March 23, 2015 12:00 PM

Despite earning six Oscar nominations (with one win, for The Reader) and starring in one of the biggest blockbusters of all time, Titanic, Kate Winslet is still seeking career advice – from her older kids Mia, 14, and Joe, 11. “They do very much have an opinion on what I do and don’t do these days,” she says, laughing. So when she was asked to star as malevolent leader Jeanine in the Divergent series, based on Veronica Roth’s bestsellers, they said, ” ‘Yeah, Mom, you should definitely do it!’ The idea that their mom would play this baddie was incredibly exciting,” she says. Happily creating a new chapter in her life with husband Ned Rocknroll, their son Bear, 1, and several new roles, Winslet isn’t at all fazed about turning 40 this year. “I don’t know why, but I’ve never felt more confident and happy.”

Insurgent brought out her wicked side.

Winslet plays her first true villain in Jeanine, who hunts Shailene Woodley’s Tris in the series’ second film. “We were looking for power and command and smarts, which Kate delivers in spades, but she also gave Jeanine style and glamour,” say producers Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher. Winslet says her intimidating onscreen persona didn’t freak out her kids. “I’m their mom, and they’re never scared of me! So, no, the crazy act didn’t work on them.”

She’s on a roll – with Ned Rocknroll.

Winslet married the British businessman (born Abel Smith, he’s the nephew of Virgin mogul Richard Branson) in 2012 and welcomed baby Bear a year later. She credits her husband with helping her find balance between her movie roles and family time at their home base in the U.K. And she’s on a busy streak with up to five films coming out this year, including Oscar hopeful Steve Jobs, which she’s shooting now. “My creative life in the last few years has been really, really colorful for me. I have a wonderful man in my life who is so incredibly supportive that it makes it possible for me to have those experiences,” she says. “I’ve got a really wonderful little family. We all laugh a lot.”

Her kids actually get along.

Mia (her daughter with first husband Jim Threapleton) and Joe (her son with second husband Sam Mendes) “love” having a baby brother, she says. “They’re absolutely adorable together. They’re very helpful, I must say. I really love hanging out with my kids. They’re terrific people. They’re kind of happy in who they are, too, and that’s all you can really hope for for them, that they love being themselves.”

She’s not afraid of her big birthday.

“I’m turning 40 this year, and I’m definitely going to get to my birthday [in October] and feel I’ve earned it,” she says. She laughs at any suggestion that she’s barely aged. “I have the kind of wrinkles that are here to stay now. You know, not just the ones where you wake up in the morning and you go, ‘Oh, that will go away in two hours’ time.’ No, they’re there. That’s the way that it is.”

Regrets? She has one.

“I chose to have children quite young, and I wouldn’t change any part of that at all,” she says. “But I didn’t go to college. I started working quite young and had a lot of responsibilities. I do notice the life of a college student, that while there is incredibly hard work, there is still room for plenty of fun and plenty of experience and probably experiment as well. I really don’t long for it or wish that I’d had it, but I’m curious what that might have been like … just for a week.”

What’s next?

“To be perfectly honest with you, I’m looking forward to having a bit of a break. I have been working quite a lot, and while that has been fantastic, it will be lovely to have downtime. So there’s a lot to look forward to. I’m very lucky.”

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