Instant Family: The True Story Behind The Inspiring New Adoption Movie

Mark Wahlberg and Director Sean Anders share the backstory behind the heartwarming family film.

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- Posted on Nov 15, 2018

Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne in Instant Family

Inspired by the real-life adoption journey of the writer and director Sean Anders, the movie Instant Family takes a comedic and heartwarming look at the world of foster care and adoption

It all started with an off-hand comment. Anders and his wife Beth had discussed having children for years. By the time they started taking the idea seriously, they were in their 40s and felt it might be too late. Anders made a joke that they should just adopt a five year old so it would be like they had a child sooner.

His wife challenged him to take the idea seriously and suggested they become foster parents.

After doing some research on the foster system, the Anders decided they wanted to become foster parents. They took a class and began the process of becoming certified, thinking they would foster one child. Instead, they took in three siblings, who they eventually adopted.

Three years later, Anders has written and directed a movie about the experience, Instant Family, starring Mark Wahlberg, Rose Byrne and Octavia Spencer.

“The movie is inspired by my own family, but also by a lot of other families that I met along the way,” Anders said at a press conference for the film in New York City.

Wahlberg had worked with Anders before and accepted the role before even seeing a script because of his belief in the importance of the story.  

“I had an experience at [an]…adoption fair in Boston,” Wahlberg said. “I was supposed to be there to give words of encouragement and give the kids a boost, and here these kids were inspiring me. When Sean told me about [his experience] being a [foster] dad, I couldn’t help but get a little emotional.”

In the movie, Wahlberg and Byrne take a foster class led by characters played by Octavia Spencer and Tig Notaro. The friendships they form in the class are instrumental to their growth as parents and as people. Portraying these relationships was important to Anders.

“What happened, at least in my classes, was that people came in who were very different, but because we were all going through the same thing, everybody got very close,” Anders said. “It's almost like another family.”

Wahlberg and Byrne’s characters plan on fostering one child, and end up taking three children—including one teenager. Hilarious and heartbreaking antics ensue as the couple struggles with becoming parents, meeting the children’s birth mother and forging a family bond.

Many people might not see the humor in a foster situation, but to Anders, the comedic elements quickly became apparent.

“So many genuinely funny things happened along the way,” Anders said. “It's a terribly awkward, chaotic situation when you have these people that move into your house, and you don't know them, and they don't know you, and you're trying to figure out how to be a family…Plus, for me, there've been a lot of great dramas made on this topic, but they tend to send people away with negative feelings. So, I wanted to tell a story that had more laughs, and love, and joy in it, so that when people went away from it, they felt better about who these kids are, and who these families are.”

Anders hopes the movie changes perceptions of foster care.

“People, a lot of times, have negative ideas of who these kids are, and what to expect,” Anders said. “Hopefully when people walk away from the movie, they have a more positive outlook of who these kids are, and what these families can be.”

For Anders, making Instant Family was a beautiful reminder of how grateful he is for his family.

“Spending a year of your life, talking nonstop about your kids and how much you love them, and your family and how important they are to you, and making a movie about it, is very therapeutic,” Anders said. “It just makes you really excited to see them every chance you get to see them. It's been really wonderful.”

Instant Family is in theaters everywhere November 16.

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