It’s late afternoon. Time to leave Joseph and head back to the valet, the freeway, the city. As we get back in her car, I’m still trying to imagine Garner as a minister and I ask her if she has any regrets. “You can’t have regrets in life,” she says. Of course you can, I tell her. I have plenty. Maybe you’re not trying hard enough? 

She shakes her head. “First of all, what’s the point? They sink you and for what? There’s nothing to be gained.” Garner is famously disciplined and “nothing to be gained” feels like it could be a mantra. Maybe even a sermon.

“We have to be mentally disciplined if we’re going to survive,” she says as we drive. “You have to be tough on yourself. You have to do the things. You have to work out because that keeps you mentally steady. You have to work through your shit. I have made my own way. I’ve made my own money. I knew not a soul and I did it.” 

Despite her near saintly Hollywood reputation, Garner’s own perspective is a bit more nuanced. “When Alias came out,” she says, “I was so celebrated for being a hard worker, a dream of a number one on the call sheet, all of those things. Now I look back and I think, God, I was such a pain in J.J.’s [series creator Abrams] ass.”

Finally, we’re back where we started, the workshop studios, long since empty. Garner pulls up next to my car and as I put my hand on the door handle, she has one last thing to say. “Listen, please let me know if you need anything.” It’s celebrity interviewing etiquette: Don’t hesitate if you have follow-up questions. “Sure, I’ll reach out to your rep,” I tell her. 

“No, no, no. I mean, sure, but that’s not what I meant,” she says. “I mean, if you have any parenting questions or if I can help with school stuff for Finn or Frankie, all of that. I’ve been through a lot of it already.” 

Jennifer Garner, a woman who has no reason to remember the names of my children, wants to help with school stuff, with teenage stuff — as a friend, as a neighbor. It’s an invitation to be part of her small, lovely coven if only for a moment. 

I pause, a little speechless, and thank her for an offer I’ll never take her up on but will always be grateful for. For now, I say goodbye and get into my car. It’s early evening. Garner has plans tonight and I need to call my kids. 

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