Academy Award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon covers the September issue of Southern Living and opens up about family life with her kids: daughter Ava, 17, and sons Deacon, 13, and Tennessee, 5 next month.
On Tennessee’s second mother: “The kids all have funny and unique relationships with each other. Ava is like another parent to Tennessee, like his other mother. I think sometimes he even gets confused—he told Ava “Happy Mother’s Day!” And Tennessee is just sort of like Deacon’s protégé. He follows his older brother around the house all day.”
On if she always wanted to be an actress: The role of June Carter [for which she received an Oscar in Walk the Line] was a real gift to me because I had always dreamed of being a country music singer. When I was growing up, I wanted to be Tammy Wynette. I wanted to be Dolly Parton. Dolly was my first idol. I remember being 5 years old, and my PE teacher at Harding Academy asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I said, “I want to be Dolly Parton.” I was dead serious. No laughing. I remember watching Sissy Spacek play Loretta Lynn. That was a big moment for me. Watching other women who talked like me on film was really formative for my acting career. When Holly Hunter spoke like a woman from Georgia in Broadcast News, she didn’t change her voice or her accent for the role. I was like, “Oh, you can do this in your own voice.” Because when I first got out here, I was told to flatten my accent completely. People said, “You’re never going to get work like that. You’ll always be typecast.” I mean, at times I had to learn to change it—Elle Woods [her character in Legally Blonde], for example, doesn’t talk like me because she’s from California. I’ve also taken on some English roles. Right now, I notice my Southern accent is [stronger] because my mom’s in town. I should make like her and boss that writer: “Listen here—I’m gonna make you write a show for me if it’s the last thing I do!”
On what she did on Mother’s Day: “We had lots of people over for lunch, including Laura Dern [Witherspoon’s close friend and costar in Wild and Big Little Lies] and her mom, [actress] Diane Ladd, who has become friends with my mom. It’s pretty cute—they really love each other and talk all the time. They’re even planning on taking a road trip together!”
On stretching the truth: “In my family, we say, “It doesn’t have to be true to be told.” At lunch, my mom was telling a story about when I moved out here and how she found my apartment and paid for it. I said, “Mom, you know none of that’s true, right?” I found my own apartment, and she did not do any of it! But most of the time, I don’t even bother to interrupt…I think there’s nothing better than a Southern person as they age. The stories get better and better and less and less true.”
For more from Reese, go to Southern Living…