Josh Duhamel: On fatherhood and family

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It's fair to say Josh Duhamel can't wait to become a dad.

When I interview the actor about his latest movie, Nicholas Sparks adaptation Safe Haven, the news that he and Fergie are expecting their first child is hot off the press but I'm wary about broaching it.

This is partly to do with the stonewall response I'm expecting and also because I'm speaking to Josh with his co-star Julianne Hough, and I don't want to make her feel like a gooseberry.

It turns out my caution is unnecessary. When I bring up the topic of fatherhood - a restrained 10 minutes into the interview at London's Soho Hotel - it's clear Josh can't wait to talk about it, greeting my congratulations with an air punch and an enthusiastic, "Oh my GOD."

There follows a surreal interlude where Josh, Julianne and I end up gossiping about babies; this despite the fact that none of us are parents yet. It's a random but welcome diversion.

"I didn’t tell you what Fergs said when we found out we were pregnant," Josh launches in. "We both looked at each other and we were like, 'NO way.' She was like, 'This s**t just got real.'

"We’ve known now for a few months," he adds, with Julianne chipping in, "I knew too – they didn’t tell me but I knew."

ABOVE: Josh with his wife Fergie

"We don’t know whether it's a boy or a girl and I honestly don’t care," Josh continues. "I couldn’t care less one way or the other. Ultimately I’d like to have one of each but if it doesn’t work out, oh well… Like Ferg’s mother said, 'Happy, healthy and holy.'"

And what of Julianne, who's been dating presenter Ryan Seacrest for nearly two years - does she have any plans for starting a family? I expect a non-committal answer but instead Julianne is exuberant.

"Oh God, absolutely. First and foremost, I was on this Earth to be a mom," she says. "That’s literally the greatest achievement I’ll ever have. I have 17 nieces and nephews so I’m getting a lot of practise.

"It’s good right now that it’s just practise and I can send them home that I don’t have to have that responsibility yet. Having two dogs is good right now. Josh will say something else because he’s seen me having fun these last few months, but I really am a homebody. I like having friends and family over and doing homely things."

What of those sleepless nights, isn't that a turn-off?

"The struggle that you have to go through to wake up and be there for your kid in the middle of the night, that makes you appreciate the wonderful times so much more," Julianne says, confidently. "It f**king sucks in the middle night but it makes those precious moments and those little smiles so much better."

Josh's baby news is great timing, I say, as he plays a very convincing father in Safe Haven. The film sees him take on the role of Alex, a widower who is devoted to his two kids.

"Yeah and that’s who he is in real life," says Julianne, who plays his on-screen love interest Katie. "On set, everyone was like, ‘Where’s Josh?’ and it was like, ‘Well, he’s playing hot potatoes with the kids.’ He’s going to be a great dad."

ABOVE: Safe Haven sees Josh play a family man

Unlike many co-stars who keep some distance or even actively avoid each other post-filming, Julianne and Josh have clearly bonded and it's easy to see why the production company paired them for interviews. They spend the whole time teasing one another and it feels like I'm chatting to old friends.

"This little thing shows up in this small town," Josh says at one point, gesturing to Julianne as he explains the storyline to Safe Haven. "Nothing like this has come through Southport in a while. Plus my character hasn’t been laid in two years, so he’s very horny."

Their candidness could also be because fairly soon into the interview, I inadventently ask about their on-screen relationship being a "slow-boner" - a slip of the tongue that has them falling about laughing.

"Slow boner yeah, that's what it is," quips Josh.

After this little unscripted ice-breaker (which has me blushing to the gills), they're even more happy to be open - especially when it comes to talking about the pressure of taking on a Nicholas Sparks adaptation.

"The expectations are so high when you do something like this," says Josh. "It’s flattering but at the same time you’re aware that if you’re going to do it, you better make it your own in some way, you better make it special."

Julianne agrees: "I think if we were to hold up The Notebook (the hit 1994 film version of Nicholas Sparks' book, starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams) and say, 'We’ve got to do better,' we’d be totally in a trap and it would just not work. We would kill ourselves before we even started."

ABOVE: The beach scene in Safe Haven

Not everything went to script, especially the much-hyped scene where Julianne and Josh's characters appear frolicking in the waves.

"On the beach scene you can actually see my bra because I was never supposed to take my clothes off," says Julianne. "But then the producer was like, 'She’s got to get in a bikini, we’re putting it in the movie.' And they never picked a day for the shoot and then four days before they were like, ‘Oh, it’s going to be on Tuesday.’ And I was like, 'Oh, s**t… .'"

Amid all the joking, it's easy to forget that Safe Haven also deals with a series of heavy issues including bereavement and domestic violence.

Julianne's character Katie is fleeing a brutal past and the actress visited several women's refuge centres prior to filming to get into the role.

"Unfortunately this is an issue that goes on. I wish it didn’t but it does," she says. "For anyone watching the movie and taking any feeling away from it, I hope what they gain from that is that everyone deserves to be happy and be loved. And you do have a second chance. And being a fighter is really hard, especially if you’re broken, but there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.

"I went and talked to women at shelters just to see where they were in their situations and how they got out of it. There’s a scene in the movie where I talk to his (Josh Duhamel’s) character about it and I pulled from what some of these women said. It’s all about making that step of, 'It’s not my fault.'"

ABOVE: Josh and Julianne as on-screen lovers

Ultimately the film is about new beginnings, a concept these two seem to bring to the big-screen particularly well. As Julianne says, "I think happily ever after is how you make it. There’s always situations that you have to overcome."

Safe Haven is out today, 1 March. Watch the trailer below.

Picture credit: Rex Features, Words: Anna Brech