When you first meet Blake Lively, what strikes you most about her, she’s nothing like the persona she created on the popular TV show Gossip Girl. In fact she’s funny, high spirited and dynamic, the perfect foil for her husband, actor Ryan Reynolds.
Although she was literally born into the profession – her father was an actor, her mother a talent agent – Lively was never part of the Beverly Hills crowd. “I was never around wealthy kids. My family is from Georgia. I was born and raised in Burbank, a relatively small town. I was the youngest of five kids,” Lively, 30, said.
“When I graduated high school, I didn’t have that elitist private school mentality – kids grow up so fast in New York or in Beverly Hills. A lot of times when their parents aren’t present, they’re being raised by nannies – they grow up too soon and they don’t really have a childhood. I had a normal childhood and I’m so thankful for that.”
Her big break was being cast as the imperious Serena van der Woodsen in Gossip Girl which showcased her beauty, poise, grace and sensitivity. Week after week, she seemed to glide on screen from one teenage trauma to another. Everybody wanted to be her or to fall in love with her. She didn’t hide the fact that she and her co-star Penn Badgley were a twosome. But after the series ended, so did the romance.
She moved on to feature films. But then it was her role in Green Lantern, where she met Ryan Reynolds, who had just split from Scarlett Johannsen, that changed her life. The two fell in love, they were married in 2012, and have two children to complete the happy union.
Her last two films were with Woody Allen and Oliver Stone and now she is starring in Marc Foster’s All I See Is You in which she plays a blind woman who regains her eyesight.
The film was shot in Bangkok. What was that experience like, and did you enjoy the food?
We shot most of it in Bangkok but also in Phuket and Barcelona. The food in Barcelona was especially good. But Thailand, I love Thai food. Although after a few months of curries, you hit your sweet max.
But what was really neat about Thailand is it’s a place where your senses are on eleven. Whether it’s a flower market that smells so beautifully or a city street that just doesn’t have the infrastructure to care for it. There is much poverty and sadness there. You can go from seeing some of the most beautiful visuals that you have ever seen to some of the most tragic. At the end of the day, you have to decompress.
When you first started out, were you warned about Hollywood’s power games?
I think that power games exist in every industry. It wasn’t really talked about much when I first started out, but it happens in every industry; whether you are working in a grocery store or starring in a movie, despicable behaviour happens.
And it’s something as a woman that you often take for granted. If it’s something very small, like cupping your butt or making some comment, I am not going to report that, because that is just the way it is. But as a mother of two daughters, I am happy now that there’s an awakening, an awareness, and people are finally speaking out.
You just turned 30. How did you spend the day?
Actually I was shooting A Simple Favor in Toronto, and my husband surprised me. He got off work that day and flew to Toronto to surprise me, so that was nice.
But it was pretty uneventful, I didn’t have time to celebrate. So, I will have to do that, blow it out at Disneyland like a real grown-up.
You’re so expressive with your hands yet you always play such disciplined characters. Do you have to repress those natural impulses?
I do. I am overly expressive in real life. I was silly enough to watch my first David Letterman appearance, and I was like, “Do I really talk like that?” That was so embarrassing. So I have to fight the urge to be myself on screen.
Are you a clothes person?
I love clothing. I love designing. I love interior designing, I love the mixing of colours and fabrics and textures. I love combining different pieces, mixing feminine with androgynous. I love when a woman is strong and empowered, and that’s why I love pant suits, men’s blazers. I love doing things in an unconventional way.
Who is your role model?
I’d have to say my mother. She is one of those incredible people, the fact that she’s accomplished as much as she has in her lifetime; it should have taken many more generations, many more peoples’ lives to get where she got, and amazingly she is the happiest, most optimistic person you’ll ever meet.
She’s taught me that with determination and perseverance, when people come together it’s amazing what we can accomplish. And at the same time, she’s never been afraid to take chances through good times or bad. She’s pretty amazing.
Do you spend a lot of time with your parents?
I’m really lucky to have a family who are truly my friends. I had 22 family members over for a three-day visit. And we were all sleeping on each other’s beds and couches, and I love that. I love the chaos and being with them.
What makes Ryan the one?
He’s my best friend. I just knew the first time I met him that we could be best friends for the rest of our lives, whether there was chemistry or not. I knew right away that we would be together forever, and that he would be mine. That was it.
How are you able to balance career with taking care of children, a husband, and a home?
We make it a point to never work at the same time. We started doing that, even before we had children, because in this industry, it’s especially hard to stay in line when one is working in one location and the other in another. So for us, it’s really important to be together.
Our kids come with us everywhere, even if it’s only for a day. They’re not in school yet, so we can get away with that but I don’t know what will happen when they go to school. Ask us then!
Why did you name your daughter James?
There’s a lot of pressure about naming your child. You don’t even know this person; yet you have to make that decision. I mean, imagine meeting a stranger and you have to name him, and then he has to live with that forever.
So, we waited a while. We were considering a few names. We loved the name James if it was a boy. It is a family name on both of our sides. But then I had a boy’s name growing up, and I really liked that, so James she is. And not Jamie.
You and Ryan seem to have an ideal marriage but we don’t see you two together. Why is that?
Because you guys aren’t in my house, thank God (laughs).
But whenever you attend premieres, you’re always alone?
That’s our job. It’s important to have separation between your job and your private world. You don’t ask people who work in an office why isn’t your husband with you at work, or why your wife isn’t there.
So, our personal life is our personal life, and our public life is our job. This is a storied profession and we take it seriously. It’s not a lifestyle, it’s a job, it’s our work. It’s our craft.
Who is the boss at home?
There is no boss. Whether it’s my husband, me, my daughters, my parents, whoever, when you have love and respect for each other, everybody has got a voice and everybody should be heard.
Has motherhood changed you?
I don’t know if it changed me, family was always my priority, and when you have your own, it’s just a much more heightened version of that.
And Ryan as a father?
He’s an amazing, amazing father. I am lucky because he is my best friend and that has continued through parenthood. I was lucky to get a good one.