Tell Me More with Kelly Corrigan


Jennifer Garner

Famed actress and entrepreneur Jennifer Garner speaks with Kelly Corrigan on the path she’s taken to who she is, and what she finds meaningful in her journey.

AIRED: October 19, 2020 | 0:55:40

My mom grew up really poor

in Locust Grove, Oklahoma, on a farm.

I think my mom was so poor that

it's just unbelievable

that she managed to leave.

As a matter of fact, when I moved to New York

after college, my mom said,

"Jennifer, no matter what you do,

"it will never be as big of a deal

as it was for me to leave that farm."

When a friend of mine was dying,

his doctor prescribed sleeping medication,

walking outdoors, and a daily dose of novelty.

She said it would make his days richer,

and it did.

Being a beginner is daring and hard

and so energizing and something that we tend to avoid

once we get really good at one thing.

Jennifer Garner, who has 63 film and television credits

and a Golden Globe, almost always carries

a notebook and a pen.

She's a lifetime learner, who likes to write things down--

book recommendations and business ideas,

some new research about mental health,

or a policy idea that might help the very poor.

She wants to know more for her family,

for her advocacy work, for her business,

and for the next role she might play.

She's also learning to be a single mom,

a job she takes more seriously than all others.

I'm Kelly Corrigan, this is "Tell Me More,"

and here's my conversation with Jennifer Garner.

Corrigan: Welcome to "Tell Me More."

I can't even believe this is really happening.

-I know. -I'm so--I can't think

of a better person to be sitting in that chair,

asking questions, and I--

I'm--I'm ready for what you've got for me.

A thing that's so weird about the job

that you do is that it makes you very famous.

-Mm-hmm. -And then that

changes everything and not just for you,

you know, for your whole family...

-Mm-hmm. -And I think about

how many people might kind of want

something from you.

How do you know who's a friend

and who's kind of coming in for some--

that they're gonna hit you with an ask

for something later down the road.

Like, does it--

You know what makes me laugh is that

as you were saying, you know, "How do you find a new friend?"

I'm thinking, "Well, you're one of the friends

that I've made in the last 5 or so years."

You know, you don't-- as an adult,

you don't make that many new friends,

and then I had to laugh because I thought--

and I came in right away with an ask,

and you came in right away with an ask,

but, I mean, that's OK.

Then if it's really a friend, you don't mind.

I really hesitated to ask you to do this.

I really hesitated to ask you for your help, too.

-Isn't that dumb? -Yeah.

But didn't want you to think

"Oh, see? She's just another person

who wants something from me"?

No. This is exciting. I was happy that you asked me.

This is great.

You are the first person that I've ever known

from West Virginia,

so here are my associations

with West Virginia.

Really good apples...

-Uh-huh. -Rattlesnakes.

Home of Golden Delicious.

Have you seen snakes? Like, did you see

snakes growing up?

I don't want to ever see a snake in the wild.

Yeah. I'm not scared of seeing snakes.

I don't want to step on one, but--

That's from your "Alias" days.

You're like, "Whatever!"


So tell me about growing up

in West Virginia.

I feel like the luckiest. I mean, first of all,

it's not unusual for you to tell me

that I'm the only West Virginian you've ever met

because statistically speaking,

you're less likely to meet someone from West Virginia

outside of the state than from anywhere else.

There aren't very many of us,

and we don't tend to leave.

It was a real childhood.

Marge down the street had the extra key

if the door was locked when we got home from school.

I was raised by a community.

Yeah. I grew up on a street

where all the Irish Catholics lived.

So it was, like, the Walshes

and the Kellys and the Connors,

and any one of those parents could, like,

smack you on the bottom

-or feed you dinner... -Oh, yeah.

or remember it was your birthday.

Tell me about your parents.

My parents are just salt of the earth.

My mom grew up really poor in Locust Grove, Oklahoma,

on a farm.

I said to her, "Mom, does it bother you

"when I talk about your poverty as a child?

Does that bother you?"

And she said, "I'm never ashamed of growing up poor.

"Rather, I am amazed by the grace and dignity

that my parents had throughout my childhood,"

and I just thought, "Oh, well, OK."


She was a mom

and went back to school and got her graduate degree

when I was little, and then she taught

at West Virginia State.

For a long time, she taught kind of

remedial reading, where she had a lot of kids

who had traveled through the public school system

in West Virginia and were in college

but were also illiterate.

And what's your dad like?

My dad is--he's so great. He's--

-What's his name? -Billy Jack.


And he's only just now-- when I was younger,

I would have just said Bill, but I feel like

the older he gets the more Texan he really--

I mean, the more it just spills out of him.

He is Billy Jack Garner, so when I was little,

my dad would be--he could be in South Africa,

he could be-- and in West Virginia,

like I said, no one leaves,

and now realizing that he had to take

a connecting flight from our tiny airport

to this tiny airport to this, to this,

but he was--all the time, he has really

traveled the world.

Like, I think of you as a pretty worldly person

in terms of your point of view.

Like, you're interested in things well

beyond yourself, and I think

to have people in your house

who are telling stories about other places

is really valuable that way, you know?

Oh, for sure. I think my mom was

so, um--so poor that it's just unbelievable

that she managed to leave.

As a matter of fact, when I moved to New York

after college, my mom said,

"Jennifer, no matter what you do,

"it will never be as big of a deal

as it was for me to leave that farm."

She saw--she just wanted to travel.

She babysat for somebody down the road

who had a little bit of money.

They had 5 kids. She'd get a dollar a day

on Saturdays to babysit them for 12 or 14 hours,

and they had "Life" magazines,

and in "Life" magazine, she saw pictures

of other places, and she just wanted to go,

and she found an ad to be a Girl Scout counselor

in Maine, and she applied

and got on a bus and went to Maine,

and it was kind of the beginning of my mom's

real itch to see and understand the world,

and now she has been to 50 states

and to 7 continents.

[Oklahoman accent] "Jennifer, I need to get

to Antarctica."

Ha ha ha!

So did you have an accent?

I did very much so.

So do it.

I--I can't--I mean, give me a glass of wine,

and suddenly, I will--

Does it come out?

It does. If I'm tired, if I'm home.

-Mostly if I'm home. -Mm-hmm.

I mean, I try to get home a lot,

but I also--I do feel further away than I used to.


But if you grow up somewhere that is

the bottom of the barrel

in education and upward mobility

and health...

It's literally 50th in income.

It's literally 50th, then--and yet

if you grow up in that place

and you've been surrounded by people who look

after their neighbors, who take care of themselves,

the people are trying to give them money

to supplement food for their children,

they say, "I'm all right.

Somebody probably needs it more. I'm OK."

And the nutritionists are saying,

"But if you don't take the money, it doesn't work.

"You have to take the money in order

for us to get the money."

"Ma'am, I just can't what I think

somebody might need more than I do."

You know, there's-- I have such a deep pride

to be of and from that stock.


So you leave West Virginia, you go to Denison.

You're gonna be, like, a chemistry major?

My dad was a chemical engineer,

and we had really strong STEM stuff at my high school,

and I loved chemistry.

I had a great teacher.

But you also loved dance.

I was big time all about dance growing up

and doing the local community theater,

and the same woman was my ballet teacher,

was the math teacher at high school,

and ran the ballet company

and the local community theater.

Nina Lou Denton.

She was the most important mentor

to my childhood for sure.

When I got to Denison, the first thing I did

was go to the theater before classes started

and audition for the first play of the fall.

I didn't have any lines, but I was at rehearsal

from 7:00 to 11:00 every night

first semester freshman year,

and I took an acting class right away,

and we read "Crimes of the Heart."

-Ohh. -I remember just thinking,

"If this is what plays are,

I have to get into this."

-Yeah. -So I switched pretty swiftly.

Kind of a highfalutin question,

but across time and across culture,

like, people love making up stories,

acting them out, telling them

and retelling them in new ways.

What is it about narrative?

I don't know that I am the actor to--

to answer this question,

but I think, to me, that it's about seeing ourselves

reflected back up there in front of us.

We just want to be told that we're OK,

that it's all right, and to be shown maybe

a different way, a better way.

I mean, isn't that what art should do?

Shouldn't it push us forward?

You know, it's interesting.

There are so many things that happen in movies

and novels that give us an insight

into how other people live that we wouldn't have

any other way.

Like, I was rewatching "Tribes of Palos Verdes,"

which is a movie you made in 2017,

but it's about this very, very

difficult marriage and life

and these kids who are in the crosshairs.

It's about mental illness, and it's about alcohol,

and it's about feeling like an outcast

and wanting so much to fit in,

and you're so--it is such a raw performance.

Thank you.

And I thought, "Oh, see, these are

the things that friends don't tell each other."

You wouldn't be able to see another family

go through something that difficult

in any other way but in a film.

Right. It was pretty hard for me to open up in that way.

It's not Southern, and it's not Garner girl

to curse that much, to be that mean,

to yell, to cry.

What drew you to it?

All of the above.

Was there a role that when you were playing it

you had to do things or think through things

or consider a set of circumstances

or problems that has turned out to be

incredibly useful to you in your life?

Oh, yeah, yeah. I learn so much

from the roles that I play.

Roles that changed me-- I mean, I can't--

it sounds silly, but playing Sydney Bristow

in "Alias" changed me, fundamentally who I am.

I was her more than I was me

for 5 years of my life,

and she was so much more confident than I was

and just completely ball-bustery unafraid,

and I think that's something that really woke me up

to "Wow. You can just be nimble in your life

"and decide to be good at something

"and then go after it and learn how to do it.

You can work harder."

It's something that people watch when they're

going through chemotherapy or hard medical treatments,

and I'm so--I'm just like "Yeah. Good. She is that."

I'm not. The writing was, and I pretended to be,

but in pretending to be, it did change me.

Tell me about "Juno" and "Dallas Buyers Club."

I think those are my two favorite movies for you.

"Juno" was this little, brilliant script.

It did not have a director attached.

I was, I think, the first person on,

and I will never forget the breakfast

where I met Jason Reitman.

Nobody gets tone like Jason.

And the tension in your character.

And the tension. Ohh.

Her little heart and how badly

she wanted this kid.

I don't know. I was a new mom.

I really got it. I got wanting the kid.

I was also aware of the--this whole feeling

about new motherhood, of, like,

"Am I doing it? Is it OK? Is she all right?

Am I doing it?" You know,

and I felt like all of that,

that whole time of your life

is just so fraught.

It's a really understated performance.

Like, you really keep it in here.

Like, was that Jason saying to you...

-That's Jason. -"Like, hold back.

We're just gonna come in on you"?

Oh, I have to be told to hold back. Yeah.

-You do? -I have to. Yeah. Always.

So let's talk about Me Too

and, like, sexism in Hollywood.

How has it been for you?

How has your experience been over 25 years,

63 film and television credits?

How does it feel out there to you?

Does it feel terribly sexist?

Have you ever felt threatened

or offended or belittled?

It is very sexist.

Just as much, I'm just very, very aware

of how white the industry is.

It's crazy to me. It always has been.

When I was really young, I was fresh out of college,

and I was working in a musical in a strip mall in Florida,

and I went to see an old friend

of a family friend who had been a casting director,

and he said to me-- I was in his house.

His wife had invited me for lunch,

and I was alone with him, and he said, you know,

"If you're gonna make it, then you might need to

show me your tits so I can see what you've got,"

and I was just--it was-- I was just like,

"Are you kidding me? You kidding me?"

And that's the only time that something

that overt ever happened to me.

-I was out of there. -"See you!"

I was like, "Bye! I am, um--I'm out of here.

"I'm not hungry anymore.

Thank you so much for having me, ma'am, sir."

Do you feel like when you're choosing

what to participate in that you have--

that your feelings about what you're drawn to

have changed over time?

I'm really looking for things that feel good

to put out in the world.

I get offered a lot of dark stuff, I think,

because they feel like I'm inherently likeable

that will carry over, and then people

will forgive a lot of it and see what's

under a character's pain, and I understand that,

and I've tried it a couple of times,

but really, I want to put light out there.

It just feels better.

Tell me about making "Dallas Buyers Club."

"Dallas Buyers Club." I had had my third child.

My agent called me and said, "We're either having

"a conversation about you taking this movie

or about your retirement,"

because I had taken so much time, so I took it.

-And that was why? -And that was why.

Because your team was getting impatient

for you to go back to work.

Because it was time for me to go back to work.

No wonder Rayon's dead.

Rayon was a drug addict.

He didn't die from one day of AZT.

He died from the disease as a whole,

and you stole my prescription pad, Ron,

so don't accuse me of acting irresponsibly.

Rayon came to the hospital on his own.

And got dragged out in a goddamn garbage bag.

He as my friend, too!

Garner: That first night on set

at the time when I was supposed to be putting

my kids to bed, my breasts filled up...

Oh, yeah.

and we shot that movie so fast,

there was never-- I had worked

while breastfeeding millions of times,

and I always just would talk to the first A.D.

and say, "During the next camera turnaround,

"I'm gonna sneak over here.

I'll be in that bathroom, pop back out."

-And you're just pumping. -Yeah.

And it had been no problem.

This movie shot so fast, there was never

a 10-minute break ever, ever, ever.

We shot it in 21 days.

I mean, we had to because Matthew and Jared

weren't eating.

-We just needed to shoot it! -Right.

But my boobs were freaking out.

It was bedtime, and we were doing some scene

that was supposed to be light, and I started crying,

and I was like, "I have to quit.

"I have to go home. I need to be with my kids.

I just can't do this anymore,"

and sweet Matthew McConaughey pulled me aside

and said, "What is going on with you?"

He said to the crew, "We're gonna take a minute.

I--I need a minute,"

and he sent me into the bathroom,

and I pumped, and from then on

whenever I needed to, I would give him a high sign,

and I would go take care of it,

and he said, "You can do both.

You've got it. You can do it."

-How much do I love that guy? -Mmm.

-I know. A lot. -Yeah.

I was watching you with Bryan Cranston last night.

What's it called, "Westfield?

-"Wakefield." "Wakefield." -"Wakefield."

Which is such an unusual movie,

-a really interesting... -So weird.

Yeah. It's weird and interesting,

but there's a scene early on where he

just mauls you, you know, like,

you're married and he wants to get busy

before some party or something,

and I thought, "Oh, my God.

What a weird part of your job."

How is that? What is it like?

Who's in the room? How weird is it?

Bryan and I did this whole intimacy training

because we didn't have a ton of on-screen time together

to get to know each other, so the director took us

through--Robin Swicord, who also wrote it,

she took us through this intimacy training,

where we started back to back,

and we kind of felt each other's backs,

and then we held hands, and then we--

just bit by bit, we kind of worked our way up

to dancing together, and it wasn't sexy,

but it was very intimate, and it broke those barriers

that you're afraid of breaking,

but, yeah, it's strange, sometimes more than others.

Bryan and I had a laugh,

and we were both-- we'd been through it

so many times that we just had a real crackup

about the whole thing, and we didn't have a problem.

Tell me about your kids.

I guard their privacy, so I can talk

about them generally.

They are really wise, really emotionally wise

and able to talk about things

that I never, ever-- I couldn't have talked about

until I was, I don't know, 40.

How was going through a divorce

with your 3 kids, and how was

the paparazzi thing with your kids?

Because I know you tried really, really hard

to change the rules about how much paparazzi

can capture kids on camera.

Well, for 10 years, there were any--

at the very least 6 cars and often 20

outside of our house and outside of school

and at the pediatrician's,

and you're begging them "Please step aside

"from the pediatrician's door.

I have a sick kid. Please."

That's so crazy.

It's so crazy, and it's so just, like,

who cares about some dumb celebrity problem?

It really is a celebrity problem.

Unless it's your child going through it,

it's not worth anyone's attention or bother.

You know, it's a cost of doing business,

but it just got to be ridiculous,

where they were causing car accidents all the time.

I'd go through a yellow light, and there would be

15 cars that would go through the red light

without compunction.

Anywhere that we went, it was a total circus.

My one daughter tried to play soccer,

and it was such a zoo for the families

that they just said, "Can you please not?"

Celebrities would gather and talk about this problem

and talk about "What are we gonna do?

How can we work together?" And we'd hire lawyers,

but it was just really-- it was a really tricky one

because it's freedom of speech,

and Halle Berry just-- we'd all given up,

but she had an idea of a different way

to look at it, and it was people lying in wait

to take pictures of children specifically.

You can't lie in wait outside of someone's home.

You can't lie in wait

outside of a school.

We had all the local-- all the sheriffs

and different police officers and different people

to my house one night to talk about this,

and my daughter, who was 5, she got up,

and she had written a speech...

Oh, my God.

about this is what it's like to be a little kid

and to have all these huge cameras running toward you,

running toward your mom, running after you

when you try to go to school and having other kids

scared of it or pointing at it

or looking at it,

"and I'm scared of them.

They look like guns,"

and Halle Berry--she really pushed it through.

I was part of that in a small way.

I really give all the credit to Halle.

I went to testify in front of our state government.

Our State Senator de León, he championed it.

The law passed, and it did make

a huge difference.

It did?

One of the paparazzi--

I just loathe them so much and what they do,

but I...

there are a couple of them that have been with me

for so long, they've been assigned to me

for 15 years.

One of them said to me one day,

"You don't know how much we love watching you

"with your children.

You don't know how much we respect you,"

and I just went...

because they do know me better than anyone knows me.

They go everywhere I go.

They see me strap kids into car,

they've seen me pregnant,

they've seen me at the store.

You know, I was so taken aback

by how much that stuck me.

But meanwhile, I hate his job.

Do you have a theory about why it's very hard

to stay married in Hollywood,

and is this part of it?

I think there's something about seeing yourselves

reflected in news of some kind,

and--whether it's true or not.

If it's true and you are starting to be serious

with someone and they start saying,

"Well, when are they gonna be engaged?"

it's almost like you just want to--

it's almost like you

just want to get there so that you can complete that

and just maybe it will die down for a second,

and then it's like, "Well, when"--the wedding watch

and duh, duh, duh, duh, and it's just--

you're always kind of chasing--

you're always kind of chasing peace,

and because it's already been in print,

it feels like it's, um-- it feels like

it's a done deal already whatever it is,

and then as soon as you're married

and you have your-- you know, you go through

"Is she pregnant, is she"--all of that--

all of that stuff, then it's immediately

trouble in paradise,

and it becomes almost a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I mean, there are so many stories,

and so many of them are just not true.

-I mean, the bulk of them. -Yeah. What percentage

do you think of everything that's

ever been written about you is accurate?

I mean, people have thought I was pregnant probably...

22 times?

100, and still--that still happens.

I'm 48. I'm not pregnant. I'm not having more kids.

I have my kids. I'm so grateful to have them.

That's--that's it.

A friend of mine said to me the other day,

"You know, there's zero good about being famous.

"If I could go back, there is zero good

about being famous," and I said to her,

"Well, first of all, that's not true."

Obviously, for a million different reasons,

but for me, you have to find what's gonna fit

in the equation to balance it out

because who would decide to be followed,

but I get to have access into people's homes and lives,

and I do get to meet people I never would have thought.

You just have to figure out what's gonna make it

OK for you.

Yeah, and you have to decide where to look.

-Yeah. -Like, every day, we decide

which direction to look,

so you can look out front and say,

"Oh, my God. There are 15 cars out front

"with cameras this long waiting to watch me

go to the grocery store,"

or you can say, like, "I can do so much good

"with Save the Children that I couldn't do

"unless I was famous.

I'm gonna go testify in front of Congress"...


"and everyone's gonna show up

"because all those people want to be

in the same room with a famous person."

-Mm-hmm. -And that means you can have

an impact that you couldn't have

when you were Jennifer Anne from West Virginia.

-Yeah. -And that's powerful,

but as you say, you have to take it.

You have to decide it, and you have to take it,

but it doesn't make the 15 cars OK.

So did you have a moment where you kind of thought,

like, "I'm done trying to manage my public image,

"and I'm just not gonna-- I'm not gonna look

"that direction anymore,

I'm not gonna play that game"?

I don't think I've ever been very good

at managing public image.

I think--I just--you don't have time for that.

I mean, I always felt like when there are cars

and photographers outside of school every morning

you can either be home getting your--

do your hair and makeup and try to look good,

or you can make the breakfast

and pack the lunch.

The most powerful decision I have made for myself

was to never, ever, ever put myself at risk

of seeing my own image or a story about me,

which is not easy.

It means that I can't look at anything besides--

because CNN has celebrity stuff.

Everybody has celebrity stuff.

I can't have an Apple News feed.

I can't look at Huffington Post.

I can't look--you know,

I can look "New York Times,"

"Wall Street Journal," "Washington Post,"

and that is it.

Did you used to look at stuff

that was about you?

You would see stuff, and you'd just go

down a rabbit hole.

First of all, you see beautiful pictures

of your kids, and then the next thing you know,

you're kind of--you're just down a rabbit hole,

-but it doesn't feel good... -Yeah.

so I had to just be completely disciplined about it,

and I am.

So you have learned so much the hard way

in the last number of years.

Who are, like, your go-tos?

Who's your parenting role model?

If I could have done one thing--

Garry Winick was the director of "13 Going on 30,"

and he was one of my closest friends.

He died of brain cancer 9 years ago,

and he and I took a walk in Central Park forever ago,

I mean, way before, and he said,

"You need to be in Al-Anon.

"You're with someone who has this,

"and whether he's sober right now or not

"or whether it's an issue right now or not,

you need to be in Al-Anon."

What I would give to have heard that wisdom

and to have gone back and taken his advice.

What are some take-aways from Al-Anon?

Well, Al-Anon, it's just knowing what is your stuff

to deal with and dealing with it

and knowing what your boundaries are

and having them

and knowing what to leave alone

and is none of your business.

Drawing those distinctions is so critical.

Drawing those distinctions, just letting go

of something that is just not my business.

It's just not my problem to deal with or--

Or I would imagine that if you are dealing

with an addict there's a temptation

to just completely wash your hands of it

and say, "Well, there's nothing I could have done.

"I didn't do anything wrong.

"Like, he had this problem,

and that's the end of it."

No. I don't have that temptation,

but it's not about the addict.

It's about you. It's about you

and what you need to do to show up for yourself.

-Mm-hmm. -And that changes the dance.

Are you better to yourself now

than you've ever been?

Like, are you learning how to--

I've always been nice to myself.

-You have? -Yeah.

-Good. -I am.

I know how to-- my mom says,

"Happiness is your own responsibility,"

and when I wake up, the sun is shining.


If it's not, ooh.

Then I know what to do, though.

I know to work out. I know to call my girlfriends.

I know to go for a--

you know, I get out in nature.

You do the dumb, boring steps.

It doesn't always work, but eventually it does.

One of my favorite things about this show

is this idea that nobody ever looks more beautiful

than when they're talking about somebody

they love and admire, and one of the people

that you picked for your Plus Two...

-Yes. -is this woman Alexis,

and she's at La Maida?

La Maida.

And it goes to, like go to nature,

call a friend, which is to say, like,

activate your connections.

Yes. So Alexis Rubin Naim is someone that--

I mean, you meet her, and you just feel like

-"Oh, I need more." -Yeah.

She's really, really brilliant

and incredibly empathetic and kind and funny

and just all around a great girl.

She's also someone that I've worked with professionally

and really helped our family through some major transitions.

Yeah. Yeah.

So we're gonna learn a little bit more

about Alexis now because this is one

of Jenn's Plus Twos.

In our society, we have a paradigm about mental health,

and it's a sickness model.

It's a model that tells you

the problem is within you

as an individual,

the problem might be your genes,

the problem might be your parents.

It's not a model or an approach that speaks

to the innate resilience that we all have

to heal and to thrive when in the right conditions.

What La Maida Project does is to flip that narrative

and say, "It makes sense that you have symptoms.

"It makes sense that you are suffering.

"Let's look at your basic, fundamental habits of self-care,

"your sleep and your nutrition and your time in nature

and your time for play, and let's find solutions."

We all have to find purpose and meaning and growth

from our struggles.

La Maida project is currently working

with a very large social services agency

in Southern California that is comprised

of a foster care organization and a school and adult services.

We're going in, and we're working with the kids,

the administrators, and the leadership

and the parents to bring an environment

that sustains health and to get kids

off of medication and out of restraints

and to focus on nutrition, communication, mindfulness,

to focus on the ingredients of health and well-being.

We're not seeing them as problems.

We're seeing them as symptom bearers,

and we're telling them "Your symptoms make sense,

"and let's figure out a world that makes sense

for you to live in,"

and we're giving them a sense of self and purpose again.

I met Jennifer through a mutual friend

when her life was going through a lot of transition,

and the model that La Maida Project espouses

benefitted her family, and she became

a real champion and a friend.

It's a tremendous and astounding honor

to be one of Jenn's Plus Twos.

She's a remarkable person,

and to be seen through her eyes as someone who has

something important to say means everything.

I feel very... taken care of by Alexis.

So a thing about you that I think is very cool

is that you're kind of fearlessly taking on

beginnerhood over and over and over again.

If you haven't watched Jenn on Instagram,

she's cooking all the time hilarious things.

These are gonna cool a few minutes,

and then we're gonna turn them...

[Italian accent] into biscotti.

Recently, you did this funny thing

where you got involved in women's soccer.

I just--I so believe in women's sports

and in women's soccer specifically.

I think it gives girls so much strength of character.

And what do you know about soccer?

Zero things. I know that intermission

is called not intermission.

It's called halftime.

Well done. Yeah.

It's fine. I've got it.

What's the name of the team?

-Angel City. -Right on.

-Mm-hmm. -And then the other thing

you did is you started a business,

like, an organic baby food business

as if, like, you didn't have enough

going on with the 3 kids

and the "acting gigs" that you sometimes

engage in.

Once Upon a Farm was a tiny, little business

that was making kids' food in a whole new way.

Instead of cooking things down like crazy,

it was using a different way to make food safe.

Industry has to push change

because government is too slow,

government can't do it,

so you have to be in a company

that is helping us drive change,

so that was part of why I wanted to start a company

and why I went looking for the company

I wanted to start.

We were the first WIC organic, refrigerated baby food

in a bunch of states, and that is so hard to do

and so hard to educate moms about what we do,

but it's so important to us that everybody has

access to great, healthy food.

And what have you learned, like, in that business?

I mean, I've learned more acronyms

than I ever could have imagined.

I have never taken a business class

and cannot read a spreadsheet,

and so every single-- after every company meeting,

anything that we do, I am on our Slack channel

saying, "Somebody, explain this to me.

Somebody, what is this, what is that, what is this?"

And do you enjoy that, like, being--

I love it! I'm a total beginner.

Being the beginner in the room.

And they're so--everyone's so nice

about teaching me things,

and sometimes, they say-- they tell me

the definition, and I think, "Shoot.

I've asked this, like, 4 times."

So people must have been all over you

your whole career to help them

with their nonprofit vision,

And you picked Save, Save the Children.

It was a couple of years into "Alias"

when my life had totally changed.

I was a working actor for a long time

before that show,

and then that really was an overnight--ffooo--

you know, life-changing event.

I was so happy to get to be a voice in any of it,

but I felt always like I was playing catch-up.

I was so busy, and I wasn't really able

to dive in on anything, so once "Alias" ended,

I had a baby.

Then I was pregnant with another,

and somewhere in there, I started to feel like

"What can I actually-- where can I actually

"move the needle in some way?

What do I have a real voice in?"

Because then there were charities coming and saying,

"Do you want to work with us?" and they were amazing,

and I would hear them, and I would hear the pitches,

and I would just leave in tears and say,

"How can I not? This is incredible

what these people do," but I kept going back to

"But who's helping kids like my mom?

"Who's helping kids like the kids I grew up with,

and where is that organization?"

You start working with Save,

and it's taking you

right into people's houses.

Hoo. Save the Children is obviously

an enormous global organization.

We're number two for kids in the world next to UNICEF.

One of our problems is we do so many things

that we don't have an easy elevator pitch.

We are leaders in education and getting girls in school,

in lowering teen pregnancy-- this is global--

in vaccinations, in health,

in reducing infant and child morbidity,

feeding kids, changing legislation

and advocating for children worldwide,

and in the United States, which is where I focus,

we work in rural America.

1 out of 4 kids in rural America

is growing up poor, probably more right now.

That is a huge number, and the poverty line,

you know, for a family of 4 is 25,000.

A lot of these families are in extreme poverty,

13,000 and below,

and they are so behind that they don't have a shot

at getting ahead, so then it just--

once you're in this cycle of poverty,

it is almost impossible to make a difference.

By the time you start in kindergarten,

you're too late.

These kids are all in remediation.

You need to be starting at or before birth

to make a difference in a child's life.

I know because I'm a volunteer

at Children's Hospital in Oakland,

and it's a very similar population,

although urban but the same kind

-of setup... -Same thing.

and that's really an astonishing fact

that, like, 0-36 is where all the action--

-36 months. -90% of the brain growth!

-Where all the action is. -It's so crazy!

You have to get in there,

and you have to get in there early,

and I was having little babies at the time,

so I was very immersed in early brain development,

and so there are all of these families

who have no option for preschool

There's 1 book for every 13 homes

in poor, rural America.

Think about that. Think about your bookshelf

and what your kids grew up kind of casually tossing aside.

So what we do is we hire local people.

They go through this very intense

and rigorous training program,

and then they have constant monitoring, check-ins,

people coming out to be with them.

They have a support team backing them up all the way

because they are going into people's homes,

assessing the children.

We were with Bryan Stevenson last week...


and his message is that if you really want to

solve problems you got to get proximate,

you got to get right up next to somebody,

and I have seen some of the footage

of you going into people's homes,

and I think just seeing someone's kitchen...

-Yep. -and seeing what's in or not

in the cupboards and seeing

where people sleep, like, seeing that

there's 4 mattresses on the floor

in one small bedroom

helps you to understand "Oh, my God.

"Here's the list of things that need to happen

"for this family to get going

in a better direction."

I had a photographer with me in this one home

in South Carolina, and she was trying

to navigate this kitchen.

There was a table turned upside down.

It had been upside down for 9 months,

and they just were so-- if you're in the despair

and trauma of poverty, you cannot do

what you need to do to fix the table.

The brain science of poverty is such that

if you were suddenly impoverished--

for so many people, if this is how they're raised,

the despair, the trauma, it's so innervating.

You don't have a shot.

That's what our country looks like,

and that is one of the main things I've learned

is that we judge poor people for being poor,

and we judge them for not pulling themselves up

by the bootstraps, but when you see enough

of these homes, you think, "Oh, I get it.

You can't."

My job in any room where I'm talking

about this stuff is to take it back to a story

and take it back to people that I've met

and heroic people raising children

in the worst of circumstances.

I think about this woman named Cinderella,

who was--Cindy, Cinderella,

and she was raising her kids in the northwest corner

of Washington State.

Her husband's a firefighter.

He is gone for, you know, 80 days and home for 2.

She lives in this tiny, little place.

She has her brother's son, who is a couple months older

or younger than her own, and then she has another child,

and her brother's son is developmentally delayed.

Her brother's an addict, as is this child's mother.

She's trying to adopt this child.

She's home alone. She doesn't have gas money

to get even to use WIC or SNAP,

and if she misses that month's money,

she's, you know, just dying,

but she doesn't have the money to get

to the store, but meanwhile,

when Save the Children shows up and brings her books,

she lights up.

She says, "Nobody ever read me one book in my life,"

"and I barely know how to read myself,

"but look how much better I'm getting

because 'Hop on Pop' is pretty easy to read,"

and she sits there, and she's like,

"If this will help my babies, I will do it,"

and she reads, and those kids run

to her lap with a book and know how it opens,

and it's just like thrilling to see.

Well, that's one of the most hopeful things

actually is when you sit with the facts

of poverty, right, that there are kids

in the world who don't know how to open a book.

-Mm-hmm. -They just never

touched one before.

They don't know if it opens this way or that way.

That's sort of an astonishing fact,

but then you think of how little water

it takes to get that plant to bloom,

especially if you're going

with 5-year-olds and younger.

You can have sort of a big impact

with not a terrible amount of teaching.

It's just passing on those tools

that a neighbor did for my mom,

but it's like you said.

It takes very, very little,

and it is so exciting.

Like, I often say to new moms

who I'm friends with,

for the most part, they learn

how to do everything.

Like, they will stand up,

they will walk across the room,

they will start saying words.

Like, that kind of stuff comes,

so don't be so tight in your little heart

about getting every single move right

from here on in.

-Oh, my gosh. -Just hold them,

just look at-- like, the assignment

-is actually quite doable... -Mm-hmm.

if somebody tells you

this is the most important piece.

Yes. So a child that is listening to you talk

and is looking at your eyes and engaging with you,

their brain is going bananas,

and it's not even that they are learning that much then.

They are setting up the capacity to learn later,

and without that input, your brain just

kind of turns off.

It's like the lights are just dimmed for everyone,

and in those first thousand days

if you can get in there and you can convince the mom

that she is enough and that she just needs

to do the littlest bit, well, that kid's lights

will turn on, and then that

will engage the mom.

Yeah. It's like mirror neurons.

-Yeah. -Like, to see

a turned on person,

it, like, energizes you

from the inside out.

So you visited the U.S. border

-at some point. -Yes.

People who had been in detention at the U.S. border,

after they have been kind of vetted and seen

that, yes, they do have family in the U.S.

and they will get a hearing to see if they can stay,

they were taking these people,

who maybe their family was in Buffalo, New York,

and they're in Deming, New Mexico,

and they were dropping them off by the busload

at a local McDonald's, and meanwhile,

they have walked.

I mean, I met a woman who had walked

with her daughter, who was in a wheelchair,

for 21 days to get to the border.

So the town of Deming started a shelter,

and eventually, they called us

because we do humanitarian work,

disaster relief, and we know shelters,

and they said, "We need help with the kids."

We work hand in hand with Red Cross.

I used to think we were competitors,

and I would growl when I would see Red Cross.

Now I realize we need them, and they need us

because Red Cross is so vital and so important

at what they do,

but babies roll off those cots.

You need somewhere for a baby to sleep.

You need somewhere safe

for children to play so parents can talk

to insurance or make travel plans

or do what they need to do

to deal with their lives.

This is the role that we play in shelters.

You've never seen anyone so happy to get

a toothbrush in your life.

Brushing their teeth, clean clothes, a shower,

a doctor, and as soon as those babies were given

to--in this little, protected play area

with trained professionals to play with them,

those parents passed out sitting watching them

with the biggest smile on their faces

because their kids were safe,

and they were playing like kids are supposed to play.

So, you know, with COVID and kids out of school,

I read that 30 million kids

are counting on school for food.

-Mm-hmm. -And you've been really trying

to figure out a way to feed these kids

because nutrition is this very fundamental part

of keeping kids safe and on a trajectory

that promises some kind of growth.

I was at a school where at the end of the day

the teacher said, "Code Cupcake,"

over the loudspeaker,

"Code Cupcake," and kids took their backpacks

and toddled out.

Nobody who wasn't in Code Cupcake knew

what it was, but they went

to a private room, where their backpacks

were stuffed with food.

They get breakfast, lunch at school.

If they're in our programs, we give them

a big after-school snack, and they go home,

and on Fridays, those backpacks

are stuffed full to get their families

through the weekend.

So that is a major, major, major deal

to have school feeding disappear.

I mean, it's 3 meals a day they're missing.

3 meals a day, and supplemental stuff

for their families, but imagine

if you have a school and you want to feed these kids,

somebody's got to volunteer to help cook the food

at your school, and families don't have

gas money to get into the schools.

You've got to bus out into the neighborhoods

and deliver the food.

Also, these families, 35% of people in rural America

don't have broadband, so how are they gonna

Zoom school?

So Amy Adams is a friend of mine.

She called me the night the world started to shut down

and said, "What about these kids?

"I think we should have celebrities read books

and that it should raise money."

We were going to publishers and saying,

"Can we please have rights to books?"

They had to get in touch with authors,

with illustrators, with--

you know, and so as those started to come in

and as we just started to catch ahold a little bit,

then all of a sudden,

we were going through my library at home--

because I love kids' books more than anything,

and I was like, "Oh, my gosh!

"You know what would be great?

"If so and so would read 'Here's To You'

"because that would just be such a great match,

"or who's reading 'Randy Riley's Really Big Hit'?

Let's see. Maybe Steve Carrell should read that,"

and it was a blast.

It felt so good.

We fed millions and millions and millions of meals

and handed out books and educational materials,

and we put a Save the Children coordinator

that would have been visiting these homes

on the buses, and they got to see the kids

at the deliveries eye to eye,

and that is the secret sauce.

It's not just about the money or the food.

It is about seeing the children and saying,

"I think Child Protective Services needs

to check you out,"

or, "I think I need to call your mom.

I'm worried about this, or I'm worried about that,"

and that is like-- that's community,

and that's--the best of things

is when you can create community.

Hey. Tell the girls we miss them!

I sure will.

Corrigan: One of the people that you picked

for your Plus Two is a woman

who works at Save,

really on the ground with Save,

so will you tell us a little bit about Saronn?

Saronn Mitchell has been with Save about--

I think about as long as I have been,

11 or 12 years,

and we have seen each other countless times.

I'll show up somewhere to some tiny school

in Tulare County or in Lake Los Angeles,

and there's Saronn, and I say,

"What are you doing here?"

And she always says, "Well, I came here to see you."

And she's an early childhood specialist.

She makes sure that the home coordinators

are supported, know what they're doing,

are going in prepared, and just there

to help troubleshoot anything that comes up,

so I thought it would be great

if you could talk to her.

So let's see Saronn in action.

Here she is.

My background is in early childhood development.

I have a degree in psychology,

and I have worked in the early childhood field

for over 20 years.

Both of my parents were teen parents,

so when I was born, my parents were still living

at home with their family, but I will tell you

because of the sense of community,

people stepped in and helped my mother

with providing childcare for me

so that my mother could continue to go to high school.

I believe all of us have a responsibility to make sure

that everyone has a seat at the table

and has a way to get through the door,

and education is that pathway.

Save the Children, our mission is to ensure

that children are protected and that they have

what they need to be successful in life.

Many of the communities that we work in,

they're forgotten,

and what Save the Children has done is

shed some light on the needs of these communities.

90% of the communities that we work in are rural.

They have limited resources and access

to things that you and I might take for granted.

When I visit the communities, I see--I see the children,

and I see a lot of myself.

The families are parents who want the very best

for their children

just like my parents did for me,

but they lack means, and they lack oftentimes

knowing what to do.

I haven't met a parent yet that hasn't wanted

the very best for their child.

I haven't, and when it clicks

that the learning can start as early as in the womb,

it just truly creates a spark of change

for the whole family.

I ran into a parent, and she was a family

that I had worked with over 20 years ago,

and she had shared with me that "You remember me?"

And I said, "Yeah, yeah, I remember you,"

and she had shared with me that her daughter

had just completed a Ph.D. program,

and her second daughter that was also in our program

was working on her master's,

and she was so proud, and I said,

"Well, that was all about you. That was all about you.

"You and your husband made that happen

because you believed in your child."

Garner: She holds the line for Save the Children

and for the way that we are going to talk to ourselves

and to our families and to our kids.

I'm never happier than when I see Saronn in action.

So you have, like, a small investment

in a soccer team,

you have Save the Children,

you have Once Upon a Farm.

Like, are there other things?

Like, would you ever get involved in politics?

I am very involved in politics

as an advocate for kids.

"As Frederick Douglass said,

"'It's easier to build strong children

than to repair broken men, cheaper, too.'"

I might be able to effect more change

in that way than if I ran for office.

We go state by state to kind of shore up

our funding and to introduce governors

to what we do.

It's about racial equity, it's about gender equity,

it's about, you know, kids need to be

in childcare centers.

We're doing a pilot program where we're giving families

$120 a month in this one program,

and we're talking to them about how they might spend it,

but we're kind of giving them the option

of how do they want to spend it.

You know what they're spending it on?

Food, diapers, health, clothes.

Yeah. So this is just the weirdest year

on record, and I'm sure you've spent

more time with your kids this year

than any other time maybe.

What worries you about your kids

growing up in this time?

Sadness. Doesn't everyone--

aren't you so worried that your kids

being home and siloed and alone

are going to be sad and carry that sadness with them?

Yes, and I worry that they're going to

feel forever unsure of the future.

There was already this heaviness

around global warming, which is totally--

Completely terrifying and rightly so.

And totally appropriate, yes.

It's appropriate to be terrified.

Like, we just had this foolish sense

growing up...

Mmm. I know.

that, like, it was just gonna be

pretty much like this for the rest of our lives.

-Yeah. -And now you think,

"Oh, maybe not. Maybe there's

"another pandemic behind this one

and it's gonna be worse."

Right, and how do you even address

that kind of anxiety?

-How do you take one step? -Mm-hmm.

And what does the one step lead to?

Like, it leads to another step,

and this is why I think that modeling,

like what you're doing with Save--

it's, like, you're not gonna save every child,

but you're gonna save some.

You're gonna make some incremental difference,

and seeing somebody make an incremental difference

makes you want to make

an incremental difference, too,

and that's the way that the whole thing

starts to turn, right?

-Right, right. -That's the tipping point idea

is that if you do it and then each

-of your 3 kids does it... -Mm-hmm.

-that's 4... -Yeah.

on the right side.

That's a lot of energy heading in the right direction.

And then we have so much time.

The combination of anybody being able

to self-educate morning, noon, and night

with 7 nights a week family dinner

makes for, like, a lot of spirited discussion,

and as you say, like, it's quite likely

that we've reached the tipping point

where they are teaching and we're listening.


Like, I definitely don't talk as much

at dinner as I used to.

Oh, for sure.

OK. So we have a little speed round for you.

Ech. I feel a little nervous about it, Kelly.

Feels like I've said a lot.

OK. Go ahead.

If your high school did superlatives,

what would you have been most likely to become?

They did do superlatives, and I was never chosen.

Ha ha ha!

If I looked at your Spotify playlist,

what would your most listened song be?

"Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing" has been

my anthem, and I play that

very loudly very often to everyone's dismay,

and the other one--

♪ Bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum ♪

-Whoo whoo! Yeah. -Ha ha ha!

And the other one is "Build a Home,"

Kelli O'Hara from "Bridges of Madison County."

Oh, the best.

One time, I was on "The Today Show,"

and Kelli O'Hara was in the makeup chair

next to me--thank you very much.

I would pass out.

What's your guilty pleasure?

Chocolate, wine, crosswords.

What crossword do you do?

-"New York Times." -Uh-huh.

-But on my phone. -Yeah.

Yeah. So I can check.

So you can "check," not "cheat."


Who was the last person to make you laugh

really hard?

-Mmm. My kids. -Yeah.

What's your go-to mantra for hard times?

Uh, "Weeping may last through the night,

but joy comes in the morning."

If you could say 4 words to anyone,

who would you address, and what would you say?

I would address my kids,

and I would say, "You are enough. Go."

Heh. That's awesome. Thanks.

Thanks for saying yes.

I kind of would say yes to anything you ask.

-Mmm. -Mm-hmm.

But I can't imagine what else you have

up your sleeve, so I feel like

that's pretty safe.

-Thank you for having me. -Yeah.

For somebody who's sort of considered to be

America's sweetheart and those giant dimples,

she is really living a fairly complex, heady life.

She is totally unafraid to be a beginner.

I mean, it's interesting, you know.

She has 3 children,

she's learning to co-parent,

and she has a pretty thriving career in Hollywood,

and yet she's adding more elements to her life.

I really loved hearing about her experiences

in people's homes,

you know, the Save the Children, going on home visits,

and what small things can make a huge difference

in the way people live and feel

I just found super hopeful.

Most of what people know about her,

they have seen as they're checking out of the supermarket,

and of course, it's only half accurate

and only about a very small percentage of who she is,

so it's pretty satisfying to show

a more complete picture of her.

Stevie Wonder: ♪worry 'bout a thing

♪ Don't you worry 'bout a thing, sugar ♪

♪ Don't you worry 'bout a thing, mama ♪

♪ Don't you worry 'bout a thing, hey ♪

♪ Don't worry, don't worry

♪ Don't worry

♪ Don't you worry 'bout a thing, sugar ♪

♪ Don't you worry 'bout a thing♪


♪ Don't you worry 'bout a thing, yeah ♪