Raising one kid alone takes a village. Imagine having to raise 10 of them? Disney+’s newest original film, Cheaper by the Dozen, embraces that notion.
A fresh take on the original 1950 Twentieth Century Fox film that followed the Gilbreth family, this version of the beloved film franchise that gained popularity with the 2003 film and 2005 sequel starring actor/comedian Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt adds some flavor. The film, co-written by Kenya Barris (Blackish) & Jenifer Rice-Genzuk Henry, stars Zach Braff (Scrubs) and Gabrielle Union (Bring It On). They play divorcees Paul and Zoe, who decide to blend their families after a chance encounter at his restaurant, growing their family to 10, but if you either count the parental figures or their two dogs, takes it 12. Before Paul and Zoey jumped the broom, they had children from previous marriages.
Paul had Ella, Harley, and Haresh, his adopted son, whom he and his first wife took in when Haresh’s parents passed away in a car accident. Zoey has a daughter Deja and a son, DJ. The couple would also have children of their own, two adorable sets of twins, Luca and Luna, plus Bailey and Bronx.
Speaking of their exes, they also play a role, with Paul’s ex-wife, Kate (Erika Christensen), sticking around, much to the dismay of his current wife, Zoe. Kate makes herself useful by serving as a babysitter from time to time. Zoe’s ex-husband, Dom Clayton (Tyle Kimon Durrett), is a retired professional athlete trying to make up for the lost time that his career kept him away from his family, specifically his kids. Of course, Paul can’t stand Dom and how he uses his fame to impress his kids.
The cast isn’t the only thing that changes with this film. The subject matter also changes. The film touches on real-life issues like race, privilege, and raising Black children in blended families. Cassius Life had the opportunity to speak with Timon Kyle Durrett about his role in the film, Black children needing their Black parents, listening to your kids, and more.
Step into the interview below.
Cassius Life: First and foremost, can you break down your character in this refresh take on the classic Cheaper by the Dozen?
Timon Kyle Durrett: In this reinstalling, I guess you should say, of Cheaper by the Dozen, I play a character, Dom Clayton, a recently retired professional football player trying to come back into the fold, into the mix of being a more present father and seeing that his children are being raised by his ex-wife and another man. And he has to navigate his feelings and his emotions as being this larger-than-life figure and having to humble himself in a way that he’s not really used to, to see someone that he may seem to be not as a man’s man as he is, and understand that this man who’s helping raise his children is just as capable, if not more, in some instances. And by that, I mean Dom was not necessarily absent, but sometimes absent in certain areas where he has to understand where he can come back into the fold if he understands and accepts what this role is going to be moving forward with everyone else that’s there co-parenting.
CL: Now, there’s a significant moment in the film where you stressed the importance to Paul of being a Black parent and how Black children need their Black parents in their life. What’s your personal take on that matter?
TKD: I think it’s very important. In today’s world, it’s an old adage that it takes a village to raise a child, and the villages used to look different back in the day. Now, the villages are a little more blended. They’re a little more fluid. They’re a little more, I guess, varied in a sense, but I think it’s important to have that because even though my son, DJ, in the film is co-parented by a Caucasian man and his Black mother, it’s still important for him to understand that you’re still going to grow up in this world as diverse as it is and that it may still become, that he’s still going to grow up to be a Black man. And I think it’s important for him to see his father as well as the man that’s with his mom. And I think that dichotomy will… Not necessarily dichotomy, but that admix, it can lead to a more beneficial and rounded outlook on life, not just one. But I think it’s tantamount that he sees his Black dad as well as the parental units that he lives with.
I think it’s important to have that because even though my son, DJ, in the film is co-parented by a Caucasian man and his Black mother, it’s still important for him to understand that you’re still going to grow up in this world as diverse as it is and that it may still become, that he’s still going to grow up to be a Black man.
CL: We’re glad you mentioned DJ because there was another great scene between you and DJ, where DJ points out that even though you are his dad, you don’t really know him, know him, and that he prefers to talk to his other dad about other matters. Why do you think it’s more important that parents not only guide their children but also listen and pay attention to the things that their kids like?
Well, I mean, the children are people too, and they are individuals. I know we like to mold them and guide them. But eventually, these children are going to grow up and find a way to express themselves the way that they see fit. I remember growing up as a child, there are things that I wanted to do. And I grew up in a big family. And I’m very similar to some of my family members, but very different. And some of those differences were the things that I was good at, things that I wanted to do. And I appreciate that I was allowed to be my own person. You don’t want to grow up and have resentment toward people who did not allow you to be who and what and how you are. And I think that’s very important.
TKD: Well, I mean, the children are people too, and they are individuals. I know we like to mold them and guide them. But eventually, these children are going to grow up and find a way to express themselves the way that they see fit. I remember growing up as a child. There are things that I wanted to do. And I grew up in a big family. And I’m very similar to some of my family members but very different. And some of those differences were the things that I was good at, things that I wanted to do. And I appreciate that I was allowed to be my own person. You don’t want to grow up and have resentment toward people who did not allow you to be who and what and how you are. And I think that’s very important.
It’s paramount that children are allowed to express themselves and let you know what they like and what they want to do. I mean because that allowance will give them a sense of freedom. When you feel confined, especially as a child, children can feel helpless because they don’t take care of themselves. They don’t clothe themselves. They don’t buy their own stuff. They’re very dependent. So that level of dependence coupled with a level of freedom can give a balance to these children that I think is very, very important. It’s very key in their development, into becoming well-rounded and well-versed adults.
CL: Well, we know one thing, you do give some great gifts, man. To be quite honest, we would take a pair of those Jordans any day. What’s one thing you hope people walk away with after seeing your character, particularly in this film?
TKD: I think the one thing that I would like for people to take away from it is understanding acceptance. Life has a way of showing you its variety, even though we may not want to accept it. And by variety, I mean societal variety, familial variety. There’s no cookie-cutter, just stagnant, generic code or template for things. Things can be switched up, and you have to be malleable, especially in a family dynamic where it’s so blended, and there are different dynamics therein, especially with having a lot of children, multiple co-parenting adults, and things like that. There’s no way that anything could be one way. And I think that what I want people to take away from this is acceptance and understanding that there is more than one way to do things, especially parenting the child.
It’s paramount that children are allowed to express themselves and let you know what they like and what they want to do. I mean because that allowance will give them a sense of freedom.
CL: Now, in the film, you do a little cosplay. Now, I don’t know if you ever go to a Comic-Con. But if you did, what superhero would you dress up as, or a figure in pop culture television would you dress up as if you went to a Comic-Con convention?
TKD: Darth Vader. I would love to have the whole thing. I mean, people ask who’s my favorite hero, my favorite bad guy. I guess you could look at Darth Vader as a bad guy, but he’s one of my favorites. I would like to do that. Plus, he was a taller guy in Star Wars. So I could dress up in the whole thing. I’ve still been trying to find an outfit just to do it, but I think it will be him.
CL: Could you imagine yourself just having 10 children? And what would you have them do as they’re growing up? If you had a family business, what would you have them doing?
TKD: Oh, man. If it were 10 children, that would be a lot. It’s hard to say because when you think about that, even if I had sets of twins, even those twins are going to be different. So what I would have them do, for my sake and for my sanity, is to let me know what they want to do and nurture that. When you find a child who has a propensity for something or has a talent in that, and they want to do it, I would find a way to nurture that, to nurture their nature. And like I said, it would add to that level of freedom and expression, especially when it comes to being so dependent as a child. When you let a child out express him or herself and immerse themselves in what they love, that’s when you’re going to have a little bit more balance.
Cheaper by the Dozen is now streaming on Disney+.
Photo: Getty Images/ Disney/ Cheaper by the Dozen