting mom in “Petunia,” playing at QFest.
Credit: Getty Images

Actress Christine Lahti plays Felicia Petunia, the matriarch of a dysfunctional family in the comedy-drama “Petunia.” Stuck in an empty marriage, she tries Botox and other things to feel desirable. An empty nester, she meddles in her adult kids’ relationships —one of whom is newly married, one of whom is gay, and the third is a sex addict. “Petunia” screens at QFest July 17, 5:00 at the Ritz East

What appealed to you about playing Felicia? How did you identify with her?
[Laughs] That I am nothing like her. I can relate to a helicopter mom. I don’t think I do that, but my kids are grown. I’m not offered this kind of role — one that is so “out there” — and at this stage, I love taking chances and doing a role like this.

Playing Felicia allows you to do both broad comedy and deliver some very stinging one-liners. How did you calibrate your performance?
It’s always a delicate balance to do broad comedy to keep it rooted in reality. It’s high stakes. I thought about Felicia in terms of her objective: she’s desperate for love, so she goes to desperate measures — Botox, nightclubbing —and fails miserably. She feels invisible, worthless, and in a loveless marriage. She thinks if she tries to control her kids, maybe she’ll get love back.

There’s a scene where Felicia says some pretty awkward stuff to her son’s girlfriend. And she behaves pretty badly when she tells her son’s boyfriend to “aggressively seduce” her abstinent son. These scenes are either funny or cringe-inducing for viewers. How do you play that?
She’s clearly inappropriate. You can take it that she’s being mean, but she’s really trying to find a partner for all her sons. She’s trying to control it all.
I hope she’s likable. She was three dimensional, and that’s why I was attracted to the part — that she wasn’t a two-dimensional, judgmental bitch. [But] the audience understands why she behaves the way she does. As controlling as misbehaving as she is, she has a big heart and wants her kids to be happy.

What did you learn about family and love from making “Petunia?”
I always question how I relate to my kids and husband. My younger kids are at that wonderful/confusing time where they are becoming independent, and I’m trying to let them go. I do things for them that I probably shouldn’t. One of the most extraordinary things in my life is witnessing my children blossom and become their own person. Much as I want to keep them under my wing. Felicity went way overboard to keep her kids dependent because her own life was so empty. She thinks, if I can keep my kids needy, I’ll feel some worth in my life. I don’t feel that personally but I can understand that.

So, have you ever tried destructive therapy, Botox, or ecstasy as Felicia does?
[Laughs]. I am never going to tell you! They all sounds interesting, don’t they?


Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking


K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.


Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.


Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.


Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.


Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…


Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.


Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.


2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…


Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.


Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.


Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.


Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.