Although she may seem sweet and bubbly, Jennifer Garner proves to be an actress made not only of elegant looks, but also good nature and hard work. And even though work means a lot to this mom of three, her family comes first and it always will. She seems to not have let fame change her at all, despite being in huge blockbuster hits such as '13 Going On 30' and 'Juno'.
Jennifer Anne Garner, as is her full name, was born in Houston in Texas. Her mother Patricia was a teacher from Oklahoma and her father, Bill, worked as a chemical engineer. Garner also has an older and a younger sister. They are of English, Scottish, Scots – Irish, German and Swiss-German descent. Garner’s parents were quite conservative towards their daughters when they were growing up; they didn’t wear makeup and weren’t given too much money to spend on their clothes. When she was a little girl, her parents were keen on having all three of their daughters take lessons in piano and ballet. Eventually, the family moved to West Virginia, and it was until Garner decided to go to college that she stayed there.
She is still very close with her family, saying, ‘Being the middle sister of these three girls is the relationship that defines me more than anything else’. ‘More than being my kids’ mother, more than being my husband’s wife, I’m first and foremost the middle Garner girl.’ Her mother keeps an important role in keeping the family together. ‘Two of my mom’s most oft-repeated mom-isms are: ‘happiness is your own responsibility’ and ‘weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning.’ Both are true’, she says about her mother. Also, although she had her ears pierced multiple times in the past then let them heal, she took her older sister to have her own ears pierced which is something she’s been putting off for a while. To make her feel better about it, Garner pierced her ears again as well. ‘We both told her she’s nothing to worry about and it didn’t hurt at all, so she said she’d trust us and get them done – but only if I went with her and got mine done too. So she watched me get my ears pierced, and then she finally gets hers done too.’
After graduating high school in 1990, Garner moved on to university, choosing Denison University in Ohio, where she got her BA in Drama. During her years there, she was a member of the Pi Beta Phi sorority. In 1993, she began studying at The Eugene O’Neil Theatre Center, although she says she didn’t plan on taking up acting as a profession. ‘I wanted to be a doctor, a librarian. Acting wasn’t possible to me. The more I learned what there was to learn about this field, the more hungry I became for it.’
Garner’s path naturally led her to acting. In 1994, she appeared in two Shakespeare plays of the Georgia Shakespeare Company. A year later, she began earning $150 a week as an understudy in the play A Month in the Country for Roundabout Theatre Company in New York. Soon, she got her first television role in a TV-movie Zoya, based on a novel by Danielle Steel. She also appeared in episodes of TV-series such as Law & Order, Spin City, Significant Others and Time of Your Life. During this period, she worked different jobs to support herself. ‘I always had a job. In high school, I worked at a men’s clothing shop and babysat. In college, I worked at a summer stock theater for free, building sets and cleaning toilets.’
In 1998, at the age of twenty-six, Garner got a bigger role, this time in the TV series Felicity. This helped her open the door to film and other projects, and one year later, she appeared in Dude, Where’s My Car alongside Ashton Kutcher. Then, in 2001, she appeared in the romantic drama hit film Pearl Harbor playing alongside Ben Affleck, who later became her husband. The film drew attention to her at that time, but it seemed like the public still needed her to prove herself.
That same year, Garner decided to prepare herself for an audition for a role in the TV-series Alias by taking on private classes of Taekwondo, as the role demanded action sequences and she was thought of, by herself and others around her, as a girlie-girl. ‘I didn’t even know how to punch’, she says. She did get the part and performed many of the stunts herself. The role also got her a Golden Globe award for Best Actress in a Television Series – Drama, and she received three more of these awards during the show’s run, as well as the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Drama Series and an Emmy Award nomination. Garnier also directed an episode of the series and became one of the producers of the show. The show ended in 2006 after five seasons.
Alias proved to be her most significant project as it turned her career around completely. In 2002, she appeared in Catch Me if You Can, then in Daredevil in 2003, again alongside Ben Affleck. In 2004, she got her first leading role, appearing in the comedy 13 Going on 30. As the film turned out to be quite successful, it got her more recognizable worldwide. Then, she shot Elektra, a Daredevil spin-off which turned out to be a complete miss at the box office.
In 2006, Garner proved she had a talent for singing as she sang ‘My Heart Is So Full of You’ on a charity album Unexpected Dreams – Songs From the Stars. That same year she appeared in the Catch and Release film, and then in The Kingdom one year later, as well as Juno, a film that again draw the positive attention of critics towards her performance. Garner came back to stage that year with Cyrano de Bergerac on Broadway.
In 2009, she shot Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, then The Invention of Lying with Ricky Gervais. In 2010, she did Valentine’s Day, then Arthur. That same year she joined the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
In 2011, she appeared in The Odd Life of Timothy Green. In 2013, she did Dallas Buyers Club, then Draft Day and Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and Men, Women and Children in 2014 and Danny Collins in 2015.
In 2016, she appeared in Mother’s Day, Miracles from Heaven, Nine Lives and Wakefield. She is currently working on a number of films to be released in the following year.
When it comes to other projects, Garner is a spokesperson for the skin care brand Neutrogena and food company Luvo, as well as Max Mara and Capital One Venture Air Miles credit card. She also has her own production company called Vandalia Films, started in 2005 with her colleague Juliana James, producing the film Butter as their first project.
Throughout her career, Garner has been receiving mixed reviews from critics. Some of them believe she is a serious actress with a great potential, yet some believe there is nothing more to her then her polite smile. Although she is often admired for her simple and elegant style, she says: ‘What my mom did that I valued so much was to not place beauty high on the list of priorities. It was a shock when I got to college to hear people say I was pretty.’
In 2014, Garner began serving on the board of trustees for Save the Children charity, advocating for early education and frequently visiting families that are a part of the program. In 2013, she showed up at the Save The Children gala with her eldest daughter because she wanted to show her how much can be done to make the world a better place, even though she doesn’t really take the children to public events.
In 2002, Garner was stalked by Steven Burky, an obsessed fan and former blog-writer. Although she got a restraining order, he continued to follow her until he was arrested and then ruled insane and sent to a mental hospital. He received a court order to stay away from her and her family for ten years when and if released from hospital. This incident apparently made her then husband, Ben, buy a gun, saying: ‘There’s a lot of crazy, weird people out there. It’s an ugly world.’
When it comes to her political views, Garner is a democrat and a supporter of Hilary Clinton. In 2001, after the terrorist attack of 9/11, she recorded a promotional recruitment video for the CIA. ‘Ms. Garner was excited to participate in the video after being asked by the Office of Public Affairs. The CIA’s Film Industry Liaison worked with the writers of Alias during the first season …. Although the show Alias is fictional, the character Jennifer Garner plays embodies the integrity, patriotism, and intelligence the CIA looks for in its officers’, said the CIA.
Garner has been married twice so far. Her first husband was Scott Foley, whom she met on the set of the TV-series Felicity in 1998. They got married two years later, and divorced after three years of marriage, due to irreconcilable differences. Then, Garner dated Michael Vartan, her co-star from Alias. In 2004, Garner appeared in public with Ben Affleck, her co-star from two previous projects. Ben had just recently broken up with Jennifer Lopez, so the couple got called ‘Bennifer 2’ by the media. The next year, Ben and Garner got married in a private ceremony and had their first baby daughter Violet. They went on to have two more children, another daughter Rose and son Samuel. After ten years of marriage, however, the couple announced they were divorcing, not confirming any of the speculations for the reason of their split.
Garner loves to spend her time at home, with her family. ‘I have this internal battle between, I need to work, I need to work, I need to work and I need to be home with my kids’, she says. ‘And the kids win.’ She tries her best to teach kids normality, even though their parents are both celebrities. ‘It’s really important for my kids to see that everyone doesn’t have the lives they see in Los Angeles. That doesn’t reflect the rest of the world. I want them to grow up with the Southern values I had—to look at people when they say hello and to stop and smell the roses. If I could do half as good a job as my mom did, I’d be pretty happy.’
In order to protect her family, Garner has campaigned for laws that would limit the work of the paparazzi, and has helped a bill, that protects celebrity children from harassment by photographers, become the law in California.
Written by: Tamara Djordjevic