August 30, 2018 10:14 AM

Jennifer Garner is kicking some serious butt in a PEOPLE exclusive featurette about the making of her new film, Peppermint.

The star, 46, brings Riley North to life in this action drama about a mother seeking justice after her husband and daughter are killed in a drive-by shooting.

Garner opens up about playing Riley, saying in the clip, “I was excited right from the jump. The first time I read the script for Peppermint because it’s an original story and there’s a strong woman at the middle.”

“My character, Riley, watches this happen in front of her. She sees the people who killed her family,” Garner says. “She discovers the police and the people who should be helping her are all on the wrong side of the law.”

In a sequence of intense action scenes in which the actress punches, shoots and maims her family’s killers, Garner shows audiences she was deep into her character.

Jennifer Garner as Riley North in Peppermint

“She just shuts down her heart, goes into hiding and spends the next five years becoming a machine,” she says.

“She immediately takes matters into her own hands to make sure those people are brought to justice,” the mother of three continues. “The fact that she just says I’m a mom, I’m taking care of this and I’m going to do what I need to do. That, I’m inspired by. I’ve never gotten the chance to play that kind of visceral need to defend, or protect or take care of someone in your family.”

As for how she trained for those killer action sequences, Garner reveals she immersed herself into physical training.

“I’ve been training for a while on this. I did MMA skills, gun skills, knife skills. It was the connection to the physical that made me kind of understand her fight for her daughter,” she says.

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Director Pierre Morel was impressed by Garner’s aptitude for the physically strenuous scenes she filmed herself.

“She was very physical, she was very fit — even before we started training,” Morel says. “She was dead-on, ready to go for it. The fact that everything is done by the actor is key.”

Garner adds, “The action is smart and the fights are smart and they’re all me. What would you fight for more than your family?”

Peppermint is in theaters Sept. 7.

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