Alysia Reiner On Why We Need Diverse Stories About Motherhood

Photo: Courtesy of Zelmira Gainza.
In Egg, Alysia Reiner (best known as Fig, the prison warden everyone loves to hate on Orange Is The New Black), plays Tina, a woman who reunites with her art school frenemy Karen (Christina Hendricks), only to find out they they're both expecting children. But the difference is Tina is expecting her baby via surrogate and Karen is carrying her child. What ensues throughout their passive-aggressive (and, at times, aggressive) reunion is an unflinching look at the different paths to becoming a parent, and indeed, whether or not to be a parent at all.
Reiner, who both starred in the film and produced it, says that she first did a reading of the movie's script around ten years ago, but lost touch with writer, Risa Mickenberg, until October 2016, just before the presidential election, when they both realized how relevant the movie's themes were.
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Reiner recently caught up with Refinery29 when Egg premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. She opened up about why she wanted to make the movie as a "form of protest" during a time when reproductive rights seem to constantly be in question, and to share how more diverse stories about motherhood help us advocate for women's choices about their bodies.
Your character and Christina Hendricks’ character have such different notions about being parents. Why do you think it’s important to show such conflicting ideas of motherhood?
"I think whenever we show as many perspectives as possible and get to talk about it, the more we heal and grow as a society. I feel in this moment in time, we aren’t necessarily listening to one another and respecting each other’s choices — even if we don’t agree with them.
"I teased that after Equity, 'I’m never making another movie, [because] producing is too hard.' And then the election happened, and for me, art is a way of protest. I feel in our current administration, women’s rights are an endangered species in a way. I felt this film spoke to women having the right to choose in so many different ways, but it also spoke to the importance of listening to each other. And that’s really why I wanted to make this movie, and why we made this movie. There are so many extraordinary women and a few men who made it together, so you’re talking to me, but I speak for an extraordinary team."
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Your character is very open about her decision to have a baby via a surrogate. Why did you want to tell a story about surrogacy?
"Whether you choose surrogacy or whether you choose another option, or you choose not to be a parent, there’s so many options now, and we have to embrace them, and [embrace] that whatever you choose is right for you, and that’s what it’s really about. [The choice is] between you and yourself, you and your own body, and possibly you and your partner — or not. Part of the message of the film is that you can choose to be a parent on your own, without a partner. That’s a valid choice as well, and that’s not really spoken about, but it’s something that I hope one learns in watching the film."
I feel like the movie does such a great job of subverting cliches about the childless woman and the smug mother-to-be. Is that something you thought about in your performance?
"Absolutely, and it’s an interesting thing playing this woman. She has such an ego and she says things that are very jarring for many people, and it’s my hope to bring some vulnerability [to the role] so that we see where that comes from, that we all have strengths and we all have deep vulnerabilities. I think what was a joy about playing this character is you get to see her transformation and her journey."
Ultimately, what message or messages about motherhood do you hope people take away from this film?
"I think the deepest message is: your body, your choice, and your life, your choice. And there is no wrong choice except not listening to your own heart and soul. We are so blessed to live in a world today where there are so many choices, and I think my biggest hope is that people really go inwards and look at, what do I really want, and what’s right for me and my partner, if they have a partner, and to have the courage to make a choice as opposed to [choosing] whatever society has dictated, or what their family has dictated, or what they think they want because everyone around them is doing it."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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