Many of us may profess our desire for a digital detox, but leave it to Téa Leoni, the 49-year-old star of Madam Secretary (back for its second season October 4), to really follow through.
The actress was in bed, her face aglow from her iPhone, when "I heard a voice from deep inside," she recalls over lunch at Maialino in Manhattan's Gramercy Park. "It said, 'Téa, what are you gaining from email, and what are you missing?'" She made a list of the latter—"The view out my window. Something my child did. Eye contact."—and then she signed off email for good. "If somebody needs me, they call me on the telephone. We handle it right there."
Detachment is a luxury her globe-trotting, hard-nosed character, Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, doesn't have. Like most D.C. insiders, McCord is tethered to her device, but unlike another (former) secretary of state, she's liberated from staid classics like pantsuits. Though stylish, McCord is no match for Leoni. Wearing a pair of 20-year-old boots, Rag & Bone Boyfriend jeans, and a Ron Herman blazer, she describes her style as "if Lilly Pulitzer and Willie Nelson had a baby." She continues: "My mom would mix the most badass stuff together in the '70s—boots that zipped up the back of her phenomenal legs, swinging skirts, ropes of fake pearls, and, for one year, the whole thing was topped off with an Afro. Man, I never forgot it."
These days Leoni is leading a pride of her own: Madelaine West, 16, and Kyd Miller, 13, from her marriage to David Duchovny. Balancing her work and family is a struggle she shares not only with her character but with the powerful women she's met researching the role. "I really related to Madeleine Albright, who had daughters when she was at the Department of State. I remember thinking, How are you the fifth most powerful person in the world and then go home and deal with being a mother?" As if on cue, her iPhone dings. "Sorry," she says, thumbs flying in a texting blur. "It's my kid."
For Téa Leoni's full feature, pick up the September issue of InStyle, now available on newsstands and for digital download.