Robert Rodriguez is known for bouncing between pulpy grown-up flicks like “Sin City” and kid-friendly fare like the “Spy Kids” series, but actress Jessica Alba, who stars in “Spy Kids 4,” had never seen him take on the latter before. “Robert doesn’t change and his process doesn’t change,” she insists. “But there’s a lightheartedness on a set where when there’s kids around you’re not blowing things up and there’s no half-naked girls and machine guns. There’s no cursing. It’s kids’ stuff and toys.”
While this is the third time Alba has teamed with Rodriguez, it’s the first time they’ve done something family-friendly together. “I talked to Robert about wanting to do a movie that my daughter could see,” she says. “There’s a lot of natural comedy in being a first-time parent and just being in day-to-day situations.” Of course, in “Spy Kids 4,” a day-to-day situation could mean fighting off evil henchmen and car chases while extremely pregnant, which Alba does early in the film. “Walking up stairs is challenging when you’re nine months pregnant,” she admits. “I think it was really just a great comedic set-piece. Like, What if a woman’s going through contractions while trying to save the world? And of course a woman’s going to try to do it all.”
Alba later found out that it was her conversations with Rodriguez that led to much of her character — a professional spy who puts work on hold for her family. “He said that my character was inspired by just seeing me trying to balance it all — and probably not doing the greatest job at it, but trying at least,” she says with a laugh.
One of the ways she and husband Cash Warren try is by making family the top priority on the weekends. “That’s when my husband and I make a concerted effort to not email or text and really spend our time with our daughter and just be completely, 100 percent focused on her,” she says. “During the week, it’s here and there depending on if I’m busy with meetings or not. It’s a little easier now that she’s in school. But it’s tough, because I do care about my career and I do have that, but she’s my No. 1 priority, so if she’s not doing OK nothing else really matters.”
While she and Warren recently welcomed their second daughter — Haven Garner Warren was born on August 13 — Alba is already thinking about what’s on her plate next — and it’s not necessarily more family fare. “It’s not like I want to only do family or kids’ movies from now on,” she says. “It’s just nice to have a movie that my daughter can actually watch. I do miss doing action, and after I have the baby, I’m looking for a good action movie to do.”
And as much as she enjoys being an actress, she’s pretty firm about not wanting her girls to get into the business too soon. “I was a child actor, and it worked for me given the circumstances I was in, but I’m lucky enough to give my daughter — and my second baby — a completely different life and educational opportunity than I ever had,” she says. “When they’re done with college, if they want to get into the arts that’s fine. But I wouldn’t encourage them to work in this type of environment. I really wouldn’t.”