Popular actress Jennifer Garner is well-versed in the ups and downs of motherhood. Not only has she donned her mama bear hat in several high-profile films such as “Mother’s Day,” “Miracles from Heaven” and even the revenge thriller “Peppermint,” she’s also mom to three children at home. Her latest film, “Yes Day!” exploring another story of family, this time centering on a couple purposely putting fun back in the family.
Garner co-stars with Édgar Ramírez as Allison and Carlos, who decide to give their children a full 24 hours of saying “yes” to whatever whims and requests they have. The movie is based on the popular children’s book by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Garner’s “hero” who inspired conducting her own “Yes Days” for her family. After Garner posted an Instagram picture in the aftermath of one of their days, a producer’s wife said, “this should be a movie.” The actress agreed, not only because of the concept but because she wanted to put fun and laughter into the atmosphere.
“Before she passed away, (Rosenthal) really went around and spoke about beckoning loveliness to our lives, and if you beckon loveliness, you'll live a lovely life,” Garner says. “I wanted a lovely experience. I wanted joy. I was looking for that for me, for my kids, for the world. So that's really what was the engine behind me wanting to make this movie.”
During the promotions of “Miracles from Heaven” in 2016, Garner made national headlines when she answered her children’s requests to attend church, a family practice she has continued in the years since. She says of the spiritual reconnection that experience offered, “What a gift that film was to my kids and me.” She added that she continues to stay in touch with popular Christian preacher Bishop T.D. Jakes, who served as an executive producer.
Garner admits that even though she frequently portrays fun-loving and exciting characters, her children are not always impressed. In fact, her middle daughter calls her a “fun killer,” a line that made it into the film.
“I think my baseline is ‘No’,” she says. “For me, it’s all so carefully woven together every day with three kids: all their asks, their friends, their activities, and all the things that they’re trying to do. And you just feel like we can’t, we can’t fit more in.”
Still, like her “Yes Day” character Allison, Garner was intentional to prove herself to her children, doing things like bringing her children on set, including a day that where a massive water balloon fight was filmed.
“He thought it was the coolest thing ever,” she says, adding that when they watched the movie, he excitedly pointed out which ones of his ended up in the shot. “It's wonderful to be able to include them and for them to see themselves reflected back.”
Working hard to stay connected as they grow, Garner continues to look for ways to include her children as she works, not only on set, but also accepting films that celebrate family, such as “The Odd Life of Timothy Green,” “Wonder Park,” and “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” where she worked with “Yes Day” director Miguel Arteta.
“This is a hard job, and a lot is asked of your family for you to work on a film,” she explains. “When you do a family film, there's something great about your kids being able to come to set and your kids being able to watch the outcome.”
In “Yes Day,” Garner’s character Allison seeks moments of connection, sometimes to hilarious results. In one scene, Garner appears before a massive crowd of concertgoers and commandeers a microphone to belt out a childhood song. While the average person would cringe at the thought, the musical theater veteran tackled it capably, even if she felt a little rusty.
“I stopped singing right around when I moved to New York City, a long time ago, at age 22,” she recalls. “So now when I have to do it, my voice is so out of shape. And I'm so nervous to sing in front of people that sometimes nothing comes out at all. So, I was very petrified. I had to go out and speak to the audience first and say, ‘Just bear with me. I don't know if I'll cry or if anything will happen, but I'm just gonna’ go for it and just bear with me. And let's just have a little moment of grace together.”
Hearing her talk and watching her Facebook feed featuring her kids, it’s evident that they have a strong connection, carving out quality time through the shutdown and beyond. The mother and children are growing together, learning from one another, and forging an intergenerational bond.
“(My children) have stretched me with my idea of what is appropriate in the world and that the world is changing,” she says. “We can all rest on ‘Oh, I don't have prejudices. I don't have any issues like that.’ But still, there's more to learn and more openness to have in the world. That’s something that my kids really pushed me on.”
Having first appeared in a breakout role on the series “Alias,” the character of CIA officer Syndey Bristow is one that Garner will always be associated with. With television series reboots happening more often, could there be more another mission ahead?
“I don't know that there is any talk of (a reboot),” Garner says. “But I revisit (Sydney) all the time. When we're allowed to go to the gym again, I'm going to go straight back to boxing to be ready . . . just in case.”
“Yes Day,” also starring Jenna Ortega, Julian Lerner, Everly Carganilla, H.E.R., Nat Faxon, and Molly Sims, releases on Netflix this month.
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