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Ginnifer Goodwin isn’t accustomed to being a leading lady, although her résumé is hardly insubstantial. In 2005’s “Walk the Line,” she portrayed Johnny Cash’s first wife, ceding the screen to Reese Witherspoon’s June Carter. In 2003’s “Mona Lisa Smile,” she was one of a gaggle of female students under Julia Roberts’ tutelage, and in the ongoing HBO series “Big Love,” she is the youngest of three Mormon wives in a polygamist marriage. But with the release of “He’s Just Not that Into You,” the movie, open now and based on the dating book of the same name, Goodwin attains romantic lead status.
“There is pressure,” admits the actress as she settles into a chair to chat after a Los Angeles press conference for the film. Indeed, standing out in a large ensemble cast that includes Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Connelly is no easy task. “There are higher stakes here because I got to tell the story. We will see if they let me keep doing that.”
As Gigi, a clueless, date-obsessed twentysomething, Goodwin sacrifices any sense of vanity by donning a frizzy hairstyle, adopting a squeaky voice and throwing herself, literally, at her co-stars. It was all worth it, she says. “It was very important to me that she truly make the mistakes that we’ve all made and fall on her face because she knows that with the greatest risk comes the greatest reward,” says Goodwin, who is familiar with the foibles of the Hollywood dating scene — she recently broke up with longtime boyfriend Chris Klein.
Her professional life is a different matter: the 30-year-old Memphis native has always been determined to make it. After earning her BFA in acting at Boston University, she headed to Stratford-Upon-Avon’s Shakespeare Institute and the London Academy of Dramatic Arts to continue her studies. “I have always eaten, breathed and slept acting,” Goodwin says. “I love being a storyteller. It’s why I got into this.”
In 2006, she had her big break when she was cast as Margene Heffman in “Big Love.” “I have absolutely never in my life taken something I didn’t believe in, whether it turned out to be a piece of crap or not,” she says. This guiding principle seems to have worked — the show is now in its third season. Up next is a small part in “A Single Man,” the first feature film directed by designer Tom Ford, based on the book by Christopher Isherwood (Ford also worked on the screenplay). “I’m in it for two seconds, but I had to be a part of it,” gushes Goodwin. “Oh gosh, I’m madly in love with [Tom]. There’s nothing about him that’s not perfect, and he always smells good.”
Ford is not the only fashion personality taking a liking to Goodwin: she is regularly in demand on the party circuit and recently starred in a Gap ad campaign. And the actress, in turn, is beginning to feel more comfortable with the sartorial requirements of her job.
“It used to be that I had stylists who would tell me what it was that I was supposed to like,” she says. “They would dress me the way that they saw fit. I never felt like me, ever.” Now she works with Penny Lovell and mixes repurposed vintage pieces with high fashion and new designers. “Her whole thing has been: Who are you? What makes you comfortable? What do you feel flatters you the most? What inspires you?” explains Goodwin. “Now I express myself and only myself.”