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To Slap or Not to Slap: The Cast of NBC’s ‘The Slap’ Debates Corporal Punishment

The premiere party for NBC’s miniseries “The Slap” on Monday night in New York City could have been dubbed a Parenting 101 class in child discipline.

The cast, which includes Zachary Quinto, Uma Thurman, Peter Sarsgaard, Thandie Newton, Melissa George, Thomas Sadoski and Brian Cox, all gathered at the New Museum of Contemporary Art to celebrate the premiere of their eight-episode limited series. There, the stars proudly spoke about their critically lauded new show and offered their views on whether it’s ethically right or wrong to hit a child as a form of punishment.

“When I heard that ‘The Slap’ was being made into an American series, I was gagging to do it,” Newton told Variety, about the show which is based on Christos Tsiolkas’ 2008 novel of the same name, and was first adapted into an Australian series in 2011.

“It’s such a provocative story, and as a mother, it resonated with me straight away,” the actress known for her work in “Crash” and “Beloved” continued. “I knew about the book years ago when it came out. It was one of those novels that people would pass around and ask, ‘Have you read “The Slap”? You must read it and let me know what you think about corporal punishment.'” Her own thoughts? “I absolutely do not believe in it or any form of punishment. Violence is never the answer.”

Just like the original, the U.S. version of the story begins with Aisha (Newton) hosting a 40th birthday barbecue for her husband Hector (Sarsgaard, “An Education,” “Blue Jasmine”). The party is filled with friends and rowdy family members. Hector’s cousin (Quinto) loses control of his anger and slaps a misbehaving son of another couple (George and Sadoski). The physical altercation sparks a dispute among Hector’s friends and family, which goes on to expose secrets and prompt a lawsuit.

Newton and her husband, screenwriter Oliver Parker, have two daughters (Nico, 14, and Ripley, 10) and an 11-month-old son named Booker, and the British actress said she has never disciplined her children in a punitory way — not even grounding them. She argues that parents should have discussions with their children rather than resorting to physical means. “I think often parents get angry and smack out of frustration,” she said. “They feel ashamed, guilty (and) humiliated because their kid is doing something to cause embarrassment. But there’s always another way to solve the situation instead of using violence.”

For Sarsgaard, who is raising two daughters (Ramona, 8, and Gloria, 2 ½) with his wife Maggie Gyllenhaal, communication and discipline is the key to his parenting.

“I believe in discipline, and I’ve tried everything except for hitting my children,” he said. “I have two girls, and honestly, talking to them works the best. Having a conversation and pointing out why it’s beneficial for them not to do something or to do something is the best solution.” He also makes an auditory appeal: “With my 2 ½-year-old, if she gets too close to a street corner, I will make a noise. I don’t say, ‘Will you please stop?,’ I just make a loud sound. It’s like an electric fence they hit, and it works.”

Quinto admits to having been physically reprimanded during his childhood, but he believes spanking is not the best way to help children become responsible human beings.

“I was raised with corporal punishment to a certain degree, but from a loving household,” Quinto explained. “I got a few whacks across the knuckles, and it was only used for very specific and dire circumstances.” That doesn’t mean he plans to perpetuate the behavior. “I want to have children someday, and I don’t believe in corporal punishment,” he decreed. “I feel communication is the first line of discipline, the first line of defense, the first line of building and creating and nurturing children to understand their place in the world. I don’t think violence does that at all.”

Once the red carpet interviews ended, the cast left the heated discussion of corporal punishment behind and joined producers at the museum’s Sky Room — which boasts stunning, panoramic views of the Manhattan skyline — for the cocktail party.

In the picturesque setting, executive producers Walter Parkes (“Gladiator,” “Men in Black”) and Jon Robin Baitz (“Brothers and Sisters”) gave a heartfelt speech thanking the cast for their hard work on the miniseries produced by Matchbox. Then Thurman proceeded to mingle with guests, Quinto fielded congratulations from well-wishers and Newton snapped pictures with friends.

Towards the party’s conclusion — and on the heels of the earlier ethical debate — Sarsgaard helped his kid co-star Ashley Aufderheide practice reciting the famous soliloquy “To be, or not to be…” from William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

“The Slap” premieres February 12 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC.

(Pictured: Uma Thurman, Zachary Quinto and Dylan Schombing celebrating the launch of NBC’s “The Slap” at the New Museum in New York.)

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