Meeting Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell was a bucket list-type of experience for me, and I’m eternally grateful to Disney for inviting me to LA to participate in the press event for their new movie, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. Although my travel and accommodations were covered, all thoughts – and enthusiasm – are my own. Photos are courtesy of Disney.
When Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell walked in the room, the first thing out of Jennifer’s mouth was “These are my people! I brought him (Steve) along but let’s chat.” Both had huge smiles on their faces, and they put us instantly at ease. These are two of the biggest, most well-loved stars on TV and in the movies, and yet they sat down with us as if they were 2 regular people, just like us, sitting down for a big group chat.
This interview was probably my most enjoyable celebrity interview to date, though as I sit down to write about it, I still wonder if I will be able to capture the energy that the two of them had interacting back and forth and how much fun it was to be in the room with them. I tried to maintain a lot of their fun banter and conversational answers as best I could in this post.
Being asked to play the parents in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day:
We started out the interview by asking both Steve and Jennifer how they got involved in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. It was adorable to see the first glimpses of their mutual admiration for each other come out as they answered:
Steve Carell: “I was asked to be in it, and I said yes. I liked the script, I thought it was funny, and inventive, and different. I feel like I hadn’t really seen this kind of family movie in a while. And the fact that Jen was going to do it was a huge draw for me, because I’d been a huge fan of hers for a long time.
It’s true. We met a few times over the years, but just sort of in passing, and you know when someone not only lives up to, but exceeds expectations, of everything you’ve heard about them? That was her. She’s just the nicest person. She is. She’s the nicest person ever.”
Jennifer Garner then piped in, “Well, he’s fibbing a little bit, because he was actually on this movie first, so I was the one who knew he was doing it and said ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve been dying to work with him forever.'”
Steve: “I continued to do it because –”
Jennifer: “We had a really good time.”
Meet the characters
Steve Carell plays BEN COOPER: unemployed for seven months, Ben is an upbeat stay-at-home dad hoping to rejoin the ranks of the employed. But his huge job interview goes awry when the babysitter falls through and he’s forced to bring baby Trevor with him—and that’s just the beginning of his own very bad day. A die-hard optimist, Ben finds his sunny disposition pushed to the limit.
Jennifer Garner plays KELLY COOPER: Kelly, super mom, is a force of nature. Shouldering the breadwinning duties for the family, she secretly craves more time with her family. She starts her terrible day behind schedule, which is just the beginning of a host of missteps, culminating in a desperate attempt to battle a potentially career-ending publishing blunder.
On relating to Ben and Kelly as parents
In Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, the parents are very relatable. They are the kinds of parents every kid wished they had. We asked Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner if they felt like their characters paralleled their lives as parents.
Steve: I think I related in the broad strokes of being a parent, and my wife and I really co-parent. We divide and conquer in terms of everything that we need to do with our kids. So, I think I understood it and related to it on that level. But it’s crazy. It’s fun. It’s ridiculous.
It’s never what you think it’s going to be. And, at the end of it all, you can’t really take yourself too seriously, as a parent. And that’s the joy of it. I think we both definitely related and brought our own experiences to the movie. And if things in the script or things that we were doing didn’t feel genuine, we would speak up and we would offer our own personal experiences.”
Steve’s newly-discovered talent
In one hilarious scene in the movie, Steve Carell’s character, Ben Cooper, catches shrimp in his mouth at a Japanese Steak House. We wondered if he really did that…or if it was a trick of the screen.
Jennifer: “He did that. He caught the shrimp. I mean, they were saying ‘We’ll CG’ and Steve said, ‘I’ll give it a go.’ He did it. We were very excited.”
Steve: “Yeah, secret talent.”
Jennifer: “Did you know you had that talent?”
Steve: “I didn’t.”
Jennifer: “Until that moment?”
Steve: “I didn’t know that I had that eye-shrimp coordination.”
On being set on fire
In the same shrimp-catching scene, Ben Cooper accidentally catches the sleeves of his pirate shirt on fire. Like the shrimp-catching stunt, Steve also did the sleeves-on-fire-stunt himself.
Steve: “Jen was like, petrified…Very protective.”
Jennifer: “I was so nervous. Even though I had been set on fire before, you know what it’s gonna be, but I was so nervous to watch Steve be set on fire, and I didn’t want the kids to see him be set on fire – our movie kids. It was very, very tough on me. But they put gel on you…”
Steve: “It really wasn’t scary. I hope it looks scarier than it was…”
Jennifer: “Steve, you got very, very unfunny…”
Steve: “I got focused. I got focused.”
Jennifer: “You got unfunny and very focused. You couldn’t say that you did you were not aware that you were on fire.”
Steve: “I was aware that I was on fire, and I prepared to be on fire…and then I was on fire. And it’s the type of thing you don’t want to do a lot. You don’t want to do 25 takes of the Steve on Fire scene. So, you just try to get it right that first time, so you can move on.”
On keeping a straight face in a comedy
When we saw the movie, there were scenes where we were laughing the entire time. We asked Steve and Jennifer if it was hard to keep a straight face while they filmed.
Jennifer: “There are definitely scenes in the movie that, I don’t know how they (I did it) because I just wanted Steve to think that I was professional. There were times where I just couldn’t. I could not not laugh with him. I don’t know how anyone (does it) — I defy you to be in a scene with him and not laugh.”
Steve: “The same from my perspective. The scene where she’s screaming at the car in front of us. I mean, that’s a side of her I had never seen before, and it was crushing me. It was so, so good.”
Jennifer: “The scene where we were in the car, making the weird sounds, and I look at him and he’s going, “Arararara!” I can’t even think about it. I can’t watch it.”
Steve: “But that, I think, was part of just the joy of doing it. And the kids laughed too. It was work, and we tried to get it right, and we tried to to do it well, but it also had to be fun. And buoyant. And what’s the point of doing anything unless you’re enjoying it, and I think everyone had a good time doing it.”
On their favorite scene to film
I was touched by the answer to the question of what their favorite scene to film was. In the end, just like any family, the time spent together doing normal stuff was what stood out the most to them.
Jennifer: “I liked when we were all together.”
Steve: “That’s what I was gonna say. Well, we were all together for most of the movie.”
Jennifer: “Dancing at the end. It’s just, all of the fun stuff, is really fun, it looks fun, and it is. And there was a day between scenes where we had (down time) and it was warm out, and it was the kind of thing where you would typically go back to your trailers, and do whatever you needed to do.
And they put us in a little room in the house, and we all had our phones with us. And we sat with those kids, and nobody ever looked at their phones, and we just talked. You wouldn’t think that you would have that much to talk about with teenagers, because it seems like they’re from another planet. But these are the coolest group, some of the smartest, most interesting, engaging kids.
And the five of us just hung out together, and had the best time, and that, to me, is kind of the crux of this whole movie, was just that feeling in that room, and that nobody came in and bugged us. Nobody else was there. It was just us as a group. And it was something that we chose to do.”
Steve: “On my last day, Dylan and Kerris did a song for me that they had written. And Ed. The three of them sang this song. But I think the two of them wrote it and the three of them performed it, and I broke down. I really didn’t see it coming. It really crept on me, the emotion of it all, and the feelings that we all had, just over a couple of months, for one another. And to see everyone again, and be doing press, is really fun.”
Jennifer: “It’s different when you work with kids. You really feel a different sense of — like, I know I’ll see Steve. I’ll always be glad to see him and hopefully we’ll work together at some point, but we played these kids’ parents. Especially the babies. If you are working with kids, even though there are people there, making sure they’re okay, and their parents, but you’re the one saying, ‘Do you want a snack? Do you have to pee? Are you tired?'”
On playing pranks on each other
Steve Carell seemed hesitant to share the story of being pranked by Jennifer Garner, but that makes it all the more fun to tell!
Steve: “We went to the same college at different times. So, early on, before we even started shooting, apparently Jen bought a bunch of Denison University paraphernalia.”
Jennifer: “Everything they made.”
Steve: “And throughout the shoot, a Denison cookbook would be in the background on the shelf, or some of the production assistants would be wearing Denison University hats.”
Jennifer: “Or, truly, the whole crew would be wearing sweatshirts and sweatpants, and he never noticed any of it. It was amazing. I kept going further and further, and everyone would be like, and he’s just totally a man. He’s so oblivious. Right? At the end, I called Nancy, his wife, and I said — believe I’m not psycho — ‘Can I stash a Denison chair, with Denison engraved in the back, in your house?'” It was his last day. And see how long it takes him to find it.”
Steve: “(It took me) like, two weeks. And she could hear me from downstairs. I started laughing, ’cause it was upstairs in a corner, and I had been passing this chair for weeks, and it just registered that it was a Denison University chair, and I immediately texted you (Jennifer) my thanks and ‘well done.’ Kudos on a trick well played.”
If anything could convince you to see a movie, I think this hilarious interview with Jennifer Garner and Steve Carell could. So mark your calendars for October 10 and take the whole family. Everyone will love it!
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