Jennifer Garner ('13 Going On 30')
'Let The Games Begin!'
Jennifer Garner, who has catapulted into stardom with her lead role on the series 'Alias' (2001), has come a long way from her birthplace of Houston, Texas. Raised in Charleston, West Virginia, by her mother Pat, a retired English teacher, and her father, Bill, a former chemical engineer, Jennifer was the middle sibling of three girls. She spent nine years of her adolescence studying ballet and describes her years in dance as ones characterized by determination, rather than talent, being driven mostly by a love of the stage.
Jennifer took this determination with her when she enrolled at Denison University as a chemistry major, a decision that was later changed to a drama major when she found that her passions for the stage were stronger than her love of science. New York attracted the young actress after college where she worked as a hostess while pursuing a career in film and television. Her most recent move has been to Los Angeles, a decision that led to a role on the show 'Felicity' (1998) where she met her future (and now ex) husband, Scott Foley. She has appeared in numerous other television production as well as such films as 'Pearl Harbor' (2001), 'Dude, Where's My Car?' (2000), 'Catch Me If You Can' (2002) and 2003's lamented 'Daredevil'.
In her latest movie escapade, '13 Going On 30' Garner captures her inner child in the most unexpected of manners! The story follows Jenna (Garner), a slightly geeky, mostly unpopular teen who wakes up the morning after her disastrous 13th birthday party to discover she's somehow lost 17 years of her life. With her 13 year-old body transformed into that of a successful 30 year-old magazine editor, after initially freaking out, Jenna has to figure out what happened to all those missing years.
How difficult were the dance sequences? "They were just fun. I mean, they were pure joy and fun. I grew up doing musicals and so to me, it was the perfect marriage of what I had grown up loving and doing, and what I do now. And there were huge cranes and cameras and great backup dancers that were full of energy. Mark [Ruffalo] was sure that he was gonna die on the spot when we were rehearsing. He took a lot of pep talks but he so got it and so nailed it, so we just had a blast. I mean, we really did. We had so much fun."
So, dancing wasn't his cup of tea then?! "He was not a dancer, but he worked really, really hard and he more than got it down. He was groovin'."
Is it harder to learn dance steps or fight sequences? "They're very similar. They're actually very similar and I love doing both. It doesn't matter. I love being physical and acting at the same time."
You have a musical theater background. Did you ever look into a career in musicals? "Musicals were just what I did. They were what was available to me in my home town. I was a ballet dancer and that kind of bled into musical theater. I was constantly in rehearsal for one thing or another. You would've thought that I was trying to be a professional in Charleston, West Virginia, but I just loved it so much and I was happy to be backstage. I was happy to have a role of any size or no size at all. And I still feel that way. I was just happy making 'Pearl Harbor' and having four lines and I was doing this. Really, it's just kind of like I'm kind of good to go with whatever."
Who were your favorite musicians at 13 and now? "I just listened to whatever. I remember taping a couple of songs off the radio, 'You're My Inspiration' by Chicago - that kind of thing. And now, I still really don't care that much but now I have music playing all the time at home, which is a first for me. Whatever. Everything from Ani DiFranco to Dave Matthews to Jack Johnson and Norah Jones."
At what age did you start dance? "Three. I mean, just like a little kid in a ballet class. It's not like my parents sent me to New York City and said, 'Go take class.' They just stuck me in class!"
Did you want to be a classical ballerina? "No. To become a classical ballerina, you have to move to New York when you're 12 or 11 and that becomes your life. I just wanted to be good in my company in Charleston and I wanted it to always be part of my life."
Having been known for your work on 'Alias' were there any personal risks in taking this kind of a comedic movie? "The risk is always being over the top, in my mind. That was something that Gary [Winick] and I worked really hard on together, was to try to walk a line of having fun with it but also be honest and truthful. And because something isn't funny if there isn't a bit of honesty, but at the same time, it has to be funny. Honesty is also kind of sitting and staring into space. You don't want to do that either. I know you've heard about the sleepover and that was more of a reminder that 13-year-olds, and particularly these girls that I was hanging out with, are smart and sophisticated and capable of absolutely having any kind of adult conversation. Then they flip and surprise you by being children and goofy and dramatic. So it was constantly making sure that I didn't go too far in any one direction."
Did you have a friend like your childhood friend Matt in this movie? "I did actually. I grew up next door to this guy named Danny Moore. He is now married with a couple of kids. He still lives in Charleston and I still see him every time I go home. And Dan and I had this ritual, we called it ‘porch talk’ where every night when we got home from our various things, and then through high school it would be from dates or whatever it was, he would throw rocks or pennies at my window if my light was on, or I would at his window. I would come downstairs or he would and we would sit on the front porch of either house and talk about [and] go through everything. We were absolute sweetest best of friends and it was always innocent, but I think we probably both did have crushes on each other but we never took it anywhere. He set me up with all of his friends instead, and I talked him through his various relationships."
Do you keep in touch with your friends from your teens? "Oh, of course. Yeah, a couple was just staying at my house that was one of my friends when I was little. Yeah, my best friend is somebody that I grew up dancing with. She lives in Atlanta and I talk to her. Oh yeah, of course. I'm still really close with everyone at home and their parents - and their brothers and sisters. I was so, so, so lucky to grow up as part of a community and I don't take that for granted. I try very hard to stay part of it."
What happened to your character Jena between 13 and 30 to turn her into a bitch? "We talked about it so much. We talked about specific incidents with Matt or with Tom Tom, Judy [Greer’s] character Lucy, or times that separated her more and more from her family, that pulled her away more and more from her relationship with Matt. I just think she did what is so easy to do. She probably made a couple of bad decisions right after her 13th birthday party where she shunned Matt and wouldn't talk to him again. And where she shunned her parents and latched more onto the Six Chicks as her family and I think once she did that, she probably became ashamed of her behavior. So once she was embarrassed, it became easier and easier to separate herself from that instead of going back and apologizing and getting closer again to who she was. And the next thing you know, she started to believe that she really was this girl and then she became her."
Are you prepared for “Elektra?” "I am. I'm starting in May."
Does it take place after 'Daredevil'? "It is. It's not a prequel. It's a sequel to her story in 'Daredevil' and I've been training for the past couple of months. I trained after the junket last night and got up this morning and will go again tonight, and I'm loving it. I love that aspect of it. I don't know if it's because of dance or but we've added in Pilates because I need to add the flexibility. I'm just loving that. I'm working with my sai guy because the sais are my swords."
What will be different her as a character? "I think she has such a rich storyline of her own and we're really mining that storyline in this movie. A lot of the Frank Miller stuff for 'Elektra,' [we’re] really using it. It's quite dark. I mean, her story is quite dark. She's an assassin. She's an assassin for hire; she's a woman for hire although we don't go there in this movie. But as far as what would be different, I don't know. I think it will be its own thing naturally."
Any wardrobe surprises? "I think that the wardrobe so far seems to be more reminiscent of what people associate with Elektra, although what I wore in 'Daredevil,' she wears all kinds of different things. She's known mostly for this red outfit that you can't seem to wear any underwear underneath, so we could never quite figure out how to make it work. But she also wears a lot of black, so when we did 'Daredevil,' we were kind of slammed for the wardrobe, but actually it was something taken directly from one of the comic books. And now what I'm wearing will be a little more familiar to people who like the comic books."
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