Haylie Duff Gets Candid On Family Life And Experimenting With Directing - Exclusive Interview

You might remember Haylie Duff for her role as Summer Wheatley from the iconic movie, "Napoleon Dynamite." Nineteen years later since the film's release, Duff is directing and acting in films such as "Project Baby" and is interested in pursuing more directing opportunities. She also manages to balance her film career while planning and participating in fun activities with her children in Texas. 

Duff has recently partnered with Keebler's "Magic is Here" campaign to offer ideas for engaging activities parents can plan with their children through Keebler's online idea generator. The campaign also offers cash prizes and grand prizes such as an "epic campout" or "ultimate barbeque." She believes the campaign's prizes and inspiring ideas for creating special moments will greatly benefit other parents and families.

In an exclusive interview with The List, Duff talks about family life in Texas, her career as an actor and director, and her exciting partnership with Keebler.

Haylie enjoys being in the director's chair

You directed and starred in the film "Project Baby." How was it being behind the camera and in front of it?

Looking back, that was a crazy decision to do that for the first time that I was directing a movie, but I learned so much on that first film, and I leave in a week to go start ... my fourth movie in a week. I go for prep. I'm not acting in it. Right now, as I'm starting to get my feet underneath me directing, I'm going to stick to being not on camera as I direct, but it's a hard thing to not be able to see yourself and then be behind the camera at the same time. These movies run really quickly and really fast, so there's not time to go back and watch playback or things like that, so you don't always know how your scenes are going. 

It's a very strange dynamic to also give notes to another actor that's in a scene with you. I would be working with somebody and I'd say "cut," and I'd be like, "Okay, let's try it one more time, but can you do it a little more like this?" It was a little bit of a weird dynamic for me, so I love being behind the camera. It's been a whole new experience for me and a whole new way for me to use everything I've learned over the last 15, 16 years acting, and I love it. It's been a great new avenue of my career.

Do you have any upcoming projects we should be on the lookout for?

My second movie that I directed is airing on Lifetime, August 10th. It's called "A Guide to Murder." I'm really liking the thriller genres. I'm really liking the scary movies. That tends to be what I watch in life. In general, I love those kind of films, and so I'm having a lot of fun directing those. Then, I leave to go shoot this one. We don't have an official title yet, but it's another thriller and it is a story about college and sororities and hazing, so lots of good juicy stuff in there. That's what I've got going on right now.

Haylie reflects back on Napoleon Dynamite with nostalgia

I saw that you reunited with the cast of "Napoleon Dynamite" back in November. What is it like looking back now and realizing the cultural phenomenon that was "Napoleon Dynamite?"

We have been really fortunate to stay friends throughout all of this time. Tina Majorino is one of my dearest friends, and all of us have a real appreciation for what this movie has done for all of us and how it's brought us all together, how it's affected people. I meet kids — my daughter has a friend in school that was like, "Your mom's in my favorite movie." I'm like, "How does he know about this movie? He's a little boy." It constantly continues to blow my mind and impress me how this movie has transcended time.

It's because it's good clean jokes and they're family-friendly, and it's honestly what this campaign is about too, about looking for things you can do with your family. That is what "Napoleon Dynamite" did for people too. It was a movie you could sit and watch with your family. So often, we're looking for those moments [when] the whole family can get together and share a moment, and that somehow feels like it's become harder and harder with movies in general. That's what's made it so special is that it's of good, clean family fun. I get the occasional person that was like, "I voted for Summer." I'm like, "Thank you. Thank you."

Haylie enjoys spending time with her family

You recently made the move to Texas. How has it been?

It's been really great. We moved during the pandemic, and a lot of it  was something that we had planned to do for a long time ... We were trapped inside for a long time and we were like, "Is this the time to do it? Let's do it." We took a chance, and I feel like we've been very rewarded because of that. We've made really wonderful friends here. My kids are really happy here. I'm getting to live near my dad for the first time in a long time. I haven't lived near my dad since I was a little kid, so that's been really special for our family too. We go and he barbecues and makes steaks and my kids get in the pool, and we get a lot of good family time that way, and it's certainly making great memories for my kids with their grandfather and stuff like that. It's been really great for us.

What kind of activities do you like to do with your kids?

That was one of the things that I love so much about the Keebler campaign. They actually have this amazing idea generator on their website that can give you things to do with your kids. One of the things I struggle with is we'll do everything that I can think of and then like, "What are we going to do now?"

I'm like, "I don't know. I'm out of ideas." My daughter goes to this really great preschool and they constantly have these awesome craft ideas and stuff, and I'm not always the best at that. I loved this concept where you can go on their website and click through and it'll be like, "Go on a nature walk." If you don't like that, click something else. It'll be like, "Create a time capsule." That, to me, is such a fantastic concept for families because especially in the summers, you want to get your kids off the iPads, you want to get them away from the television, finding little things that can be fun for families to do together that get your kids outside, to get them playing, to get them doing creative things and doing them together. That's the kind of stuff we're trying to do more of this summer. Anything that gets my kids off of iPads, I'm like, "Yes. Let's go outside. Let's cook something. Let's plan a movie night." All those things.

Haylie's exciting Magic is Here partnership offers grand prizes for families

What's your cooking advice for young parents that may be a bit intimidated by the kitchen?

Keep it easy. Start small. Start with things that you feel like will be hits with your family. The times that I get deterred in the kitchen are when I put a lot of effort into something and then no one in my family will eat it. My kids look at it and they're like, "Er, we're not going to eat that." I feel a little bit defeated. I'm like, "I just put all this time in. I spent this money buying this. I spent my time making it," and then it's going in the compactor. I'm like, "Ugh." 

Pick a meal that you think your family will actually like, and then start there, introduce new things in small doses. That tends to be a great recipe for success. Taco Night — that's always a hit with my family. I set up a taco bar and let them assemble their own, because then I'm not putting anything into Lulu's that she doesn't like, but Ryan does.

It's a great way to get them involved too, because I feel like kids love to get in the kitchen with you. It's a great way to bond as a family, make those little memories together in the kitchen.

You've mentioned a bit about your "Magic Is Here" partnership with Keebler. Can you tell me a little bit more and how this can help other parents?

I love ... This concept in general, I thought was so special for families. It's their first ever "Magic is Here" campaign. It's the first time they're doing this. When I heard about it, there felt like a lot of special energy around it because they're helping families. This is a lot of money that they're giving away. You can log on to keeblermagic.com and you can log on up to once a day and you enter to win and you can win cash prizes, you can enter to win these really grand prizes. There's things like epic backyard movie nights and epic camp outs or barbecues ... I mentioned the magic idea generator earlier, but there's really great ways to get inspired to make really special moments with your family this summer.

Them inciting and inspiring that magic for families is really awesome. I'm so happy that I get to be a part of helping people hear about it and spreading the word about it. I'm certainly infusing this into my family this summer. Visit keeblermagic.com, enter to win, and they literally deposit the cash into your Venmo. It's pretty amazing. It's awesome. People are going to be really excited about it.

Haylie Duff encourages everyone to visit keeblermagic.com for a chance to win a prize and infuse your summer with magical memories.

This interview has been edited for clarity.