A great read turned into a dream role for Jennifer Garner

Apr 11, 2023, 12:36 PM

FILE - Jennifer Garner, a cast member and executive producer in the Apple TV+ television series "Th...

FILE - Jennifer Garner, a cast member and executive producer in the Apple TV+ television series "The Last Thing He Told Me," poses for a portrait during the Winter Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif., on Jan. 18, 2023. (Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)
Credit: Invision

(Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)

If you devoured Laura Dave’s novel “ New York Times Best Seller and one of those readers who couldn’t put it down was Jennifer Garner.

“I read it with my middle child. We kept pushing bedtime later and later because we were just compelled to read one more chapter, two more chapters, three more chapters,” Garner said in a recent interview, where she had a copy of the book next to her on a chair. “I can’t even explain how much I loved it.”

Her great read turned into a “ dream role ” when Julia Roberts — who was originally attached to star in a TV show based on the book had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. Dave co-created the series, which debuts Friday on Apple TV+, with Josh Singer, her Oscar-winning husband, and wrote the adaptation. Reese Witherspoon, who chose the book for her Reese’s Book Club after its May 2021 release, is also an executive producer.

Garner plays Hannah Hall, who marries a man named Owen (played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) after a whirlwind courtship. Hannah is not just a new wife but a stepmom to Owen’s teen daughter, Bailey, played by Angourie Rice, who regards her as a rude interruption to her family of two. One day Owen disappears and leaves Hannah a note instructing her to protect Bailey, with no other information. Hannah and Bailey are left to figure out what happened.

The idea of playing a person “growing into becoming a mother” intrigued Garner. As a mom of three, she gravitates to children and describes herself as a “natural caretaker.” Garner co-foundedrhe children’s fresh produce-centric company Once Upon a Farm and is a board member of Save the Children. She’s also acted in a number of family friendly films including “Yes Day” and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” Garner was curious about a character who learns “how much parenting comes from doing it.”

For Rice, she adjusted to play someone who “doesn’t know how to have a mother.

“Bailey has only had one person in her life, and that’s her dad. That is the first and only person she goes to for anything,” Rice said. “They really form a team, so when that goes away, I think Bailey is resistant to Hannah because she is everything that her dad is not. She doesn’t understand Bailey and Bailey is so used to being understood.”

Garner and Rice found their off-screen relationship also progressed throughout filming in a more organic way, than becoming an insta-mother and daughter.

“Sometimes you play a mom in a movie and you are thrust in the role of motherhood. You’re being a mom and then the actual relationship under it has to catch up,” Garner said. “In this case, you’re watching us grow closer and closer and more and more trusting of each other into a really cool partnership in the way that Hannah and Bailey experienced as well.”

Garner also had to still her own energy to match Hannah’s, who is more reserved.

“Hannah and I are incredibly different,” she said. “I have kind of Labrador Retriever energy and Hannah is more a sphinx of a cat who wants to be left alone.”

The actors also had the benefit of staying true to the book with Dave as writer, with the guidance of Singer.

“How Josh likes to work is we have a backyard with this old 100 year old pine tree, which you can sit under. Before we even started shooting, Jen would come over and we would go through the script again and again. Josh wanted to hear how the words sounded. Then Angourie joined us and some of the other cast joined us,” Dave said. “The script was so lived in by the time that we got to set.”

Dave spent 10 years writing the book and says for someone who loves the process of writing, this one was “painful.” Working on the screenplay swung the other way and was so positive, it made her emotional. “There were a couple of times when we were in my backyard where I had to casually say, ‘Excuse me’ and I went inside and I was like a puddle. And then I’d go back outside and Jen would be like, ‘You’re not fooling anyone. I see the tears.’”

Of the couple working together again, Dave says, “I should be so lucky.”

“Josh taught me so, so much,” she said. “There is not a note that this guy gets that he does not think about or want to talk about or and it created an atmosphere where everyone felt included, which I loved watching. I like to be by myself in a room and talk to nobody. There’s no plans that can be canceled, that I’m not happy they were canceled. He’s the opposite.”

Singer is equally as complimentary. “I’ve been a Laura Dave fan for a long time now,” he said. “She has such a stirring, unerring compass for emotion, for character and for story. There’s nothing better than working with someone who has a true compass.”

National News

FILE - Republican U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart looks on during his town hall meeting on March 31, 2017, ...

Associated Press

Utah to hold election for retiring congressman’s seat in November

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox said on Wednesday that the election to replace resigning U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart will take place in the fall, expediting the timeline prescribed by state law to ensure the six-term Republican’s seat doesn’t remain vacant for more than a few months. Stewart informed Cox, also a […]

19 hours ago

The Connecticut State Capitol building is seen in Hartford, Conn., Monday, Oct. 1, 2012. Connecticu...

Associated Press

Connecticut to adjourn largely bipartisan session in contrast to rancor in other states

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut’s Democratic-controlled General Assembly passed protections for abortion providers and gave more power to libraries facing book challenges — and they did it with Republican support. All but 13 Republicans voted for the major gun control bill that’s already being challenged in court. Bucking the partisan rancor seen in other legislatures […]

19 hours ago

Associated Press

2 Connecticut officers fired over treatment of man paralyzed in police van after 2022 arrest

The City of New Haven, Connecticut, fired two police officers Wednesday for what authorities called their reckless actions and lack of compassion toward Richard “Randy” Cox, who was injured and became paralyzed in the back of a police van after his arrest last year. City police commissioners voted to dismiss Jocelyn Lavandier and Luis Rivera […]

19 hours ago

President Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Wednesday, June 7, 2023, in...

Associated Press

Biden vetoes bill to cancel student debt relief

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden on Wednesday vetoed legislation that would have canceled his plan to forgive student debt. The measure had been pushed by Republicans, but it garnered a handful of Democratic votes in the Senate as well. “It is a shame for working families across the country that lawmakers continue to pursue […]

19 hours ago

Associated Press

Grand jury indicts 2 Bureau of Prisons employees in inmate’s death

PETERSBURG, Va. (AP) — A grand jury has indicted two federal Bureau of Prisons employees for allegedly failing to provide medical care for an inmate in Virginia who had a serious medical emergency and later died, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. Lt. Shronda Covington, 47, and registered nurse Tonya Farley, 52, face charges of allegedly […]

19 hours ago

FILE - Mohamed, a 19-year-old fleeing political persecution in the northwest African country of Mau...

Associated Press

New York City sues 30 counties over ‘xenophobic’ orders banning migrant relocations

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City sued nearly half the state’s counties Wednesday over their attempts to keep out international migrants, the latest escalation in an ongoing battle between city officials and local leaders. The suit, filed in state court Wednesday, accuses at least 30 New York counties of seeking to “wall off their […]

19 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Men's Health Month...

Men’s Health Month: Why It’s Important to Speak About Your Health

June is Men’s Health Month, with the goal to raise awareness about men’s health and to encourage men to speak about their health.

Internet Washington...

Major Internet Upgrade and Expansion Planned This Year in Washington State

Comcast is investing $280 million this year to offer multi-gigabit Internet speeds to more than four million locations.

Compassion International...

Brock Huard and Friends Rally Around The Fight for First Campaign

Professional athletes are teaming up to prevent infant mortality and empower women at risk in communities facing severe poverty.

Emergency Preparedness...

Prepare for the next disaster at the Emergency Preparedness Conference

Being prepared before the next emergency arrives is key to preserving businesses and organizations of many kinds.

SHIBA volunteer...

Volunteer to help people understand their Medicare options!

If you’re retired or getting ready to retire and looking for new ways to stay active, becoming a SHIBA volunteer could be for you!

A great read turned into a dream role for Jennifer Garner