Actress Reese Witherspoon‘s days are very, very busy. An expert in the art of multi-tasking, in one afternoon she might take a meeting about the upcoming third Legally Blonde film, do a photo shoot for her soon-to-be released book, approve new designs for her fashion line, and pick up her youngest son, Tennessee, from school. “He is trying to learn how to spell his name right now,” the proud mother-of-three, who also runs a film production company, has confided.

Her full and exciting life didn’t come easy. Reese, 42, won an Academy Award for portraying June Carter in 2005’s Walk the Line, but afterward felt frustrated with the lack of good roles for women over 30 in Hollywood. So, she started producing her own movies.

reese witherspoon family

“I learned a lot about hard work from my mother,” Reese told Southern Living. “She taught me to have a passion for my interests and to work into those interests. And you know, just loving what you do makes a job not feel like a job.”

Reese may have inherited this ambitious streak from her grandmother, Dorothea Draper Witherspoon, who received a master’s degree in 1942 but felt dissatisfied with her career path. “She was very book smart — but she couldn’t really get a job as anything other than a pre-school teacher,” Reese explained. Dorothea hoped that her granddaughter would fare better. “She wanted me to do great things and to travel and be accomplished,” she added.

Reese has worked hard to live up to these dreams. In addition to starring in another Legally Blonde film, she will return to HBO’s acclaimed Big Little Lies for its second season. “I think people saw themselves [in the show],” Reese told Southern Living. “I think men discovered how women really feel about marriage and relationships.”

the bll cast

The _Big Little Lies_ cast.

Fortunately, Reese’s personal life is much less complicated than that of her BLL character, Madeline. Married to agent Jim Toth since 2011, she’s mom to daughter Ava, 18, and son Deacon, 14 (from her marriage to Ryan Phillippe), and Tennessee, 5. “She’s a truly doting mom who loves cooking for them and goes to their sports games,” a friend revealed. “She’s the ultimate soccer mom.”

In 2015, Reese also added “lifestyle entrepreneur” to her résumé. She started Draper James, a clothing and home decor line and named it after her grandparents. “I’ve been making movies since I was 14, and I needed something else,” Reese — who also wrote a book, Whiskey in a Teacup, set to be released in September — said.

She took the title from an expression her grandmother used to illustrate how Southern women look fragile but possess inner fire. She believes that Dorothea, who died when the actress was 22, would be proud. “I think, in a way, I’m living the life that she didn’t get a chance to live,” Reese said.

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