Jennifer returns to TV in Camping
Actress Jennifer Garner returns to small screen in HBO series Camping
In real life, Jennifer Garner is one of the nicest actresses in Hollywood, so it is entertaining to see her play an unpleasant and domineering character in new HBO TV comedy series Camping.
"I have played as many unlikeable people as I have likeable," she insisted at our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, though none immediately came to mind.
"It is more the perception of me that I am like a nice girl next door. Fair enough. That probably is pretty true," she said with a laugh.
"But that's what makes it even more fun to play something so (opposite of) me and who I am."
In Camping, the 46-year-old plays Kathryn, a woman described as obsessively organised and aggressively controlling.
She plans a camping trip to celebrate the 45th birthday of her husband Walt (David Tennant), and takes along the sister she habitually bullies (Ione Skye), her estranged buddy (Janicza Bravo) and Walt's best friend (Arturo Del Puerto), who is accompanied by his new-age girlfriend (Juliette Lewis).
It is more the perception of me that I am like a nice girl next door. Fair enough. That probably is pretty true.Jennifer Garner
Naturally, the best-laid plans all go sideways, and the trip turns into one of tensions, tantrums and tested marriages.
Written and executive produced by US actress Lena Dunham and Girls showrunner Jenni Konner, Camping premieres today at 10am (with a same-day repeat telecast at 11pm) on HBO Go, HBO (StarHub TV Ch 601) and HBO On Demand (StarHub TV Ch 602).
Garner had reservations after she watched the 2016 British version of the show because it was "so unapologetic and unflinching" in how far they take the unlikeability of her character.
She said: "I felt not only can I not pull this off, the American audience can't handle someone this shrill. There was never a break in it."
But she was reassured once she read the script, as the character is "offered enough moments of who she really is and why she is the way she is, that it felt fair to me".
The spy TV series Alias, which ran from 2001 to 2006, was the show that catapulted Garner to the spotlight, but since then she has transitioned to movie roles.
So Camping marks a long-awaited return to TV for her, and she found she had forgotten how much work episodic TV involved.
"In a movie, you have worked so much on the script that by the time you get to any given scene, you have it memorised.
"But in a TV show, you're getting new scripts all the time that you haven't seen before, so you really do have to sit down and learn nine pages a night.
"And my character never, ever, ever stops talking. And I wanted to be able to talk as fast as possible. So that was just more work than I had remembered it being."
Garner is also known for being an off-screen supermum, as she is pretty much bringing up her three kids with her former husband, US actor Ben Affleck, on her own.
The couple finalised their divorce recently, three years after separating.
While she would not talk about the split, she did say she has a lot to juggle between her career and taking care of Violet, 12, Seraphina, nine, and Sam, six.
But she is not as organised as her Camping character.
"My kids' teachers say, 'If we e-mail and ask for someone to bring X, Y or Z, you are always the first one to e-mail back. You are so organised and on top of it.'
"And I say, 'Actually, I am the first one back because I know if I don't do it the second I see it, I will never think of it again.'
"I am actually quite disorganised, I just overcompensate sometimes. And as far as juggling it all, it's just a constant."
One of Garner's biggest pet peeves is the paparazzi, who still make her life difficult.
Most recently in August, there was a widely circulated photo of her driving Affleck to rehab, where he sought treatment for alcohol addiction.
In 2013, Garner famously testified alongside US actress Halle Berry before the California Assembly Judiciary Committee in support of a Bill that would protect celebrities' children from harassment by photographers. The Bill was passed and is now California law.
Explaining her exasperation, she said: "I'm a lady. I will never strike someone, but yes, absolutely, I have had that fantasy many, many times. And you would too."
Garner added: "I think the best policy is head down, march through. Because life is beautiful. It's like, don't cry for me Argentina. It is okay."
The writer is the president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.