“I Care on Such a Different Level”: Jennifer Garner on Acting In Her 50s and Her New Miniseries ‘The Last Thing He Told Me’
Jennifer Garner says she worked with an acting and vocal coach to get her character just right in 'The Last Thing He Told Me.' Photo: Courtesy of AppleTV+
The new Apple TV+ miniseries The Last Thing He Told Me lands actress Jennifer Garner in her first starring role on a television series in five years. And, at age 51, she is clear on the kinds of roles she wants to take up — ones that show the strength of women in relationships and in the world.
“I like to play all kinds of roles … But it is saying something about where women are at this stage in their lives and that’s something that I love,” Garner said during a recent virtual interview. “I won’t be satisfied putting something out in the world that is belittling the complexity women bring to a relationship to the world to each other to themselves. Hannah [her character in the new series] does that in spades.”
In The Last Thing He Told Me, based on the novel of the same name, Garner plays Hannah, who must not only forge a relationship with her 16-year-old stepdaughter, Bailey (Angourie Rice), but also find out the truth behind why her husband (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has mysteriously disappeared. The first three episodes of the thriller are already streaming on Apple TV+, with new episodes every Friday through May 19.
Garner — who’s breakthrough role came in 2001 when she began a five season run as the star of the ABC thriller Alias, and whose last lead TV role came with the short-lived 2018 HBO comedy Camping — says that it felt really good to chomp into a big fat drama again. “It had been a while and I loved every single minute of it. And so I will have my eyes open for something that asks as much of me as this one did again.”
The four-time Emmy nominee is certainly aware of how she has progressed as an actor as she gets older. She reflected on her younger years and how her acting approach has changed since then.
“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 thing that I possibly could. But boy, I care even more now.”
She noted that she doesn’t work as much now, “so when I do, I feel like my whole heart goes into it. I prepped for months, I learned to turn wood and I did it all day Saturday, all day Sunday. I just loved it. I thought it was the coolest way into who Hannah Hall is. Her stillness, her quiet, her concentration. Her just shaping something and letting it become what it’s meant to be.”
The Texas-born actress explained that when she was younger, she didn’t work with an acting coach. This time around, however, she worked regularly with one, as well as with a vocal coach.
“I care on such a different level. Now I really do think ‘What do I want my voice to sound like? Well, I think she has a deeper voice than I naturally have. I want to drop into a lower register. So let me find someone and work on it.’ It makes you more vulnerable in a way but it’s also just such a pleasure to have something this rich to dive into.”
Personality wise, Garner and Hannah are different, but the role had a major draw for her due to one important factor: Hannah is much more still than she is. As Garner admitted, she is much more prone to just getting up and dancing. “But really, it was who she is vis à vis her stepdaughter that I found the most complicated and the most rewarding to find on screen.”
In addition, the mother of three admitted that she has a totally different relationship with her own teenagers than Hannah does with her step-daughter Bailey. As such, it was tricky for her to tone the volume down on her own maternal instincts as she played opposite Angourie Rice.
“I have such a totally different relationship with my teenagers that they didn’t naturally translate. If anything, I had to erase in my mind my own warmth and the natural outcropping of raising my kids every single day since they were tiny.”
Garner revealed, though, that the part of herself that she did see in Hannah was the character’s ability to learn to trust her own instincts. “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. And it was kind of thrilling to get the opportunity to play that out in seven episodes.”
The Last Thing He Told Me is streaming now on Apple TV+.