"My happy place is holding my daughter and my husband in the same hug," the actress tells PEOPLE

By peoplestaff225
Updated September 04, 2015 07:45 PM
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Monica Schipper/FilmMagic

Lake Bell‘s latest real-life role (mom!) is affecting her reel life, too.

In the new action-thriller No Escape, in theaters now, the actress plays a wife and mother fighting to keep her family alive when they’re targeted by rebels after relocating to Southeast Asia for work. And the star — who welcomed daughter Nova with husband Scott Campbell last October — says her maternal instinct came out on set when working with the young actresses who played her daughters.

“At the end of the day, we’re playing out these fake circumstances, but they are still inherently scary, so it was very easy to look at these beautiful, innocent, loving, wise, little faces and, knowing that they’re just sensitive little beings, feeling fiercely protective over them,” Bell, 36, tells PEOPLE.

“I did feel a responsibility to be a mama bear and to infuse any sort of love and support that I could to them.”

Even so, the Wet Hot American Summer star says becoming a mother herself didn’t affect how she approached the role … just how she’ll watch the movie.

“Being a mom and looking at these circumstances, the anxiety that it incurs is pretty rich now that I think of having a little girl and what the scenario would inspire in me,” she explains. “When you have a little one, you realize that your only mission in life is to protect this helpless, very sensitive creature. That is your charge. That’s primal. I relate to that deeply.”

While it may not have influenced her performance, Bell is quick to admit welcoming a child has changed her life.

“My happy place is holding my daughter and my husband in the same hug. It really is. I’m getting emotional just thinking about it,” the actress adds. “I consider it such a privilege, and I know that I’m lucky. I never want to take it for granted.”

— Jeff Nelson