Karla Souza Got Mom-Shamed While Flying With Her Kids

by Donna Freydkin
Mexican actress Karla Souza smiling for a photo in a white top
Tommaso Boddi/Getty

Karla Souza got mom-shamed for flying with her kids. Here’s what happened next.

Maybe, if you’re one of the lucky few, they slept through takeoff. And dozed through the turbulence. But at some point during any flight, the inevitable but dreaded comes to pass: Your kids wake up. And when they do, the deranged miniature humans screech for crackers and Crayons, screens and snacks, until you’d happily sell your left kidney on eBay to shut them up and avoid the mass airborne humiliation that awaits you. But last time we checked, private planes existed for a reason, and will happily serve anyone allergic to normal toddler noises.

“So I have a toddler and a baby. The baby’s nine months old. I was on the plane yesterday with both of them. We had to wake up at 4:00 AM. The lady behind my husband literally said when my daughter was just making noises to entertain my nine month old, she was like, ’Is that absolutely necessary?’” says Karla Souza. “And my husband turned around and said, ‘Well, there’s a lot of things that three-year-olds do that aren’t absolutely necessary.’”

You know her as Laurel Castillo, the profoundly clever, surprisingly ruthless, and vengeful lawyer on the twisty ABC series How to Get Away with Murder. In real life, Souza, the mom of two who played Laurel, isn’t killing anyone, or hiring anyone to do so at her behest. But go after her kids, Gianna and Luka, and Souza is all business.

Souza is still seething. Flying with kids is a controlled disaster at the best of times. Throw in a pandemic, isolation, and mask mandates, and you’ve got a major hot mess on your hands. The only hope is a universal generosity of spirit, a sense that we’re all in this together. One which Souza, as she tells it, did not experience.

“So then out comes my mama bear. I just came at her, which is not something I advise anyone to do at all. One should not do that. I turned around and said, ‘Well, is it absolutely necessary to dye your hair black and to buy those ugly boots?’ And I just shouldn’t have said it. I shouldn’t have,” says Souza.

Nah, but maybe she should. And Souza is equally no-holds barred on the ABC sitcom Home Economics, airing Wednesdays, about three siblings with variously-sized bank accounts. Souza is married to the struggling scribe played by Topher Grace, and her character doesn’t mince his words about his self-inflicted writer’s block. She’s thrilled to finally be in a comedy after “doing a drama for six years with queen Viola Davis.” One that not just lets but encouraged her to let her mom flag fly.

“I did not want to do TV again. And then my team was presenting me with this script. And then they told me that my character was going to talk about motherhood and pumping. And I talk about clogged milk ducts and peeing myself when I sneeze and my hair coming off. And having no sex drive. Seeing that through the lens of comedy, that’s what made it very fun for me,” she says.

Souza was pregnant with her son when she was “auditioning and reading for stuff prior to this. Even though they say that they would accept pregnant women — the second they saw my belly they were like, ‘We’re gonna have to shoot around it.’ So I had conversations with this show and they were straight away like, ‘We’ll make you pregnant on the show.’ They were game to embrace it and write for it.”

Until she went back to work during COVID to shoot the show’s seven episodes, Souza did not really, truly, thoroughly appreciate the magical healing power of the 10 minute nap. She’d slumber between setups. Prior to the world shutting down, “At the beginning of COVID, I overdid it because I’m a type A and I try to clean every corner of the house and be the educator and then jump on the trampoline for five hours. And then by week two, I was depressed. Before COVID, I was a no screens mom, and then that went out the window. At least I put it on in Spanish. Dory is speaking Spanish. Moana is speaking Spanish,” she says. “And the family walks were very helpful and Brene Brown’s podcasts saved me.”

To be clear, Souza’s show is a comedy. It’s not about homeless single moms who lost their livelihoods during the pandemic when closed daycares forced them to stay home. She’s vocal about how COVID impacted women, and how dramatically it drove them out of the workforce. Her show isn’t a deep dive into an economic or social disaster, but it does tackle income disparity with a light touch.

“You see a family struggling but it’s a TV struggle. It’s a comedy struggle. This isn’t showing the real discrepancies that are going on in our world, the income inequality. It’s still the three siblings who are still white. Tom is married to a Latina. That’s the inclusive part of it, but ultimately they are three white siblings,” she says.

Maybe it’ll even encourage women to discuss the most verboten of topics: Personal finance. According to the 2019 Women, Money and Power Study from Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, 62 percent of women in 2019 (compared to 68 percent in 2016) felt financially secure and only 38 percent (compared to 60 percent in 2013) were the breadwinner in their households. It all points to women being less financially literate than men. And it’s one thing Souza doesn’t understand: Polite society’s unwillingness to hash out bank balances.

“Personally, I come from a household where we talked about money and it was just another subject, versus my husband. They do not touch that. And I never understood that. It’s such a big, important part of marriage, of life, of everything. Why don’t we talk about it? So I personally am an open book about that, but I know that a lot of people still do not mention or talk about that,” she says.