In Miracles from Heaven, Jennifer Garner plays Christy Beam, a mother to Annabelle Beam who was afflicted with an incurable pseudo-obstruction motility disorder, which leaves the person affected with the inability to process foods like a normal person. Patricia Riggen (“The 33,” “Lemonade Mouth”) directs the film based on this real-life story, using a script written by Randy Brown.
That’s It LA, and a group of journalists, were recently invited to sit down with the actress where she shared her experience on making the film, how it may have changed her outlook on life, preparing for the role, and what it means to be a part of something bigger than just a film. Check it out below.
So how much involvement did you have reading the script, and forming your characters there? Then there is also the real-life people. Did you go to them? Did you want to talk to them? What was your process like?
Jennifer Garner: “We were pretty aligned about a lot of things that maybe the script didn’t address or the script did address. We were kind of a team fighting for the fight to stay in or fighting for something else that didn’t feel as real to go away. We definitely took great license with texting and phone calling while we were shooting to say ‘hey could you,’ ‘would you,’ ‘do you like’ ‘would you want us to,’ ‘in this moment how did you react.’ And I spent a lot of time, and I still do, with Christy. The more time I spend with her, the more I genuinely like her. I spent a ton of time with her. We’ve had a long range in conversation that covered every topic from you know ‘are your nails usually long, short, natural?’ I mean seriously. ‘Was your hair blown out all the time?’ to ‘What do you call your kids? What is your nickname for them?’ I have a playlist on my phone that I still listen to of her favorite hymns and church songs that were definitely inspirational. She was an enormous guide, and help, and cheat sheet for me. But I said we went to the book, too, an awful lot. The book was a pretty amazing resource for the movie.
What were your initial reactions after reading the script?
“I stayed up all night. I felt sick. I mean don’t you. Don’t you just feel sick? Did you even know that pseudo-obstruction motility disorder was a thing that children are suffering from right now, and moms are sitting next to them while their kid is going in for the 12 colonoscopy of the year?”
How did this movie change your outlook on life?
“I would say playing Christy, and being in the environment that she was in, even though it was pretend, and being faced with the things that she was faced with, gave me a great sense of perspective. It gave me a sense of peace that my children are healthy, and all is well.”
What parts of your character match your personality in real life the most?
J”Lots of things match me. In lots of ways Christy and I are alike. I mean every time we go to a restaurant we order the same thing. You heard it here first, that’s a little snippet I haven’t told anyone, but it is true. But ways I am like Christy? If I need to be tough, I can be tough. If I need to sit with someone, I can sit with them.”
Will you watch this movie with your kids, because the message is so great?
“The message is so great. There are two things. I’m their mom. Kylie and I are so close, and I know Kylie and Martin are as well. I think it would be strange for them to see me be that close to someone else. I’ve played moms, and they’ve seen me be moms, and they had a lot of fun with that. I love that little girl, and obviously never… you know, they’re my kids, I think that is tricky for children. The other is I think it would be hard for them to see me that sad. I do think it is great thing for a mom, a dad, a family to see together. I do think that is something that I would encourage. I think that it is totally appropriate and actually a great conversation starter. Not just about faith, about adversity, and about family, and about love, and about hope, and pushing through a challenge.”
What does it mean to you to be a part of something that is bigger than a movie, because this is something someone experienced?
“Let’s see how it hits people. We can only play the people in the story. We can’t play hope. We can’t play this is bigger than anything. If that is the outcome of doing our part of this movie-making job, then what a gift for us to be a part of something like that.”
How do you prepare for such a role?
“You can’t. One of the things we talked about is calibrating the emotions. I would talk to Christy, and I know Martin would talk to Kevin about ‘how did this hit you,’ ‘how emotional did you get?’ Some of it is just ‘where did the scene take you?’ Sometimes we would look at each other and say, ‘okay, I will see you in a minute, I gotta go you know.’ But you prepare for it like you would anything else. You prepare as much as you can in great detail so that every moment feels like, not to talk actor speak, intentional and that there’s a clear path you are going on as this character, and an arc, and all of those things, and emotionally you just let it rip. What else can you do?”
With this movie being so heartfelt and emotional, were there any moments where you could blow off some steam?
“Remember, we had a little girl on set who had to go through this emotional stuff. Kylie and I did everything together. We played as hard as we worked. She was the most emotional part of the story. So you want to protect that little being. Martin did that by taking her rock climbing on the weekends or taking her out on the weekend, and I did that by crafts to set to do with her, reading to her. She had a mermaid doll, and we would braid her hair between things. If she and I were together, it was a bubble. If she and Martin were together, they were in a bubble. We would try to bubble her for the whole summer I would say. It’s one thing to ask us to do. It’s another thing to ask that little girl to go to that place, because she is just a pure vessel. When she looked at me and said she wanted to die, she meant it. She couldn’t even rehearse it. She’s incredible that kid, in every way. I love her.”