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Monster-in-Law's Michael Vartan

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R. Karnbad/CelebrityPhoto

Michael Vartan knows a little something about sharing the screen with strong women. He’s played opposite Drew Barrymore (in Never Been Kissed), Madonna (in The Next Best Thing) and, on ABC’s Alias, Jennifer Garner – whom he also briefly dated last year. Now, in Monster-in-Law, he gets caught between two of Hollywood’s most powerful leading ladies, Jane Fonda and Jennifer Lopez (as his mom and fiancée, respectively). So what has Vartan, 36, learned from it all? He recently filled us in on playing with the “divas,” working with his ex, and more.

Do successful women like Jennifer Lopez and Drew Barrymore have anything in common?
The common thread is that they’re very humble. They’re not these divas going around doing what everyone reads they do. They’re really nice people, they’re hard workers, they’re really driven and they appreciate what they have. It’s not like they just fell from a lucky cloud. What’s a lucky cloud, anyway?

Was it awkward working with Jennifer Garner after you broke up?
Not at all. What most people don’t know is that she and I are best friends. We were for three years before our little whatever-you-want-to-call-it, and we still are. There was never that kind of animosity or intensity about it.

How old were you when you started acting?
Eighteen. I’m 36. Overnight success.

What was the point when you realized you were good at it?
There really hasn’t been one. It’s just been a steady progression of, “This is really hard. I don’t understand how the great ones do it.” I never feel like I get it right, and I think that’s what ultimately keeps me doing it.

Well, Jane Fonda has been at it 47 years now.
She’s got so many other interests – I think that’s what makes it easy for her to have this longevity. She graces us with her wonderful presence when she feels like it and then she can do something else for 10 years. I don’t have that luxury.

Do you have a job lined up during Alias’s summer hiatus?
Not yet. The summer is still young, so I’m hoping. But with the show coming back for a fifth season, if I don’t work this summer, it’s okay.

What’s the best summer you’ve ever had?
When I was about 14, I went to a tennis camp in the south of France. That was my first foray into alcohol and my first cigarette. My first nude makeout sessions.

And how about life now? What do you ultimately want?
I think what we all want: Peace of mind. Happiness. And a little cash in the bank.

What about a family?
I have to find a girlfriend first. I have a dog though. But she’s 6.