Garner says she didn’t have to reach far in order to get in touch with her inner 13-year-old. “She’s probably closer to the surface for me than most people. Part of the reason I took this movie is that I was talking about it with the cast and crew of ‘Alias’, just chatting while they were changing the lighting set up. They said ‘Jennifer, don’t be ridiculous, you’re 30 when the camera rolls and you’re 13 as soon as they say cut, so you might as well reverse it. You might as well get a paycheck for who you really are.’ She’s a lot closer to my actual personality than anything that I’m known for certainly. As far as getting in touch with my inner 13-year-old it was about letting go of inhibitions and riding the line between having fun with it and finding truth in it.”
One way for her to do this was to hang out with 13-year-olds. “I have a friend who’s 13 who’s actually 13 and I actually had a sleepover with a bunch of girls and we stayed up. I was the first to fall asleep but I did the Ouija board and we watched movies, and did makeup and ate gross food. They reminded me of how sophisticated your average 13-year-old is. Not that these girls were average but how capable and adept and smart and capable they are living in the real world. They are talked down to a lot which is in one way our society puts youth in a pedestal and in another we talk down to them. It was really important for me that I try not to do that.”
Though she’s receiving top billing, Garner says that she didn’t feel like she had to carry the film by herself. “I feel like part of a team still, as soon as Mark Ruffalo was cast to play opposite me I felt very well protected. Mark is such a fantastic actor, he’s so respected that I knew it kind of took the film by luck of association, it took me to another level of just assumed respect. As far as being in a comedy, having Judy Greer right there, you can’t ask for anything more and of course Andy Serkis. I really didn’t feel the pressure that you might suspect.” She adds that the support from director Gary Winick helped her with the film. “From the minute I met him we very quickly decided to trust each other on this. We both knew this was an important job for both of us and we really looked out for each other. He was so committed to following the heart of the story and not getting lost in shtick and not taking ourselves too seriously and riding that line.”
Garner says that the addition of Tadpole screenwriter Niels Meuller added a lot to the project. “It’s impossible for me to tell you how much Niels contributed to the script. It was a very funny story always and it was obviously funny enough to attract Gary and me. But Gary and I knew that the through line needed to be rock solid and we both know that you are nothing without the words on the paper. Niels was indispensable. We rehearsed with him in the room and we gave him ideas where we thought the scenes needed to go. He immediately turned in a new draft of the script that was a complete overhaul with several key elements still in place. The Thriller dance was always there. But Niels is so talented as a writer and we were so lucky to have him. That was one of the things Gary brought with him was this pool of Niels and also this other writer Kevin and his editor, Susan Littenburg. He brought his independent world with him and these people are immensely talented and creative.”
Jennifer said there was a moment where she realized she had the character down pat. “On the first day of shooting I had this scene where I was running down the street in high heels and there was this crane shot and I had the freedom to run. Of course after three seasons of ‘Alias’ I was flying down the street, it wasn’t even an issue. It didn’t bother me at all. The next scene I had to walk down a hallway and I naturally started creeping like one foot over the other, sideways in a spy like manner. Gary said to me ‘Jennifer you’re being a spy.’ I said ‘No I’m not.’ He said ‘Yes, you are you’re being a spy.’ He would play it back for me on the monitor. He said ‘Just give in to it.’ From that minute on I did and it’s not that I didn’t put any thought to it. When I say I’m in touch with my inner 13-year-old I was willing to go there. It was really letting go of inhibitions and saying okay in front of these people in New York watching. I was just going to give in and do this scene. That was always kind of my guideline was, ‘Is this too much’ because I could have gone so much further.”
She’s also excited about the Alias seasons being released on DVD. “We were incredibly enthusiastic about the DVD, and we have been thrilled about the sales. The entire cast participated in them and continues to participate, because the company that makes the DVD is so involved that they’re on set any time we have a big scene to do behind-the-scenes stuff and we are really proud of the work that they are doing. And happy, happy, happy to show people behind-the-scenes.” So can she spill any secrets about the rest of the Alias season? “There is a new character and she is pretty bitchin’ too.”
13 Going on 30 hits theaters on Friday, April 23.