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Interview: Actress and Brooklyn mom Maggie Gyllenhaal

We sat down with Maggie Gyllenhaal, the Oscar-nominated actress and mom of two, at the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the First Aid Kit.

Though she grew up in Los Angeles, Oscar-nominated actress Maggie Gyllenhaal’s very first home was in the East Village and she’s back living in the city—Brooklyn, to be exact—with her husband Peter Sarsgaard and their daughters Ramona, 6, and Gloria Ray, 13 months. Time Out Kids sat down with Gyllenhaal, who's set to appear on stage in MCC Theater's The Village Bike next year, at the 125th anniversary of the First Aid Kit, part of the Everyday Care Campaign launched by Johnson & Johnson and Safe Kids Worldwide. (The campaign's main goal is to teach children across the country about proper sports safety.) At the event, Gyllenhaal shared her thoughts on the challenges and joys of raising kids in New York, balancing work and family and her plans for the summer.

How did you become involved with the Everyday Care Campaign?
It's something that’s easy to get behind—we sort of take for granted that there will be Band-Aids and Neosporin and probably a first aid kit most places we go. It seemed like a good thing to support.

You were born in NYC, but grew up in Los Angeles, right?

Yes, I moved back here when I was 17, but as a little baby, for like the first year, my parents lived on Second Avenue and 2nd Street. They told me they used to throw me in a backpack and just walk around the East Village with me!

Why did you decide to raise your girls in New York, and especially, Brooklyn?
I love that my daughters are growing up trying all different kinds of food and meeting all kinds of people. That’s one thing I love about where we live in New York and New York in general—they meet all different people, and all different colors from all different places, and that’s important to me. And Brooklyn, now especially, is becoming such a popular place for families. I love that about Brooklyn. I mean, all my friends live in Brooklyn and most of my friends have little kids. And we’ve been in our neighborhood long enough that they know my kids at the market. One day I had to grab something from across the street and we were in this store that we go in all the time—Brooklyn Larder right near us—and Ramona knows everybody who works there, and she’s like “I’m fine, I’ll stay." One of the people behind the counter said, “We’ll watch her, no problem.” She’s not the kind of girl who will just stay anywhere, but we have a real community. We have our coffee place, and we have our market, and we know what we like, and they know us too, and it feels good.

What are some activities you enjoy doing with the girls?

For my daughter who is older now, I think it’s [the city] kind of amazing. But it can be a hard place to raise kids—well, to raise little kids. Peter took her to see this Cambodian opera at BAM, and I went with her to see a dance performance with all these kids the other day. At that age, I think, it starts to be great again. And I use your website a lot—I think there are so many interesting things for kids going on in the city. But for a little baby, it’s hard. One of the only things that we can do as a family that’s really relaxing is to go to Prospect Park. We bring a picnic, and they can run around and see other kids, and I feel like I can relax. But, so many other activities that are meant for kids, with the baby I find exhausting.

I also like the Smorgasburg festival—not in Williamsburg, I haven’t been to that one—but the one in Dumbo, and I love that carousel, which is so beautiful. But I tried to take them by myself the other day, and just, the lines are so long. The food is delicious and it was really lovely, but alone with two kids there when everyone’s hot and hungry was really exhausting and hard! And I guess I’m also just getting used to having two and having a mobile little one!

Both you and your husband have very busy careers. How do you balance work with family time?
It’s really hard, actually. We’re always having conversations like, "Okay, well you finish on this day, and how are we going to cover these three days when I need to be here", or trying to get movies to shift their schedules a little bit, or having to say no to things because both of us really do value our children and being there for the things that are important to them. It’s really important to me and to Peter, so we really try not to work at the same time. There have been times when we’ve had to, but very rarely.

What are your plans for the summer?
We’re actually not going to be in the city very much because I’m working in London. I’m making a BBC series called An Honourable Woman about a woman who’s—how do I say it simply—she’s an English, Jewish, billionaire heiress, and she’s trying to broker peace in the Middle East through a foundation that she runs, which lays communication cable between Israel and Palestine. It ends up becoming almost like a James Bond-type of story because the Israeli government, the Palestinian leadership, the English secret service, the CIA and the FBI all have such a vested interest in all sorts of things about that area. We're shooting there, and then, I think, in Morocco.

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