Jennifer Garner Is Playing Against All Her Maternal Instincts in 'The Last Thing He Told Me'

"It's easy to slip into mothering."

The Last Thing He Told Me

Apple TV+

"The whole point to me is to mix it up and to be constantly turning what you've just done on its head and doing something different," Jennifer Garner says of her return to TV with this year's revival of Party Down and her latest project for Apple TV+, The Last Thing He Told Me (streaming on AppleTV+ on Apr. 14)It proves that she truly has the range, going from comedy to drama in one fell swoop. "Doing these two back-to-back was particularly satisfying to me."

Speaking of range, Garner may be best-known for rom-coms like 13 Going on 30 and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, but it would be remiss not to mention her dramatic turns, like roles in Juno and Dallas Buyers Club. Her latest project may give shades of Alias, her explosive TV show back in 2011, post-Felicity, and it's something fans could regard as a return to form for Garner after taking on projects like Yes Day and The Adam Project.

Jennifer Garner The Last Thing He Told Me

Courtesy Apple

The series is Reese Witherspoon's latest book-to-TV project, hot on the heels of Daisy Jones and the Six on Prime Video. Together, Witherspoon and Garner worked to produce The Last Thing He Told Me, along with Laura Dave, the author of the 2021 New York Times bestselling novel that was also featured in Witherspoon's book club. The show follows Garner's Hannah as she navigates being a mom to a teenager and simultaneously finds out that her husband has just disappeared. Throw a bag of cash into the mix and there's plenty to keep viewers hooked, especially with things like white-collar crime in the mix.

"I loved, loved, loved the book," Garner says before adding another layer of admiration that she shares with her daughter Seraphina. "I read it aloud with my middle child at bedtime and we could not stop."

A thriller may not be the first pick to read with a 14-year-old (Garner's other children, whom she shares with ex Ben Affleck, are 17-year-old Violet and 11-year-old Samuel), but she notes that there was really no way to stop after the two got started. Credit that to Dave's compelling story — something that Garner hopes to capture in the adaptation.

Jennifer Garner The Last Thing He Told Me

Courtesy Apple

"It pushed bedtime later and later because the book has this super-propulsive quality, really driven by two things: life-and-death stakes that keep shifting when you least expect it everything turns on a dime again and again and again," she says of what kept her and Seraphina turning those pages. "And then, the relationship between this woman who never expected to be a mother and was not particularly gifted at it and this young woman who never expected to have a mother and wasn't really good at that. All of that together just made for a really explosive read."

The show reunites Garner with her Alias co-star Victor Garber (instead of her character's father, he plays a confidante college professor) as well as Game of Thrones's Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Aisha Tyler, and Geoff Stults. And while Garner has plenty of time with those names, most of the show sees her working with Angourie Rice, who plays her stepdaughter. Rice is most known for her role in Mare of Easttown and now, she has the distinct honor of getting Garner — who, let's face it, is America's (soccer) mom — to challenge herself on-screen.

Jennifer Garner The Last Thing He Told Me

Courtesy Apple

"It was very difficult for me to play a character who's not maternal at all," Garner admits. "I've played a mom quite a bit and that is actually lovely, because it's very easy to slip into mothering some awesome young actor, and then you build a relationship under it so at the end, you're quite close."

Anyone who has read the book knows that Hannah and Bailey aren't the closest (step)mother-daughter duo, which is something Garner hopes comes across as the show works through its machinations and the two develop their relationship.

"Angourie Rice and I were almost adversarial at the beginning of the series," Garner explains of the dynamic. "And we had to build trust, a partnership, become a team — whether we liked it or not — until we were legitimately close. It was nice to have our real relationship build slowly over time, that our trust built over time just like Hannah and Bailey."

Jennifer Garner The Last Thing He Told Me

Courtesy Apple

Garner admits that working on something like a beloved book comes with a dose of pressure, but she assures fans that as a fan herself, she worked to make sure that she was respectful to the source material.

"It's a very vulnerable thing to go out there and put yourself out there. But I took very seriously readers' feelings about Hannah and I included my own in there," she shares. "I couldn't love Hannah Hall more or admire her more as a person, so I did everything I could to hew as closely to the book as I possibly could."

For fans wondering if The Last Thing He Told Me could venture into the same realm as Big Little Lies and go off-book after the first season (Dave doesn't have a sequel on the docket just yet), Garner says that she'd love to return to Hannah and Co.

"As a mega-fan of the book, of course, I want the second book. And selfishly, I love Hannah so much that I want to keep going," Garner admits. "But there are no plans for anything right now. Laura's busy finishing another book."

And as for whether or not Seraphina will be tuning in to see her mother's take on a beloved read, Garner says that her kids don't actually enjoy seeing their mom on-screen. In fact, they're more likely to catch one of their father's feature films than anything like 13 Going on 30 (a travesty, to be honest), but they have their reasons.

"My kids don't love to watch me in things. They do to be supportive, but I think it's a little weird to watch your mom kiss someone or cry," she shares. "It's different. They don't mind watching their dad. They don't want to see me sad and they don't want to see me in a romance. They don't love seeing me play someone else's mom, honestly. I don't know if they'll watch this." 

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