Meryl Streep opened up on topics ranging from her first acting gig in her New Jersey elementary school to her fears for America under Donald Trump

Credit: Noam Galai/WireImage; Paul Drinkwater/NBC/AP

Nursing a dry martini that Stephen Colbert crafted onstage, Meryl Streep chatted breezily for almost two hours with the Late Night host Saturday before a sold-out crowd at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.

The Oscar winner, 69, opened up on topics ranging from her first acting gig in her N.J. elementary school to her fears for America under Donald Trump. Streep was this year’s guest at the annual fundraiser for Montclair Film. (Colbert’s wife, Evelyn, is president of Montclair Film’s board of trustees.)

“What’s it like to see the president of the United States who is indifferent to the idea of empathy?” Colbert asked Streep, whom Trump called ‘overrated’ after she excorciated him at the 2017 Golden Globes without uttering his name.

“I’m scared, I’m scared by his possibility,” she said.

“I empathize with him, I can’t imagine what his 3 a.m. is like. I can’t imagine,” Streep continued. “There is a gathering storm. Everybody feels it. He feels it. His children are in jeopardy. I feel that. I think what if my children were in trouble I would do anything — anything — to get them out of trouble. So we should be afraid. That’s what I think.”

Stephen Colbert and Meryl Streep
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The mother of four revealed that empathy “will save us,” adding, “if we will be saved.”

It’s also an ability that needs to be moderated. “If you have it on all the time, it’s not great,” she said. “You can go so quickly in despair, if you feel someone else’s pain, really, it’s hard to climb out. I think when you can’t turn it off. It can make you crazy, and that’s why a lot of actors are crazy.”

Stephen Colbert and Meryl Streep
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During the interview, Streep also said she doesn’t like watching her early films, because they remind her of her of a time when she thought her nose was too big and she was fat. “Because these are things people tell you,” Streep said.

This self-criticism shaped her early acting aim — to be in the theater. “There was no way I was going to be a film actor, never, because my nose was too big,” said Streep, who is the most nominated performer in Oscars history.

Streep said she “sort of stumbled” into acting. “Maybe I’m not really an artist,” she said. “I am a curious person, and I’m very interested in finding out more about people and there is no greater job than the one I have to do that.”

Streep praised a handful of recent films she’s seen, including Bradley Cooper’s remake of A Star Is Born, starring Lady Gaga.

“It’s amazing,” she said. “It’s so breezily shot. It’s so self-assured.”

She also raved about The Rider, calling it”shockingly good,” First Reformed with Ethan Hawke; Stan & Ollie (opening Dec. 28) and her upcoming film Mary Poppins Returns with Emily Blunt.