When I call her at home in California, Ginnifer Goodwin has just finished running a vacuum over her iPhone. On purpose. Though the Big Love star is close pals with Justin “the Mac guy” Long, she wanted to save a trip to the Genius Bar by finding a home remedy for an iPhone on the fritz. An online message board suggested the vacuum thing. It didn’t work. But the 32-year-old remains in her seemingly unshakable good mood, despite the new void in her life: She can no longer play bubbly Mormon Margene Heffman on HBO’s Big Love. Shooting came to an end around Christmas. Goodwin’s next role is that of a wedding planner—in real life. She was recently engaged to actor Joey Kern.
The story behind your engagement reads like a romantic comedy. Especially because Justin Long is involved.
No kidding. We weren’t sure that Justin would want to be pulled into our engagement story. We weren’t telling people publicly that he was the friend who set us up. Then I found out that he has been publicly taking credit for it.
Was it love at first sight?
I was on the beach, working out, covered in sand, sweating. Which is false advertising. The whole thing was a gross representation of me. (a) I hardly ever work out. (b) I’m a Southern lady that almost never leaves the house without makeup on.
Right, you grew up in Memphis.
I did not leave for 18 years. When friends visited, it was a favorite thing for me to take them for one meal in Memphis, one meal in Arkansas and one meal in Mississippi all in one day.
When I mentioned to friends I was interviewing you, everyone was quick to blurt how much they love you. Big Love even works your likability into the plot—the family uses you as the public face of polygamy. So, who doesn’t like you?
[Laughs] I would point out that I’m an actress for a reason! If I were popular in high school, I would have considered another career because I wouldn’t have been alone in my room, making up other characters for myself. I definitely had growing pains. The popular kids didn’t want anything to do with the girl who was starting the drama club. I think there are more characters [like Margene] back home. It’s just unusual to see them in Hollywood.
Do you ache to play a truly awful person?
Oh my gosh, all the time. I’m starting to get tired of being the optimistic underdog with sweet naïveté. The most stretching I’ve gotten to do is I’ve been in three films set in the 1950s.
As a woman, which world would you rather be born into: Mad Men or Big Love?
Oh my God. Can I say I have never seen Mad Men? I don’t want to weigh in on that. But polygamy is not for me. I can’t share. However, the sisterhood is something I could easily fall into. I was jealous of Margene often, even for her slightly abusive, slightly toxic relationship with her sister wives.
Because of the support network?
Yeah, the constancy. It’s like living in a dorm. Which I find fulfilling. I see what is appealing about that lifestyle. Except the sharing-the-man part.
Has playing a wife taught you anything you can bring to your real relationship now?
I learned more about child rearing. I’ll take more from my experiences in child wrangling, what turned into a lot of baby-sitting on set. I learned that I don’t know how to communicate with children. I went through something like 16 kids to represent Margene’s three.
I never noticed the change.
No, you can’t even tell.
You’ve said the show ending is “not bittersweet, just bitter.” Does the cast plan to stay in touch?
We’re very close, especially the girls. That’s not going to change. Jeanne [Tripplehorn]’s already called me twice today. We go on double dates. I see Chloë [Sevigny] when I’m in New York. But it is still an adjustment. It was seven years. I have been on that show since I moved to L.A. I can’t wrap my brain around it ending yet.
Because of that camaraderie, will you continue to gravitate toward working in television?
Not because of that. I was not expecting to like TV so much. The landscape for movies is barren. I feel that every decent Hollywood film made in the last year was nominated for an Oscar. We don’t wonder what is going to be critically acclaimed. They all come out in the fall. The rest is all fluffy. And by the way, I’m part of a lot of those fluffy pieces. I am so bored of so many scripts.
What percentage of scripts sent to you are romcoms?
I told [my agent] I don’t want to read those right now. Romcoms are challenging, but I’m hungry for drama. But I’m not 20. I’m not British.
The Big Love series finale airs on HBO March 20 at 8pm.