You know, I always feel as actors we bring ourselves to characters – there’s a tiny bit of me in these characters. As a kid, we’d do plays on the block and I loved being in charge and directing everyone. They called me Bossy Boots.
Ah, life imitates art. Speaking of your early life, you spent a lot of time in Texas growing up, being born in Houston and raised in Los Angeles. Do you still have Texas ties?
I really get the whole Southern cowboy thing. And Southern women. My grandparents lived in Mesquite. They had horses and I’d ride with my grandfather, so I have very fond memories of Texas and that real farm experience during summers.
There really is something about Southern women. Why do you think that is?
It’s complex, yet I think it’s sweetness underscored with strength. Southern women get what they want at all costs. They have a real softness and femininity, yet they run the show. It has to do with that incredible breeding – I think its in their DNA.
And you, coming from Southern roots know what it’s like to be in charge. You recently made your directorial debut with the film, You. Tell us about that experience. How was it getting behind the camera?
It’s very exciting. I’d never conceived directing a family movie, but a producer once came to me and said ‘you should direct’ and it stirred up something inside me. My husband, Gil Jackson wrote its beautiful story. So, it’s inspired by family and children. Love and loss. It was an incredible experience.
Since You was written by and also starred your husband, how was it working together? That sort of thing always has its challenging moments. In the end, I always wanted to have a mate to collaborate work. Collaboration is one of the reasons I’m on this earth. I enjoy having people around me who are creative. Making a film is one of the most collaborative events you can do in life.
You saw collaboration first hand as a child actor since your parents were both involved in show business, with your father a popular character actor and your mother an acting teacher and manager. How have they guided your career?
I remember when I little, I went with my dad to drop off new pictures to his agent and I thought I wanted to do acting, too. Little did I know my parents made a secret pact that I could do ten auditions and if it didn’t work out, I could ease out of it. I got my first role from my first audition and luckily, I’ve consistently since then. For me, it has always been about the craft of acting.
And your craft also includes singing, I understand? Singing live. How do you compare singing and acting in terms of importance to you?
I’ve always sung and I’ve been writing songs all my life – produced it, worked with musicians, and always sought the music within me. I recently got cast to play the lead, Fantine in Les Miserables at Hollywood Bowl. When I saw it on Broadway while attending Sarah Lawrence college, it really moved me. So it was a dream come true performing it with a 65 piece orchestra with almost one hundred thousand people seeing it over a two day period.
The Hollywood Bowl really is one of the most magical places on the planet. When you aren’t performing live or going head-to-head with Steve Carell on The Office, I hear you can be found happily at home. Since this is our design issue, tell me about that. How did you turn a house into a home?
Mostly, I wanted to make it cozy for my husband and my two kids. We have so many eclectic pieces. You might call it Bohemian. It’s a 1928 Spanish design, yet it lends itself to family and cuddling. We love to play games and do art. We don’t have a T.V., so my kids don’t watch that. Plus, we have family dinners. We actually have dinner together and talk.
What has been your biggest splurge for your home?
We’re putting up a hedge. Sounds silly, but it’s a big deal to us. Plus, we redid the master bath. My favorite object is this amazing chandelier we got – a lavish, yellow Venetian glass for our dining room.
Friends tell me you’re a great cook.
I love the kitchen. We love cooking, hanging out and also, we love having people over. Plus, my husband is a great cook. For us, it’s the simple things that count the most.