The Conversation: Actor, mother and superhero Gal Gadot
Fans have been waiting a long, long time for "Wonder Woman" to grace the big screen, and expectations are as high as her invisible jet. Thank goodness the DC heroine is being played by real-life former Israel Defense Forces combat trainer and all around no-nonsense, non-diva Gal Gadot. (She wore flats to the film's Hollywood premiere.) Gadot, 32, who packed on nearly 15 pounds of muscle for the part and did much of her initial training while pregnant, talked to espnW's Allison Glock about how much the film (opening nationally June 2) means to women, and how playing sports as a girl boosted her natural pluck and fearlessness while keeping her grounded after she took on the role of her lifetime.
Allison Glock: How did you get your head around the character of Wonder Woman? You said you approached her from a woman's point of view.
Gal Gadot: I think that for Wonder Woman, her femininity, her being a woman, is an advantage. She can be kind and tolerant and loving and compassionate but can also be confident and strong and kick ass.
AG: She can exhibit qualities a typical male superhero cannot.
GG: Absolutely. This movie is a universal story. It's just being told from a female perspective.
AG: Were you warned when you accepted the part and became the face of not just this female icon, but also the superhero franchise, that your life would change dramatically?
GG: Yes! I keep being told that! "Just wait -- you're not going to be able to walk in the streets and da da da ..."
AG: What do you do to help you cope with the pressure?
GG: I do mindfulness and meditation. I actually started to do it when we began shooting "Wonder Woman."
AG: Did it help?
GG: It helped me to be more centered. You give nothing and you gain a lot. And it's funny because with meditation, the people who need it the most are the ones that can't find the time for it, right?
AG: Hey, I'm sitting right here.
GG: [laughs] Yeah. It's tricky, but it's worth finding the time.
AG: I think a lot of women feel that we have no choice but to stay busy and alert every second, checking our work email, parenting our kids, never really shutting our brains off.
GG: It's true. We need to reconnect with ourselves, and the only way to do it is through simple things such as meditation or putting the phone aside one day a week or during the weekend. But it's hard. I heard in a lecture that it literally releases endorphins in your body when you feel that people are looking for you or that they need you.
AG: I must be really high then.
GG: Right? That constant busyness is a bad habit, a really bad habit, and we all suffer from it.
AG: We've become a culture of anxiety addicts. Do you get nervous before auditions or critical meetings?
GG: Yeah, yeah, I do. Who doesn't? I try not to let it get the best of me, but I'm a human being.
AG: That's not what I was told.
GG: I know, right? [laughs] Don't believe everything you hear.
AG: You have two girls, a newborn and a 5-year-old.
GG: Yes. Recently my older daughter spent her first night out, a slumber party. And I thought I was going to get a phone call in the middle of the night -- "Come get me. I miss you, Mommy. I want to be home with you." -- but ... nothing. I was proud, but I felt like, uh oh, she doesn't need me.
AG: Independence means you're doing your job as a parent.
GG: Yeah, I know. Still, I think letting go is the hardest thing we need to learn.
AG: What is your mother like? She worked as a high school physical education teacher when you were growing up.
GG: My mom is amazing. She taught me how to swim when I was 4. Because of her, I was so active my entire life. There was no TV time. There was, "take the ball and go outside and play with the neighbors." She always instructed us to be physical, and I think that's why I am still so connected to my body and expressing myself through it.
AG: Having that feeling of dominion over your body is just so important for women.
GG: It's amazing. It's profound.
AG: Is your older daughter athletic, too?
GG: She is much girlier than I've ever been. She loves make-up more than I do now. But on the other hand, she is really active. She likes to run super fast. She sees me train all the time, and she'll show me how she does her pullups, stuff like that. She can be very tomboyish.
AG: What sports did you play as a kid?
GG: I did dance my entire life. I played tennis, was on the basketball team, the volleyball team.-
AG: Are you still competitive?
GG: Yes, very. Are you?
AG: Disgustingly so. If I'm playing a game, any type of game, I want to win the game.
GG: Of course! Otherwise, why bother, right? [laughs] I'm the same.
AG: Are you hard on yourself? Do you suffer from perfectionism?
GG: Yes. It comes in handy when I work because I want to be as prepared as possible.
AG: It can also be crazy-making. How do you let off steam?
GG: I love the ocean, I go as often as I can. I paddle board. My name Gal means "wave." It's probably in my DNA to enjoy the water.
AG: Do you swim in L.A.?
GG: Yes, but it's so cold. I want the [water] to be like a bath.
AG: I hear that. No one wants to wear a wetsuit. What's worse than a wetsuit?
GG: Taking off a wetsuit.
AG: [laughs] Ew. It is horrible.
GG: Hooooorrible. [laughs] Besides swimming for fun, I'm very social. I love to cook, to host. I enjoy talking and eating and wine. Simple stuff.
AG: In the film, Wonder Woman has to figure out who she is in a new world. At what age did you figure out who you were?
GG: I think it's a constant figuring out, no? I think that we're all evolving all the time.
AG: What do you most want your daughters to learn from you?
GG: How to love themselves. How about you?
AG: I want them to feel valid as they are. I don't want them to adjust the way they look or speak or think because of what they imagine someone else wants.
GG: To not always try to get validation from others. I'm with you. When I was 5, my parents had a party, and they invited all the guests on the roof deck. They put me to bed, but I heard the people celebrating, so I snuck up there and I took a hose and started to spray everyone with water so they would notice me. [laughs] As a kid, I was very much into the attention.
AG: And now?
GG: Now, I actually prefer not to have it. I enjoy peace and quiet.
AG: Good luck with that after June 2.