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The Fretts on Film Interview: Jennifer Garner on “Timothy Green,” Ben and Rebooting “Alias”

August 15, 2012
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I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Garner for the New York Daily News about her quirky Disney dramedy The Odd Life of Timothy Green, opening today. We had such a lovely chat that I didn’t have room in the paper for all the good quotes she gave me, so here are some outtakes.

Did you make Timothy Green so your three kids could see you in a movie soon?

Yes, my kids would love this movie and I’d be really excited to show it to them. I don’t think they’re ready to see me so sad in something, so it might be a little while for mine. But I love the fact the fact that kids can see it—and that kids think it’s made for them and adults think it’s made for them.

How did you keep the film from getting too sentimental?

Believe me, yes—we talked about it a lot. In real life, if things that are this heightened happened to you, you would cry all the time. But you can’t watch somebody boo-hooing on screen for an hour and a half—you’d shut off pretty quickly. So it was just an ongoing conversation with [writer-director] Peter Hedges. It’s not horrible drama—it’s a really beautiful, very funny movie—so you don’t want to bog it down. We were always looking for ways to infuse a scene with a little bit of humor—even just an eyebrow or something reminding you that wait, you’re allowed to laugh at it.

How does it feel to be coming out in an uplifting movie so soon after the Dark Knight Rises shooting?

That was clearly beyond a tragedy and for the people who made that movie, they’ll never think of that experience again without it being connected to such a loss. For us, it’s just great to having a movie coming out that’s uplifting at all. Just that people will see it and want to live more in the moment and want to judge themselves a little bit less or judge their sister a little bit less or look at their marriage and say, You know, we’re doing all right. That’s what I love about this film.

Did the small-town setting of Timothy Green—as well as your upcoming movie Butter—appeal to you, having grown up in West Virginia?

Without a doubt. I was just home for a week and a half with my kids. I couldn’t feel more at home anywhere in the world than in Charleston. I feel protected and part of the community and I go to see my childhood friends’ parents and hang out and feel as comfortable in their kitchens as in the kitchen where I grew up. I know what I’m going to find when I open this drawer and where the cookies are and I can tell my kids, “Go upstairs and if you look in the blue bedroom there will be a dollhouse.” It’s lovely. I feel so lucky to have come from a place I can go home to and gives me that.

You’re a movie star, and you’re married to a movie star [Ben Affleck], but you still seem like a small-town girl made good. How have you stayed grounded?

You have to be pretty grounded in the first place. It’s not something—I don’t think, “Oh, I better work on staying grounded today.” It’s more, I have a need to go home. I need to get my feet on Mountaineer soil. I feel myself breathe easier when I see all the trees. It’s a different pace, it’s a different kind of respect.

You recently gave birth to your first son, Samuel, after two daughters [Violet, 6, and Seraphina, 3]. Does it feel different to have a boy?

I’m sure it does—I don’t know yet, he’s only five months old. He’s little, so I’m giving him a break. He doesn’t exactly have to throw down a basketball just yet. I’m pretty crazy about him, but I am about my girls, too.

 Do you think you’ll ever work with Ben again?

I can’t imagine. As much as anything, it’s that he should be in the movies he directs, he’s so good at it. It takes a year and a half, two years out of his life. And we can’t really be in movies together—it’s distracting to people, and that’s been proven time and time again. I need to take care of him when he’s making a movie, and our kids. So I don’t see it happening.

Any indication that your kids will follow their parents into showbiz?

No indication. They’re interested in all kinds of things, but we will cross our fingers that they don’t become interested in what we do. It’s too much of a rollercoaster. You can’t wish it on your kids. You find real life in it—we have a very real life. Our jobs are wonderful, but they’re too hard to get and it’s too much of a crapshoot to wish it on your kids, in my opinion.

 If Alias was ever rebooted, would you want to be a part of it?

I think J.J. Abrams has got his hands full. I don’t see him turning around and rebooting Alias anytime soon. If  he was involved, I’m sure the rest of us would sign right up. We had a blast making that show and we’re all still superclose, so I’m sure you would find an eager group of participants right there.

What’s your favorite Jennifer Garner flick? Any fans of Juno, 13 Going on 30 or Catch and Release out there?

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