As you know, lambs, it’s not often that I leave New York. I’ll make exceptions for summers in France and unwinding in Ibiza…and for Reese Witherspoon, I will travel to her home turf.
I meet the stunning and surprisingly-chipper-for-a-Saturday-morning Southern belle at the Loews Hotel by Vanderbuilt University in Nashville. The megstar mommy wears a gorgeous yellow and blue sleeveless dress while upstairs her baby boy Tennessee is hanging out with her 14-year-old daughter Ava and other friends.
“It’s all about getting the kids breakfast,” says Reese. “I’m really lucky that I love when a ton of things are going on around me.”
Reese was raised in Nashville and now has a home there. As a unique nod to her roots, she chose the location to premiere The Good Lie, her new movie about African refugees who are brought to Kansas City.
“Last night, it was so cool. We premiered the movie in the same theater where I saw all my favorite movies as a teenager. I would sit for hours in that old theater that was build in the 1920s just being transported to a new world.”
Gossip Girl: Welcome home!
Reese: It’s so good to be home in Nashville. I’m so used to being in LA and New York.
Gossip Girl: How are you balancing motherhood with being a movie star?
Reese: You should see my hotel room today. I have a teenage daughter with all her stuff and books and school reports and baby things all over the place. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just wish there were more hours in the day, but somehow it all works out. I like when things are busy, but I also like a day to just chill in my yard with the kids.
Gossip Girl: This is a great season for you with Wild, which is getting so much Oscar buzz, and The Good Lie, which is getting critical raves. You also produced Gone Girl. Did you plan to take over fall at the multiplex?
Reese: (laughing). I have a bit of a traffic jam. All these movies are coming out at the same time. It wasn’t planned. For a few years, I was a little bit lost as an artist. I wasn’t able to find what I wanted to do. I was making choices that I wasn’t ultimately happy with. What started this whole string of things was getting back to the kind of women I wanted to play.
Gossip Girl: What kind of women do you want to present on the big screen?
Reese: I want to play interesting, dynamic female characters.
Gossip Girl: Let’s start with The Good Lie where you help refugees from Africa make a new home in the United States. How did you get the role of the employment agent worker who helps them find jobs?
Reese: I met with the director and he said, ‘I want to be clear. This movie is not about you, Reese!’ That made me so happy. I didn’t want to be a white American girl coming to save the African people. My character in this movie is just as lost. She doesn’t have a family and these refugees become her family. This was a beautiful opportunity to talk about how family is where you find it. I thought that was a beautiful message.
Gossip Girl: The Good Lie is about not taking anything for granted. Do you think we do that too much in our lives?
Reese: Absolutely. My favorite scene in the movie is when the guys from Africa come to America and can’t believe that you can just touch a faucet and turn clean water on and off. They’re always searching for water to survive. The message is you need to really appreciate your life and your education, health care, and even food. I hope a lot of young people will go to this movie and then discuss it at the dinner table.
Gossip Girl: Didn’t you take your teenage daughter to Africa to see the people who are still in refugee camps?
Reese: I did take my daughter and it was a very emotional trip. We saw 250,000 people who are still displaced and sleeping on concrete slabs. They speak seven languages and there is very little health care and little food there. I hope this movie is an opportunity to raise awareness and create change. We assume that the people in refugee camps are not intelligent. I found that’s not true. These are people who were at the top of their fields before war came. They were doctors, educators, and community leaders. Now, they’re displaced.
Gossip Girl: What did your daughter think of being at the refugee camp?
Reese: My daughter is a wonderful, socially conscious girl. But even if a kid has read a million books about a situation, you don’t understand it until you see it yourself. She was young to be on one of these trips, but she wanted to go. She didn’t say a word the whole day we left the camp. She really didn’t talk about it until a few days later.
Gossip Girl: What was something you saw there that you will never forget?
Reese: We saw women giving birth on metal tables with their infants placed right next to them after they were born. Sadly, we saw kids who were sick and my daughter saw babies her little brother’s age who were just sleeping on concrete slabs with seven other brothers and sisters. We also saw the joy and determination of these people to rise above their situation. They greeted us with huge smiles, hugs, laughter, and dancing. It affected me. It was very emotional.
Gossip Girl: What do you think is important for teen girls to do to expand their consciousness?
Reese: I think travel is the antidote to any selfish behavior. It’s not their fault. We give our kids access to things that disconnect them from other human beings. I think it’s important to put down the electronics and see how the world is great. That’s what I wanted for my daughter who is 14.
Gossip Girl: You’re a brunette in The Good Lie. How did that happen?
Reese: Everyone wanted me to be a brunette and I was like, ‘OK.’ I had just had a baby and I didn’t even know if I wanted to make a movie. I was still nursing when I read this great script and said to myself, ‘How am I going to do this?’ You know, your brain is a little confused after you just had a baby. I was really confused! But it was nice to do this role and depart from myself. Most of the movie, I was covering all my post baby weight, too.
–Reporting by C.L. Gaber