New York — The first movie that Jodie Foster ever directed was about a single mom raising a son. Her latest project behind the camera is also about a single mom — but this time one who is raising a daughter.
For an episode of the Netflix series Black Mirror, Foster had to dig deep into mother-daughter dynamics to tell the story of a mom so anxious about her girl that she turns to a sophisticated surveillance tool.
Foster is a mother of two boys — and her debut as a director was Little Man Tate in 1991 — so she reached back to how she interacted with her own mom and the push and pull that involved. It's different with boys, she said.
"When you're raising a man, you're just so in awe at how different they are," she said. "It's just so amazing to you how different they are in every way — not just the physical ways but how they think. It's very easy to understand that they are separate from you. It's not so easy, I think, with female children."
The Black Mirror episode, titled ArkAngel, is part of season four of writer Charlie Brooker's anthology series that taps into our collective unease with the modern world. Foster's episode stars Rosemarie DeWitt, whose credits include La La Land and Mad Men.
DeWitt, who has two young daughters, plays the mom wrestling with the implications of eavesdropping on her daughter as she grows into a woman. The actress laughs about a "gentle tension" on the set.
"I sometimes felt Jodie was really rooting for the daughter and I was really rooting for myself. So we had this combustible thing," said DeWitt. "It's a really sticky relationship — mothers and daughters."
Brooker's script intrigued both women with its ethical quandaries and rich characters. Foster likens the series to The Twilight Zone, serving up twists and messy human reactions to technology.
"In some ways, the technology has outpaced our ethics and the ability for us to understand the monster that we've created," she said. "Technology is kind of like a blender — it's just this inanimate object that doesn't have any feelings. It doesn't have a point of view. It's benign. It's just doing what we asked it to do and that's the part we have to be careful of."
Foster, whose acting roles include The Silence of the Lambs, Inside Man and The Accused, said she was attracted to Netflix after finding Hollywood really only interested in big franchise films. "Real narrative is on streaming cable now," she said.
The episode marks the first time friends Foster and DeWitt have worked together and Foster said her leading actress "just inhabits a character in a way that feels completely and totally real."
For her part, DeWitt said having an Oscar-winning actress-turned-director guide her was a little tricky. "I could never be, like 'But this is hard, Jodie!' Because she did it in Panic Room. She's done it a million times."