Mae Whitman is easily one of the standout child stars of the 90s who kicked off her acting career working with some of the biggest names in Hollywood. She was Meg Ryan's daughter in When a Man Loves a Woman, George Clooney's daughter in One Fine Day, Bill Pullman's daughter in Independence Day, but we'll always remember her as little Bernice Pruitt in Hope Floats.
Mae Margaret Whitman grew up in Los Angeles California where she kickstarted her acting career at the young age of two after booking a commercial. By the time she was ten, she had already worked with some of the biggest stars in the world. With a hefty filmography filled with major films and TV shows, you'd think that she might not remember certain roles from early in her career. But Whitman remembers filming Hope Floats vividly. Directed by Forest Whitaker and starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick Jr, the southern drama is one of Bullock's most beloved films.
Whitman starred as her daughter, Bernice, who having trouble adjusting after moving in with her grandmother (played by Gena Rowlands) in the small town of Smithville, Texas. She misses her father, who left their mother for another woman and definitely has issues with her new love interest (Connick Jr). Whitman was easily a sought-after child actress for a reason. She gave a heartwrenching performance as the heartbroken little girl including multiple memorable scenes where she is crying...very convincingly. Does anyone not cry when she chases after her father's car begging him to take her?! But behind the scenes, she apparently had a great time...other than the large glasses she had to wear for her character.
"The glasses were so heavy they kept sliding down my face," Whitman explained to EW. "And falling off. We had to have several of them because they kept falling off and breaking because they were so giant and it was Texas in the summer so I was very sweaty."
Despite Bernice having issues with her mother Birdie in the film, Whitman admitted that even as a child she became quite close to Sandra Bullock during filming. She even laughed about a time they went to dinner in Austin together when a bird swooped down and stole one of her chicken nuggets while Bullock was regaling her with a story about her love life.
"Sandra Bullock and I became so tight and she would take me everywhere," Whitman reflected. "I ate lunch in her trailer every day and she would tell me stories." Honestly sounds like a total dream gig, even for a nine-year-old! She apparently also got along well with her other co-star, Harry Connick Jr, despite giving him some serious attitude in the movie.
Whitman appeared as a guest on Connick Jr's talk show and she and the Grammy winner reminisced about how much fun they had working on the film out in Texas.
"I don't know if you remember but the first time we hung out was at the Driskill Hotel and we were having the table read there." She explained that Connick Jr preceded to call her over to the balcony where they proceeded to throw things (like towels) down at the valet for over an hour. Connick Jr was 28 years old at the time the movie was filmed, the same age as Whitman when she appeared as a guest on his show.
Following Hope Floats, Whitman kept acting, landing roles on Merry Christmas, George Bailey, JAG, State Of Grace, Arrested Development, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Desperate Housewives, Grey's Anatomy, In Treatment, Suburgatory, The Jungle Book 2, Suburgatory, Family Guy, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Web Therapy. She found major success again as a teenager when she landed the role of Lauren Graham's on-screen daughter, Amber Holt, in the NBC adaptation of Ron Howard's Parenthood. She has also voiced Tinker Bell in all of the Disney films about the popular Peter Pan character as well as April O'Neil in the Nickelodeon series Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. She starred in the high school comedy The Duff, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, and so much more. The list goes on and on because Whitman really doesn't slow down.
Recently, Whitman has been the voice of Batgirl in DC Super Hero Girls and has appeared on Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, and the musical Valley Girl. She's currently starring as Annie Marks in the NBC series Good Girls opposite former Mad Men star Christina Hendricks and Retta.
Though being a child star can definitely be a negative path for many, Whitman had a great experience. She actually credits her parents for providing a strong foundation for her and ultimately giving her as positive and normal a life as could be expected.
"I just felt like I had a big, big family growing up," she explained to Huffpost. "I think equally of like hanging out with Harry Connick Jr. and Sandra Bullock, genuinely feeling like, 'These are my friends, Mom, please go away,' and then just hanging out in Austin and getting to be with my family and my parents."
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