Jennifer Garner on Her New HBO Show ‘Camping’ and the One Thing She’ll Never Do Onscreen

Jennifer Garner
 Michael Buckner / Getty Images

On the heels of a new HBO series, Jennifer Garner talks camping trips, paparazzi, and more.

 

 

In Camping, which just premiered, you play a controlling mom on a trip that goes awry. Are you type A in real life?

I try to be, but end up closer to a B-minus. I think I have it together, but actually left the cooler at home.

Are you into camping?

I do go with my family. A few years ago, my girlfriends and I took our kids to El Capitan. There were mice and paparazzi, but otherwise it was perfect. Though my favorite camping spot is our backyard.

Backyard camping has its upsides.

Yeah. You’re outside, but you can go inside to pee and brush your teeth.

Among a certain crowd, you’re known for playing badasses, most recently in the revenge flick Peppermint. How do you get ready for a role like that?

Playing a badass is a mindset. The only way to get there mentally is to earn it physically.

So the training must have been hardcore.

The studio said, “We’re going to get you a trainer who preps people for this type of movie.” But I wanted to do it with my trainer, Simone de la Rue. Her workout is dance based—I’m not sure your Men’s Journal readers would be into it. But we pulled it off without a huge brute making me lift crazy weights. It was a victory.

That could be good preparation for handling the paparazzi.

Well, maybe. But I’ve found other ways to deal with it.

How’s that?

About a decade ago, I was struggling with fame. I was so hounded by the paparazzi that I didn’t have a moment without them, ever. It was miserable, and I didn’t want to be living a life in which I had a gift I wasn’t grateful for. So I became an ambassador for Save the Children. It was a good use of my fame, and there was something it was giving me.

What do you advocate for?

Early education for poor kids in the U.S. I do on-site visits. I meet the kids, see their lives, their obstacles.

You’re a parent, an advocate, and always in the public eye. Do you ever cut loose?

Yes, on “Yes Day.” It’s an annual event where my kids make all the rules.

What’s the worst thing they’ve made you do?

Something called “Coach Kids.” First, you have to know that when they have too much energy, I do something called “Coach Mom.” We go outside, and I yell at them like a drill sergeant. They run laps, do pushups, planks, jumping jacks. The kids totally love it. So this year on Yes Day, they turned the tables. They were screaming at me, and they worked out me so hard I was sore for days. They were relentless.

Yes Day sounds kind of freeing, if painful.

Totally. It’s so nice to give up saying no. The word just flies out of my mouth. “Can I…?” No. “Can I do…?” No. “Can I invite…?” No. It’s awful. But they’re three little kids. What are you going to do?

What about on-set? Anything you’ve been asked to do that you shy away from?

I cannot throw or catch a ball to save my life.

Does that come up often?

It came up recently. In Camping, there’s a flag-football scene, and you’ll notice they never show me throwing or catching anything. If you want me to fight, I can do that. But don’t ask me to catch a ball. I dread the moment when someone asks me to play Ping-Pong.

If you have to choose between paddle sports and Krav Maga, you probably chose well.

Forrest Gump did both, so I don’t know.