"I'm less afraid of what everyone thinks of me," she tells us.
We chatted with the 35-year-old mother of two on Sunday night at the NBC Press Tour party in Hollywood, and she not only went into detail about her relationship with her momager Nancy Heigl (who is an executive producer on her show, State of Affairs), but also opened up about how adulthood has changed her—and made her a bit less "atwitter."
Oh, and she also admitted she has two secret career ambitions you fans will like.
What was it about this role that spoke to you?
Something about her feels like an adult to me in ways that other roles haven't. I don't know if it's because I feel like an adult. I feel like I'm finally like a legitimate grown-up with two children and a husband of almost seven years. I feel like a grown-up who has taken on a grown-up role.
What are you loving most now about being an adult?
I feel more of a sense of peace. I definitely get...I'm a neurotic actor, I'm not gonna lie. I'm absolutely a neurotic actor and we all kind of are, but I'm less atwitter and I'm less defensive and I'm less afraid of what everybody thinks of me. I get my feelings hurt, and I certainly get frustrated because I want to prove I'm something, or prove to people that I'm more than they think, but I don't get quite as aflutter about it as I did in my youth. And I have a deeper understanding of what really matters, and who really matters. Whose opinion really matters. And I'll just look at my husband sometimes and I'll go, 'You know what, I'm doing alright. Because if I were this big of an a--hole, he would not still be here.' He is way too cool to put up with that!
How is it being a mom and being an actress?
There was a time when this [Hollywood] was everything. This was my whole life. I had relationships. I had my family and stuff but this was my priority first and foremost. Having children has made all of this take a bit of a back seat, which I think helped me and has been good for me. And something that I innately wanted and didn't know that I needed. And the children have been this phenomenal blessing. Because they sort of have put my life in perspective.
What's the thing that has surprised you most about being a mom that you didn't expect?
I didn't think I was going to be one of those moms who think that their kids are the GREATEST. You listen to your friends, and your parents' friends, and you think, 'Oh my god, do none of you realize that you all think your kid is the best?!' And then I had kids and I was like, alright, my kids truly are the best kids.
Your mother is an executive producer on your show. If most people worked with their mother, they would be screaming at each other by the end of the day. What is it about your partnership with your mom that works?
My mom and I always have gotten along really well. I don't know why except I think that we're sort of like-minded. I've always had a lot of respect and faith in my mother, and I find her to be one of the most remarkable women I've ever met. She's been through quite a bit in her life that I was witness to, that I saw her not only survive, but survive with a sense of joy and gratitude of being alive. And that's so remarkable. I absolutely get mad at my mother and we fight. She's hung up on me once or twice and I wanted to kill her. But we have this short hand with each other, and a lot of mutual respect, and my mom has always treated me like my opinion and my ideas and my thoughts matter. So it was never like a dictatorship, or even like how I am with my kids. Because, when they're little, you have to tell them what to do. And I've seen a lot of parents have a hard time outgrowing that as their children grow up. But my mother, she absolutely bosses me around, but it's not about business. We've just always had a really remarkably great partnership. And I trust her so implicitly. She's always been a sounding board for me.
Can you imagine any scenario in which you would go back to Grey's Anatomy? Maybe for the series finale someday?
That's not up to me. That's not my decision. But I think the show is fantastic. I have so many wonderful memories. I had so many wonderful experiences. I have some really phenomenal friends and people like T.R. Knight who is like a brother to me, that I can't even imagine my life without. And I can't believe it's been this long. That we've been friends this long. I was 25 when we started. He was 30. Like, what happened? It feels like it was only a couple years ago, It's so weird.
It doesn't seem that long ago at all. I'm still not over Denny dying.
Me neither. If I could only lure Jeffrey Dean to this show...!
What did you love best about working with James Marsden on 27 Dresses?
Everything. That kid is hilarious. Like literally spit my food out hliarious. So charming and so talented. I love him. I love love love Jimmy Marsden. We need to do a sequel to that.
Having an executive producer role on State, what kind of freedom does that give you?
A lot more creative freedom. It's not like I can go into the writers' room and say, 'Today I've decided that Charleston will be...' I can have input and I can have ideas and the beauty is that people listen to me now, and they consider what I have to say. And it doesn't always work, and often I'm wrong but it's really nice to able to have the opportunity to go into the writers room and throw some ideas around and develop a backstory for my character.
That balance of work and personal life is everything when you are a working mother. And so it seems like an ideal situation that you are a producer on this show. Have you put some thought into how to keep your own hours manageable in order to see your little girls?
I would love to say that I have that kind of control over my schedule, and I don't. Because I made a promise when I committed to do this show that I would do it, and that I would give it my all and I understand that it centers around my character. So for me to say, Hey guys I want every Friday and Monday off, it's not going to serve the show well. And ultimately, then, not me. So at this point, the things I did have control over was how many episodes a season we would do, and I minimized that, so i can have half a year at least of doing nothing if I choose to, with my kids. And also I was saying to my mom. Because I don't know, how do you balance? I think you just stomach it. Right? You have to just live with it. And I am in the very fortunate position of getting to choose to go back to work or choose to not to work. I know it's a great priviledge and I know like my sister doesn't get to choose. You know. I have a passion for my career, and that is something that I sort of want to inspire my own daughters with in some weird way. It's either that or I keep joking, this job will simply help pay for their therapy. I'm not sure which will happen.