This year marks the 25th anniversary of the beloved remake, but it turns out Walter and Hendrix have a connection that goes back much, much further. In the first episode of Ancestry's new YouTube series unFamiliar (out now) — which drops celebrities and their relatives into untold stories of their past — Walter embarks on a journey of discovery with her children in the Lower East Side of New York City to learn about her family history.
In an emotional clip, below, Walter is moved to tears when Hendrix surprises her to reveal that both of their great-grandparents lived on the same street in NYC, just mere steps away from each other, in the early 1900s. The two concur that their families had to have known each other and even socialized together in public community spaces in what is now the Elizabeth Street Garden, where the two are sitting today, marveling at their found connection more than 100 years later.
Below, EW caught up with the duo to reflect on their friendship, dish on the revelation, and find out whether Hendrix was able to keep it a secret.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: In the clip, Lisa you say that you met and became besties in six hours. I feel like there's a story there. What initially forged your friendship?
LISA ANN WALTER: I met her briefly at a callback for The Parent Trap. I didn't really get to say anything more than, "Hi." And she left the room and I got to see Dennis Quaid react to how flippin' gorgeous she was. And then we met officially the first day of filming. One of us, probably me, asked if she wanted to go to Marie Callender's, because I wanted to eat pie. I was in Chessy-core clothing — what the kids now call Chessy-core. So Elaine had a salad. I ate a pie. But we did not leave the table for… it had to have been four hours. And then [she] came back to the room. And we talked for another couple of hours. It was like a long first friendship date, where we got all the info. And I feel like that happens sometimes on projects, like you just find someone that you really like, and you get along with them. And that's who you want to hang with. She was that for me during the project. But then when you know that it's more, is when you keep hanging out after the project ends, and that's what we did. She would produce movies and say, "Hey, come do this part in this movie I'm producing," and I'd be like, "All right." So we just kept doing stuff together, and then I just kept helping her move out of houses. And that was it.
In my own closest friendships, there's always one specific, usually random moment I can pinpoint as the moment I knew this person would be special to me. Do you guys have one of those moments?
ELAINE HENDRIX: I knew we were solid, close friends when I was in that hospital with you in the aftermath of you having your twins. And going through that experience and watching that experience with you. I think that's when it kind of really, really hit me like, dang, we really are close.
WALTER: That's one. And also when you were in the hospital when your appendix burst, and you were real, real sick. I came to your hospital for that, and only the people that were really closest to you were there for that. Then she came to my house afterwards when they finally let her out of the hospital. And she was gray. Absolutely gray. And I remember saying, "Sit down. I'm making you eggs." And she was vegan, and she didn't fight me.
HENDRIX: No, I was still vegetarian at that point.
WALTER: I would like to think that I made you break veganism to eat my eggs. [Both laugh]
HENDRIX: But we've been there through these hospital visits, through birth of kids, through animals, through death of animals, through the death of both of our mothers, boyfriend breakups, through moves, through career ups and downs...
WALTER: Like quitting the business multiple times. And it's just the only secret is, you can't both be hysterical at the same time. One person has got to be grounded. And I will tell you that honestly, I, and this is true, just in terms of like an equality dynamic, because I'm older than Elaine — it is in my nature to want to mother, which I think I do to most people. Like, my cast on my ABC show [Abbott Elementary], I mother all the time. And I have to [remind myself], they're not my children, you have to dial it back. But with Elaine, I think I kind of felt that energy towards her. And then I remember there was a time when I reached out to her. It was either about like an audition or it was about a guy or something. I don't remember what the thing was. What I remember, is that I asked for her help. And I don't ask people for help, ever. It is not in my nature. It's like I don't even think I need help. So for me to actively seek someone's words and wisdom and love — and I did that with Elaine and accepted it when she gave it to me — I went, "Okay, the whole balance of our relationship is now this." I felt like absolutely 50/50 equals with her.
HENDRIX: And I'm the opposite, by the way. I go to Lisa for everything because I can't function on my own without her.
Ancestry UnFamiliar Elaine Hendrix and Lisa Ann Walter
You guys have taken the internet by storm showing up together at awards shows the last few years. Were you surprised by the reaction you got?
WALTER: The first time, when we were at the Tonys together both in red dresses, our friend Iris — who invited us and was a producer on several shows that were nominated for Tonys that year — she took the picture. And it was a gorgeous picture, so we just posted it on our social media. And the news picked it up internationally. It was everywhere. That one surprised me. We were watching every day going, "Oh my god. 20 new stories just came out. People can't believe we're friends." But that one surprised us. So when we did this recent one where I invited Elaine to be my date to the SAG Awards, I knew that it was going to get noticed, because we have these fantastic lifelong fans that grew up with us. But I didn't know what Elaine was going to wear and how that was going to make a splash. But she knew, she knew. And she wore the hell out of that tuxedo. She walked in in that and I was like, "Oh my god, Marlene Dietrich." And I think that's what made it go so viral.
HENDRIX: I'm not surprised. I've never been surprised by it. What a lot of people don't realize, is that Lisa and I, when we go out in the world every single day, and even before social media, we'd get stopped on the street. We'd get fan letters, we'd get people asking for autographs. And now with social media, we're getting posted, we're getting tagged. Every single day something comes at us, and it always has, because that movie is so beloved. So the extent to which going viral and all of that — because we've also done many videos together and other posts that people do flip out over — I get a big kick out of it. And it warms my heart, it makes me so happy. Because this is one of the reasons we do this, is to make other people happy. And the fact that it's worked, and it's working — it's just such a huge validation. And I feel like we're giving generations like this big, group hug together.
So, Lisa, why did you want to take part in this Ancestry journey?
WALTER: Well, there were things that I knew about my family that were sort of more in the family — that my great-grandmother had 12 kids, most of them lived in the same building for decades. There was stuff like that. But there was other stuff I had no idea about. I didn't know why they came over [to America]. I didn't know how old which relative was when they came over. I didn't know the specifics and I wanted to, and I wanted my kids to know it. Because as hard as it is for these young generations now because of what the world is, there were things that were hard back then that they have no way of knowing. My great-grandfather took care of 11 brothers and sisters and his mother starting at 13, because his father died in the flu epidemic of 1918. And they lived in a one bedroom apartment — 13 people. It's wild.
So for them to actually experience what that would have been like — and hear about my great-grandmother getting sent on a boat to America by herself at 14 years old — that's the stuff that I wanted my kids to know, and the stuff that shocked me. I didn't know my other great-grandmother was a foundling. And that she herself had to give up four kids leading up to the Depression because her husband died from the flu epidemic, too, and she didn't have any money to raise four children. And she had to do what that they called piece work back in the day, sewing sleeves onto a jacket until she had enough money to get them back. It's wild. They were strong, strong people and I'm proud to be descended from them.
Ancestry UnFamiliar Elaine Hendrix and Lisa Ann Walter
And Elaine, how did you get involved and were you able to keep it a secret from Lisa?
HENDRIX: I was [able to keep it a secret], and I did. And Ancestry reached out and said, "Hey, we have this idea. Would you be game for it?" And I was like, "Absolutely." And I don't know that they had done any research yet at that point. I don't think so, because I had to give them information. And so we just knew that I also had Italian roots in my family on my mother's side. But once they started digging, they're like, "Are you ready for this? Your great-grandparents and her great-grandparents lived two blocks from each other." It's crazy. And back then there were very specific neighborhoods that very specific groups of people lived in. And so two blocks was like nothing, that was basically next door to one another, and they were part of the same community, and they had to have known each other. So it just makes sense. It's like, "Oh, of course. Of course, we have this connection."
WALTER: When we found out that they knew each other, well, for me it was a shock that [Hendrix] was there at all. I half expected to be told that we were actually related. For real. But then when they said they lived a block and a half from each other, I was like, "Yeah. Yup."
HENDRIX: Very uncanny, given the history. I mean, America is a very big place. New York alone is a very big place.
WALTER: Yeah, but they shoved them all into this one little —
HENDRIX: I know, but the fact that you and me and all this time… Of all the gin joints, you know?
Hendrix and Walter's episode of unFamiliar is streaming now on Ancestry's YouTube page.
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