Kristen Bell was open about the messy parts of life—depression, addiction, parenting—way before it was cool. She is a fan of vulnerability and seems to have empathy in her DNA; you’d sooner expect her to end world hunger than star in hit TV shows (Veronica Mars, The Good Place) and films (a little thing called Frozen, among others). But in fact she is trying to end world hunger: She helped launch This Saves Lives, a snack company providing nourishing food to kids in need. She also cowrote a children’s book, The World Needs More Purple People, to help teach young readers acceptance. And she and her actor husband, Dax Shepard, cofounded Hello Bello to make affordable, high-quality baby products accessible to all. From the moment she got famous and had a giant megaphone handed to her, Kristen has hollered into it about stuff that matters, and in so doing, changed the Hollywood game for the better.
ASHLEY C. FORD: What was your reaction when REAL SIMPLE said you were a game changer?
KRISTEN BELL: They could have put me on the Biggest Up-and-Coming Losers list for 2023 and I would have been excited! REAL SIMPLE was my first magazine subscription as an adult, and by adult I mean 18-year-old girl living in New York City.
ACF: You seem to move through your many roles—actor, producer, CEO, parent—with a preternatural confidence. Do you ever doubt yourself?
KRISTEN BELL: It’s only recently that I realized I might be qualified for any of this! I often feel underqualified, whether for an acting scene or a parenting moment. When I feel wonky about my day, I tell my husband, “I like doing this, but I don’t really know what I’m doing.” And he goes, “All you need to do is get the project to the finish line.” When I think about it like that, I realize I might actually be good at it. [More at Source]
“How are you?” has become a loaded question during the worst global pandemic in a century. Sometimes I say “Fine?”—emphasis on the question mark—when I really mean “Hanging by a thread” or, to borrow the title of author and reluctant grief expert Nora McInerny’s podcast, “Terrible, thanks for asking.” It’s loaded in casual, masked conversation, in fumbling, awkward emails, and also when Zooming with Kristen Bell at 6:15 p.m. Los Angeles time on a Tuesday night in late March.
How is Bell, actor, producer, and the somewhat rare not-annoying mom influencer/purveyor of CBD skin-care? “I am currently fulfilled,” she replies with a nod from the set of her new Netflix miniseries, the dark comedy-thriller The Woman in the House. Bell is eating a sandwich in her trailer (6:15 p.m. is lunch when you film until the wee hours) and wearing a caramel-colored bang hairpiece. “Going back to work was a little nerve-wracking,” Bell tells me, but it was necessary for her sense of balance—a word she hates but that seems unavoidable when talking about mothers and their careers. Like millions of parents across the country, “I was in my house for one year with a six- and a seven-year-old”—her daughters Delta and Lincoln with husband Dax Shepard (as everyone who tracks their life like a reality show well knows).
But Bell isn’t one to leave it at that, allowing any reader of this story to think she’s a perfectly cute super celebrity, the actor behind Veronica Mars, Sarah Marshall, Gossip Girl, and the unmistakably chipper Anna from Frozen. Bell acknowledges she had the privilege of sheltering in a luxurious space. “I say to [my kids] all the time, ‘I’m not saying you can’t complain. You’re allowed to have any feeling you want, and you’re allowed to sit in it for as long as you need. But when you’re done, I just need you to remember,’” she says, “‘we have the luckiest life you have ever heard of. You have a swimming pool in your backyard.’” But she is also one of the millions of people for whom the pandemic, in all of its uncertainty and tragedy, exacerbated existing mental health issues.
“I know that I present someone who is very bubbly and happy all the time, and a lot of the time I am, because I have really good tools,” she tells me. “But there are definitely days when the alarm goes off and I go, ‘No, I’m staying right here. Nothing’s worth it…. I’m just going to stay in this cocoon because I need to; because I feel very, very, very vulnerable.’”
Bell’s anxiety and depression came in waves during the long, dark valley of COVID-19. “I have trouble distinguishing between my emotions and someone else’s emotions, and that’s not a compliment to myself. That’s a very dangerous thing to toy with,” she explains. Consuming the endlessly heavy news took her to a “mental zone that wasn’t healthy for my family to be around.” Shepard confronted Bell in a way that certainly wouldn’t be right for everyone but that she reflects on as a turning point. “‘Hey, real quick, are you helping anyone right now by sitting and crying in your bed, or are you just being self-indulgent?’” Bell remembers him saying. “‘Either get up and donate money or donate your time or do something to help, or take that story in, give it some love, and come out here and be a good mom and a good wife and a good friend and live your life in honor of the suffering that happens in the world.’” Bell had an understandable response: “‘How dare you?’ But also, ‘You’re right.’” So she gave blood to the UCLA Blood & Platelet Center and made a donation to No Kid Hungry. [More at Source]
The next time you need reassurance that the world works the way your yoga teacher says it does, and that what you put out is what you’ll get back, consider the story of how Kristen Bell got the leading role on The Good Place.
The year was 2016. The setting: a Los Angeles movie theater lobby. Mike Schur, the show’s creator, had gone to see a movie by himself. Bell was there with her husband, Dax Shepard, and their two daughters, Lincoln and Delta.
Bell and Schur knew each other from New York City, where they had both lived in their 20s and moved in the same circles. Schur was writing for Saturday Night Live, and Bell was still a student at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, just starting to work on Broadway. Even then, he was in awe of her talent: “She’d been in The Crucible! With, like, Laura Linney and Liam Neeson!”
Eventually they each moved to LA, crossing paths occasionally. The time Schur ran into Bell at the movie theater, he happened to mention his daughter’s upcoming fourth birthday. Bell, unprompted, asked if Ivy would like a phone call from Princess Anna.
“She left, like, this two-minute message on my phone, and she kept saying my daughter’s name – ‘Ivy, this is Princess Anna, calling from Arendelle,’” Schur says. “And the way my daughter’s face lit up…”
In addition to having an enchanted kid, Schur also had Bell’s phone number. He called to tell her that he was working on a show and that she might be perfect to play the lead. The rest is television history.
The Good Place — a show about an “Arizona dirtbag” who dies in a tragic shopping-cart/truck collision, and then wakes up believing she’s been accidentally sent to Heaven — asked big questions: What makes someone a good person? What do we owe other people? How do we live together in the world?
Even if she hadn’t completed a four-season run on the show early this year, you get the sense that Bell would still care about those questions. [More at Source]
Kristen Bell has been living in a bit of a self-described “COVID bubble” over the past six-plus months.
There has been some fun (“my daughters are literally changing their hair color weekly”), and some bad (husband Dax Shepard was in a motorcycle accident that resulted in a couple of broken ribs right before the photo shoot for this issue), a birthday (she hit the big 4-0 in July), and some reflection: “If I don’t work, other people don’t get their paychecks,” she solemnly admits.
Through it all, Bell says, there’s been some adapting, coupled with “involuntary” creativity. “I have not hated staying at home. I’ve found that I can function better with a smaller life, and not having as many things to do,” she explains. “I’m still busy, but there’s a lot more creativity happening because we’ve been forced into a corner. Now, we’re making forward-facing choices to try and enjoy it.”
NewBeauty: How is this “new normal” treating you?
Kristen Bell: Well, first, let me recognize my privilege in all of this because that’s necessary. Of course, this entire experience has come with heightened stresses and anxieties. We’ve had to spend 24 hours a day together for six months, so we’re going to get on each other’s nerves, and that’s normal. My husband and I discovered something from it all: As a family, it’s important to be reminded of how to be patient and how to give each other a little bit of grace.
That part of, “Oh, two weeks! Let’s do a push-up challenge!” is certainly over. I am lucky in that my children seem to be introverts and they are really happy being at home. We’ve gotten over the hump of frustration and now we’re trying to have some fun. My daughters have been changing their hair color weekly. Today, they were so excited to go red; during one of their 15-minute school breaks, we washed their hair, towel-dried it, put the hair color in, went back to school for a half hour, had another 15-minute break, rinsed it out, and they finished their day with red hair. The brand is called Maria Nila—there’s pink, lavender, dark violet, cherry red, and it all washes out in a week. My girls love it. [Source]