PRO­FILE BIRTH­DAY GIRL

Ac­tress Michelle Mon­aghan on cults, get­ting naked for the cam­era and why she wishes women would stop mak­ing such a big deal about turn­ing 40.

Elle (Canada) - - Radar -

michelle Mon­aghan turns 40 on March 23, and she has big plans: time away with her hus­band, din­ner with her kids—and paraglid­ing or hang-glid­ing on the day of. “I’ve been itch­ing to do one of them for a few years, and I woke up a few days ago and said, ‘Oh, my God, what a per­fect time to do it,’” says Mon­aghan over the phone from her home in Los An­ge­les, her voice bur­nished with a warmth that is equal parts Cali Zen and the not-try­ing-too-hard friend­li­ness of her na­tive Mid­west.

So, yes, the ac­tress is “very ex­cited” about turn­ing 40. It’s oth­ers around her who seem to be dread­ing the big day. “Peo­ple keep ask­ing me about turn­ing 40 with some kind of neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tion,” ex­plains Mon­aghan. “And it’s only women ask­ing me, I must say. I find it sad that we can’t say to each other ‘Con­grat­u­la­tions.’ At what point did we stop cel­e­brat­ing life and ac­com­plish­ments?”

Mon­aghan says that at 40, she’s “in bet­ter shape phys­i­cally, men­tally and emo­tion­ally” than she has ever been. She doesn’t men­tion it specif­i­cally, but her ca­reer is also hot­ter than ever: In the past two years alone, she has starred in the film The Best of Me, the an­i­mated hit Pix­els and the first sea­son of True De­tec­tive. And this spring, on Hulu, she stars op­po­site Aaron Paul in The Path, play­ing one of the lead­ers of a cult­like move­ment that is fac­ing a cri­sis of lead­er­ship (and faith) when their “prophet” goes silent while (sup­pos­edly) re­ceiv­ing a fi­nal rev­e­la­tion of their be­lief sys­tem in Peru.

Mon­aghan isn’t a religious per­son (al­though she was raised Catholic), but work­ing on a show that is all about the choice to be­lieve—or not—has got her re-eval­u­at­ing her pos­ition. “What I love about The Path is it looks at how com­plex it is,” she says. “There are so many ex­tra­or­di­nary things peo­ple do in the name of re­li­gion, but some use faith to jus­tify some­thing darker.” It makes for an in­tense view­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, and Mon­aghan’s scenes with Paul, who plays her hus­band strug­gling with ma­jor doubts, are par­tic­u­larly en­thralling.

Off- set, how­ever, things are much lighter. “Aaron and I have th­ese very emo­tional, vul­ner­a­ble scenes—but they’re all laced with gig­gle fits,” says Mon­aghan. “We look at each other and start laugh­ing.” That com­fort ex­tends to the on­screen cou­ple’s more “in­ti­mate” mo­ments. “You just put your best foot for­ward and be re­spect­ful, and then it’s over quickly and you move on to some­thing else,” she says. “And we both pull out the mints!”

As for what life holds for her af­ter 40? “Do­ing theatre is a goal I set for my­self many moons ago, and now that we’ve de­cided we’re not hav­ing any more chil­dren, that one lit­tle dream is the new baby I’d like to start nur­tur­ing now.” n

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