Cheaper by the Dozen’s Zach Braff on Improv and Breaking the Ice with the Kids

Cheaper by the Dozen is a 1948 book based on a true story of the Gilbreth family in New Jersey, which was adapted as a film in 1950 with Clifton Webb as the father. In 2003, Steve Martin graced the screen in a reboot with new characters and a new story that was even sillier. Fast-forward to 2022, a new Cheaper by the Dozen reboot is now available on Disney+ with Zach Braff as the father and Gabrielle Union as the mother with a blended family.

During the filming of the latest Cheaper by the Dozen film, Braff and Director Gail Lerner had ways to get the cast feeling closer together to capture a family on screen. This included games like juggling, sandwich races, and a talent show.

“Because these guys are amazing, they can walk into a room of total strangers and feel like family because they’re such rock stars in terms of embodying their characters,” Lerner said during the global press conference. “But I knew these kids needed a comfort level and a trust level. So, we played all kinds of games. Like, there’s a group juggling exercise where no one person can juggle, but with a certain technique, you can get 12 people juggling eight balls. And it just makes you feel like a superhero to be doing this together. And there’s this scene where all the kids are running through the house, they’re going to be late to school, and we did a making-a-sandwich relay race, and that blocking went straight into the movie.”

“But with the kids, it’s so tricky,” Braff added. “First of all, they don’t know each other. They’re nervous. They’re shy. Let alone, I’m gonna play their dad. They don’t know me. So it was really fun. We were just playing silly games and did a talent show.”

Improvising on the set can truly capture the chemistry of actors on the screen. Since Cheaper by the Dozen is more of a family film, improv is a bit different for actors like Zach Braff.

“Well, what was great was that Kenya Barris and Jeni Genzuk Henry wrote a hilarious script,” Lerner said. “It was just full of monster jokes and character jokes and really relatable things. And I’d be like, ‘Oh, great, we’re in great shape.’ And then, all of these guys would just come in improvising, whether it was physicality or jokes. And everyone was really committed to making each other look good. Like, there is some cast where people are showboating. And it’s like, ‘Excuse me, let me do my moment.’

“We had fun,” Braff said. “There were certain moments that called for it more than others. I mean, that scene with the sneakers, we were crackin’ each other up in that scene. I couldn’t make it through it. But you also have to improvise for a kid’s movie, which is tricky. ‘Cause even on Scrubs we would improv like crazy. But, it was a more risque thing than a Disney family movie. So, you’re trying to improvise but keep it G. So some of them didn’t make it. But the fun thing with the kids, and I gotta thank Gail for this, is occasionally I’d have a funny idea for one of them, and I’m sure Gab did too. And we’d be like, ‘Oh, Gail, do you mind if I give them a line?’ And the kids would deliver it perfectly. And it would be so funny.”

About 2022’s Cheaper by the Dozen

The film follows a blended family of 12, the Bakers, as they navigate a hectic home life while simultaneously managing their family business.

“Cheaper by the Dozen” is directed by Gail Lerner with a screenplay by Kenya Barris & Jenifer Rice-Genzuk Henry based upon the novel by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. Kenya Barris is producing, with Shawn Levy, Gabrielle Union, Brian Dobbins and Donald J. Lee, Jr. serving as executive producers.

The movie stars Gabrielle Union, Zach Braff, Erika Christensen, Timon Kyle Durrett, Journee Brown, Kylie Rogers, Andre Robinson, Caylee Blosenski, Aryan Simhadri, Leo Abelo Perry, Mykal-Michelle Harris, Christian Cote, Sebastian Cote and Luke Prael.

It was released on Disney+ on March 18, 2022.

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