By the time she sat down with TODAY co-host Meredith Vieira to chat Tuesday about life and her newest movie, “Things We Lost in the Fire,” it was common knowledge that one of Hollywood’s most intriguing leading ladies is four months pregnant with her first child.
What isn’t known, even to Halle Berry, is whether the baby she’s carrying is a girl or a boy.
“We’re going to wait,” she said when Vieira asked the baby’s gender. “There’s not many surprises in life, so let’s make this as big as it can be.”
Berry’s life hasn’t been an unmitigated run of pleasure. She’s gone through two marriages that ended in train-wreck ugliness, came close to committing suicide, and, at the age of 41, has adult-onset Type II diabetes. Her experiences with marriage have convinced her to swear off the institution forever.
But she positively glowed as she talked about how becoming pregnant by her companion of two years, model Gabriel Aubrey, has transformed not just her life, but his as well.
“We walk differently, we think differently,” she told Vieira. “I know it’s going to change our lives and we both know that. We’re preparing in every way. Nothing is important anymore but this little baby that’s inside of here,” she added, pointing to her swelling tummy. “All the little mundane things that we worry ourselves with just — pfft — go out the window.”
Just because one of the things she’d already heaved out the window is marriage doesn’t mean that Berry has given up on lasting relationships. It’s just that trying it twice the conventional way and having had no luck at it, she’s now determined to define her relationship on her own terms and those of her child’s father.
“We’re committed and we’re family people,” she said. “We just want to redefine it. I’ve done it twice that way. I’m learning from my mistakes and I want to do it differently this time. I think it will probably last a long, long time, because we’re doing it differently.”
Berry has good reasons to be wary of getting married a third time.Her first marriage, to baseball star David Justice, ended after four years in 1996 among rumors that he had abused her. During the divorce proceedings, she took out a restraining order against him.
She told “Parade” magazine that she attempted suicide after the divorce, and decided not to go through with it at the last instant when she thought of her mother.
Five years later, she married singer Eric Benet, who was rumored to be cheating on her almost from their wedding day. That union lasted fewer than three years, with Benet admitting he’d cheated on her and claiming to be a sex addict. Berry admitted to an emotional breakdown afterward and told Oprah that she would never marry again.
The role of mother, however, is new to Berry in real life, not on the big screen.
She won an Oscar in 2002 for her portrayal of a dysfunctional mother in “Monster’s Ball,” and then had been criticized for taking roles like that of a Bond girl in “Die Another Day” that weren’t “serious.” But now she’s back, in a starkly serious role as a happily married mother whose life is shattered by the murder of her husband.
She takes up against her instincts with a friend of her dead husband’s, Jerry, played by Benicio del Toro, who’s a recovering heroin addict with emotional trauma of his own.
“We share a commonality of pain,” she says in explaining the dynamic of the characters.
Berry said she had to fight for the role, because it wasn’t written with a black actor in mind. She said only after she got it did she realize that what drew her to it was the opportunity to play a good mother, which is what she hopes to be.
“I seem always to gravitate toward material that allows me to express what I need to express in life. I don’t do it consciously,” she said.
‘It's worth the journey’She added that she looks forward to the day when directors don’t think of an actor’s race when casting films.
“I think that’s starting to happen more and more, and I can’t wait till we have a conversation where that doesn’t even come up,” she said. “I know that is coming. I can taste it. It’s coming.”
In the meantime, she’s going to take a break from work. “I’m going to try to be pregnant and just stay healthy and do everything the doctors tell me to do,” she told Vieira.
“You’ve been through a lot of ups and downs,” Vieira remarked.
“All those downs just make this moment that much sweeter,” Berry said, smiling. “Yeah, it’s worth the journey.”