Jennifer Morrison moves from reality to fantasy. On-screen, she's Emma Swan, the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming on ABC's "Once Upon a Time." Off-screen, Morrison, 36, is a mentor and advocate for teenage girls. A short film she directed, "Warning Labels," debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival this year and lightheartedly explores how relationships might progress differently if the downsides of prospective love interests were made known upfront.
Your workdays are very long. How do you find time to relax?
Often we think: I need to go do something to prove that I'm relaxing, or I have to go on a big trip. I'm trying to fit relaxation into my daily life. I make playlists of music that calms me, so when I'm getting my hair and makeup done I know I can zone out. … I love reading and always have a book with me, even if it's just for a 10- or 15-minute escape with an interesting story or character. I prefer to hold real books … [but] sometimes when I travel I put them on my iPad.
How do exercise or naps fit into your schedule?
I go to yoga four or five times a week, and it's a time when I really check out and slow down and have time to be relaxed and quiet; it is usually hot yoga, but not Bikram. I've been going for about 12 years, typically an hour-long class. I want to try Pilates. I also run; it's how I stay lean. … I love naps. The best sleep I ever get is at lunchtime in my trailer at work because I know that everyone who needs me knows where I am. So I don't jolt awake worrying that someone might need me.
You were diagnosed with melanoma a few years ago. Are there precautions you now take?
Moles are something I'm prone to; it's in our family. I [also] had several precancerous moles removed. Now I go every three to six months to have everything checked out. I feel like I'm constantly having things cut off of me, but it's much better to have little scars than risk it. We caught it really early, and they were able to take enough skin around it so they knew they had everything. … Now, I'm always in hats and keep myself covered if I can. If not, I put on the strongest sunblock I can find, but I do try to stay in the shade.
What does your diet consist of?
On set, the foods are usually pretty heavy, and then you don't feel great and the rest of your day is off. So I started having just fruits and vegetables all day and a salad — without a ton of dressing — for lunch. Then for dinner, since I've eaten healthy all day, I rarely crave unhealthy things; I usually have fish and veggies or once a week a bowl of pasta or steak with veggies. … I drink at least two liters of water a day.
You have said, "You can't be brave unless you're afraid." How has that guided your choices?
I want to feel a little afraid of a new project, like I might not succeed at it. That's the space in which you grow and get better. … There's something comforting in seeing that fear is guiding you to something greater in your life.