“It’s hardly a secret that I was adopted as a baby and quite frankly, there’s absolutely no reason it should be,” writes the actress in an op-ed published on the Huffington Post.
“As I’ve grown, I’ve watched the conversation and perceptions about adopted kids and families shift, but nothing has quite captured the truth, both the good and the ugly, of adoption like the film Lion. It’s an honest look at adoption and the not uncommon feelings surrounding identity that come up for many people,” she added.
Lion is based on the true story of Saroo Brierley (played by Dev Patel), an Indian boy who became separated from his family at the age of 5 after falling asleep in an empty train car headed a thousand miles away to Calcutta. Brierley was ultimately placed in an orphanage and adopted by an Australian couple, played by Kidman and David Wenham. But twenty years after his adoption, Brierley decides to go on a mission to track down his original home and family using Google Earth.
In her essay, Chenoweth writes that she was moved by the film’s depiction of Brierley’s complicated decision to seek out his biological family. Struggling with identity, she says, is “an experience every adopted kid feels at one point in their lives or another.”
She continues, “We all yearn for our truth; who we are, where we come from, maybe where we get certain quirks or talents (for me I long wondered where my voice came from since my mother very well knows it was not from her). But finding those truths is the most personal of journeys, coming to each of us at different times and in different ways. On top of that, there’s always a part of you that worries this is somehow a betrayal as if your parents and your life are not enough.”
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Chenoweth says she identifies with both Brierley’s desire to find his birth family, and his desire not to offend his adoptive parents with the search. Nicole Kidman, who stars as the boy’s adopted mother, has adopted children of her own, and Chenoweth believes she captured the role to perfection.
“Nicole herself is part of the community of adoptive mothers and it so clearly impacts her performance in this film. She simply nails it. She is the image of an understanding parent, whose love has no limits,” she writes.
In the film, Kidman’s character encourages her son in his search, while reminding him that he’s been a blessing in her life. “In a way, she gives Saroo permission to search, taking away the guilt because at the end of the day, she will always be his mother,” she writes.
As for her own experience as an adopted child, the actress says, “I can honestly say being adopted was one of the best things to ever happen to me. It was never something that was hidden from me and it is not something I have ever been ashamed of. I recognize how fortunate I am to have parents who love and support me unconditionally. The fact that they are not my biological parents does not change the fact that they are simply, my parents.”
She adds, “Not everyone can say that, but I count myself lucky to have a birth mother who loved me enough to know she wasn’t ready to be a mom. I’m lucky that I have wonderful parents who chose me. I often say adoption is a full-circle blessing and I truly believe it. Adopted children were not abandoned, we were chosen. That is one of the core messages of Lion, serving as a beautiful reminder that love knows no boundaries.”