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Jennifer Garner Is Taking Control And Trusting Her Instincts, And Boy, Are They Spot On

The star says her friend, Reese Witherspoon, encouraged her to take charge.
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Jennifer Garner is stepping out, in her first starring TV role in five years. She’s playing the imitable ‘Hannah Hall’ in the TV adaptation of Laura Dave’s, Reese Witherspoon book club-approved novel, The Last Thing He Told Me.

Garner is not just the leading lady, she’s also an executive producer on the project, alongside her long-term close friend Witherspoon, whose production company Hello Sunshine is putting this novel on film.

Speaking to marie claire Australia, Garner is very clear about the important role Witherspoon has played in her life.

The pair have been friends for years. (Credit: Image: Getty)

“Reese and I have been friends for almost 20 years. I was so grateful to her. I know without her advocacy there’s no way I would be sitting here right now,” Garner said.

“Reese has really encouraged me, for the almost last 20 years, to be in charge; more in charge of the stories that I’m getting to tell and the way that I want to tell them.

“I have to thank Reese for that, because she really has pushed me, as she’s pushed all women, to just get out there and tell the stories you want to tell.”

Yet, it’s clear that Garner is more than self-deprecating. She has over 30 years of experience in the movie business, and confesses that as she gets older, she cares more than ever about the roles she’s playing.

Jennifer Garner with the writer of ‘The Last Thing He Told Me’, Laura Dave. (Credit: Image: Instagram)

“Back when I was young and just working all the time, I cared and I was disciplined about it and I tried to put out the best that I possibly could, but boy, I care even more now,” she said.

“I prepped for months [for The Last Thing He Told Me]. I learned to turn wood and I did it with, you know, I did it all day Saturday, all day Sunday.”

Garner is referencing the trade of her character Hannah Hall in the upcoming TV series. Hannah is a wood-turner who finds out that her husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) isn’t who she thought he was. When he vanishes into thin air, she is given the simple instruction ‘protect her’ referring to his teenage daughter (and her stepdaughter), Bailey (Angourie Rice), who has never really been fond of Hannah. What follows is a thrilling mystery, but also the tale of a growing bond in a blended family, when put under some of the highest levels of stress.

Jennifer as ‘Hannah’ and Angourie as ‘Bailey’. (Credit: Image: Apple)

It’s a role that Garner admits she found hard to relate to at first, given her personal life.

During her years away from the small screen, Garner has been amounting a huge following online, with 14 million Instagram followers that love nothing more than to tune into her cult-favourite ‘Pretend Cooking Show’ or to watch her singing to her golden retriever Birdie. Her idyllic home life is an inspiration to many.

Garner has also been co-parenting the three beautiful children she shares with ex-husband Ben Affleck: Violet, 17, Seraphina, 14, and Samuel, 11.

Jennifer singing to her dog, Birdie. (Credit: Image: Instagram)

She admits that swapping her warm nature for Hannah’s less maternal persona was a learning curve.

“What was tricky for me was turning the volume down on my own maternal instincts,” she explained. “I just wanted to be cozy with Angourie [Rice, who plays Bailey], right off the bat.

“She’s so engaging, and so charming, and so lovely, you can’t help but feel like ‘Oh, this is going to be the easiest scene ever. I’m just going to pull her in.’ But that’s the opposite of any instinct Hannah would have.

“I have just such a totally different relationship with my teenagers that, you know, they didn’t naturally translate,” she adds. “If anything, I had to erase, in my mind, my own warmth and the natural outcropping of, you know, raising my kids every single day since they were tiny.”

Jennifer and her daughter Violet, attend the a state dinner in honor of French President Emmanuel Macron and Brigitte Macron hosted by US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at the White House. (Credit: Image: Getty)

Garner admits she had to find a way to let Bailey loathe her, and let Hannah loathe her back sometimes. She also had to tone down her bubbly nature to get into the more serious elements of this leading lady.

“[Hannah] is much more still than I am. I’m much more ready to get up and dance.”

While Garner’s personal life is of interest to many, there’s no denying that it hasn’t always been easy. She’s been at the centre of a public divorce and has campaigned extensively for changes to paparazzi freedoms to protect her children from the press.

After years in the movie business and public eye, she’s learnt to back herself, no matter what.

Jennifer Garner is in a new, and exciting era. (Credit: Image: Getty)

“I think what I had in common, or what I loved, is that I could recognize somewhere in myself about Hannah,” she admitted.

“She learns over the course of this series to trust her own instincts. She learns over the course of the series that she’s so much stronger than she thought she was or thought she could be.

“I think that’s something that a lot of women learn as life goes on.”

There’s no denying that Jennifer Garner is taking on the world, with her trademark warmth, humility, wit and strength.

“Jennifer Garner is a goofball, in the best meaning of the word, she was so much fun to work with,” Coster-Waldau told marie claire Australia.

“I have to say the whole production was very, very well run…they’re just very, you know, inspiring human beings. They are great artists, but also very talented producers, actors and businesswomen.”

We could not agree more.

The Last Thing He Told Me premieres this Friday, April 14, on Apple TV+.

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