Jennifer Garner Explains Why It Took 12 Years for Her to Return to TV After 'Alias' Ended

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FilmMagic for HBO

Jennifer Garner returns to TV for her first series regular role in 12 years since Alias ended, with HBO's Camping, but the significant time away from the small screen wasn't a conscious decision on her part.

“If people were offering me things on TV, they weren’t really making it to me. I was working in a certain way and the momentum was [going another direction]," the 46-year-old actress said Wednesday at the summer Television Critics Association press tour in Beverly Hills. "I’ve always said and I assumed at some point, 'I look forward to going back to TV.'"

"I love the familial feel on set. I love getting a new script. There’s nothing more fun in the middle of the second episode and getting the script for the third," Garner continued. "That’s just a super fun feeling. I wasn’t being offered things that I was saying no to.”

Garner, whose movie career began to take shape at the end of Alias' run with films like 13 Going on 30, Elektra and Juno, admitted that she likely won't be going back to the traditional broadcast model ever again, especially being a mother to three young kids. Garner played super-spy Sydney Bristow in the ambitious spy drama, Alias, for five seasons from 2001 to 2006 on ABC.

Jennifer Garner and Michael Vartan on 'Alias.'

Scott Garfield/ABC via Getty Images

“Being a lead in a single lead, 22-episode [series], I don’t think I could do it anymore," Garner said, alluding to her run on Alias. "I don’t know how moms do that. Maybe. I tell you, another huge draw for me is that it shot in L.A.”

In HBO's Camping, Garner embraces her comedic side in the eight-episode series from creators Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner. In the comedy, Garner plays Kathryn Siddell-Bauers, a controlling L.A. mom who is far less cheerful than her Lululemons imply. Kathryn controls the proceedings with an iron grip until she’s faced with a woman who undoes all her best laid plans. David Tennant, Juliette Lewis, Arturo Del Puerto, Ione Skye, Janicza Bravo and Brett Gelman also star.

Here is the official logline for Camping, which is based on the British series by Julia Davis: "To celebrate her husband Walt’s 44th birthday, the obsessively organized and aggressively controlling Kathryn gathers together her meek sister, her holier-than-thou ex-best friend and a free-spirited tagalong -- and what was supposed to be a delightful, back-to-nature camping trip quickly becomes a weekend of tested marriages and woman-on-woman crime that won’t soon be forgotten." 

David Tennant and Jennifer Garner on HBO's 'Camping.'

HBO

“I was drawn to the writing, just flat-out. The writing was so much fun to say," Garner said on what made her return to TV. "There were things I got to say that I thought, ‘No one gets to say this!’ ... I did crack myself up!"

It was clear from Garner's enthusiasm for the project that she enjoyed her time on set, so much so that she struggled to get through some of the zany lines Dunham and Konner wrote for her to say. 

“I had a very hard time. There were moments of deep unprofessionalism," she quipped. "There was patience required on the part of everyone on set. The stakes are so high for [Kathryn] and there is so much energy in everything she does. There was a dangerous quality to that as well. Sometimes, that turned into uncontrollable fits of laughter. But have I done anything like it ever? No, and that’s the fun of being an actor.”

But is Garner a fan of camping in real life? "I like camping with a group, with the Girl Scouts or with a group of girlfriends," she said. "I would go in a heartbeat."

Camping premieres Sunday, Oct. 14 on HBO.

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