As a child, Goodwin loved theater and film but was never permitted to take a paid acting job or one that might interfere with school. “And it was law in my house that you went to college and that you left with a degree,” she says. Hence, Goodwin is among the minority of Hollywood boldfaced names who had the full college experience—in her case, spent in the theater program at Boston University, with stints abroad at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London and the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Due to her choosiness, the six-months-a-year commitment of Big Love and the fact that, as Goodwin puts it, casting directors “don’t really know what to do with me,” she has had only four notable film roles (including those in Mona Lisa Smile and Walk the Line) in the eight years since she started out on Ed. One side effect is that she has been slow to show the world her range. “I’ve never seen her play someone unkind,” says Sevigny. “She always has an innocence or sweetness. But I think she could go darker.”
Goodwin says that being pigeonholed is a major concern for her, which might explain why in her W photo shoot she was so game to take on a risqué character, one that she describes as “seemingly tough and hardened but always on the verge of falling apart.” Afterward, as she studied Steven Klein’s images, Goodwin recalls thinking, “I’m positive people don’t see me this way. They think I am Margene or Gigi. I was delighted that what I saw was so against what people would call ‘my type.’”
She’s eager for similar opportunities onscreen. “After He’s Just Not That Into You, I am really hungry for a drama,” Goodwin says. “And I’m hungry to do some period work again, and then I’ll be hungry for a comedy again.” She will appear in Tom Ford’s forthcoming directorial debut, A Single Man, based on the Christopher Isherwood novel, and she’s currently filming the role of Aunt Bea in the movie Beezus and Ramona, based on the Beverly Cleary children’s books. “People think I have projects thrown at me, which I really do not,” she says. “It’s a hunt.”
But it’s a hunt Goodwin is comfortable navigating at a deliberate pace, waiting patiently for scripts she loves and always leaving herself enough time to focus on the thing she treasures even more than her work: having a life. Which, at the very least, places her among the sanest of Hollywood denizens. “My whole thing is quality of life,” she says. “It must always be easy and low-maintenance and stress-free, and that means not trying to fit too much in. I don’t ever want to be in a hurry. I want to enjoy the moments.”