Paula Patton, the star of Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol, resides with her musician husband and their 2-year-old son, Julian Fuego (“ ‘Fuego’ … because Julian is a Sagittarius—a fire sign”) in the West Hollywood Hills, is on fire in more ways than one. She appears next opposite Jason Bateman and Alexander Skarsgård in Disconnect, followed by the thriller 2 Guns with Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington. As if that isn’t enough, the 36-year-old beauty is the spokeswoman for PepsiNEXT, the new diet soda drink. Patton sat down with Where to talk love, movies and L.A.’s romantic hot spots. —Jessica Radloff
As an L.A. native, were you exposed to the entertainment industry all the time?
It’s funny, neither of my parents were in the business at all, but Gary Coleman lived across the street from me, which was pretty cool around the time I was in school. That was as Hollywood as my life got.
You’ve co-starred with Tom Cruise, Will Smith and Denzel Washington. Not too shabby!
Every moment I walk on set, I feel like, “I can’t believe this is happening.” I remember going to classes and just trying to book a commercial, and then for all this to have happened, it’s a miracle.
You got raves for your performance in the Oscar-nominated film Precious. Whose feedback meant the most to you?
At the Vanity Fair Oscar party, Meryl Streep came over and said, “You were amazing in Precious!” … I almost cried. I was like, “I can just call it a day now. I think I’m going to go quit!” [Laughs.] She could have been drinking by that point, I don’t know, but I’ve taken it as truth!
You and your husband met at a club when you were teenagers. Was it love at first sight?
It was lust at first sight! I thought, “Boy, he can move! He can dance better than me.” And I didn’t expect that. [Laughs.] But [love] took a long time from there.
Where do you and Robin go for date night?
It’s very L.A., but one of our favorite places is the Chateau Marmont, because it’s like being in a garden in a castle—it’s so romantic. Or we’ll go for brunch in Santa Monica at Shutters or Casa del Mar where you get to overlook the ocean, which is really fun.
What about when Julian comes along?
Mel’s Diner. He likes to put the nickel in the jukebox, and it’s just a fun place for him. Or sometimes, at LACMA, they have all those great food trucks on the weekend, and you get yourself a picnic and sit on the lawn and look at the La Brea Tar Pits. That’s one of our favorite things to do.
How do you escape from the L.A. scene?
There’s a really great hiking trail off of Coldwater Canyon that makes you feel like you’re away from it all. It’s by the water reservoir and you can walk by the lake. Before you go up over the hill, you make a left on to Franklin Canyon. It’s one of our favorites.
What stores tend to see your credit cards?
I’m a little bit of a department store girl now that I have a child, so I don’t have as much time to visit boutiques. I love Barneys. It’s a one-stop shop! But I also really love the clothing and furniture stores along Abbott Kinney and the area around Venice Beach.
Barneys New York 9570 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310.276.4400
Casa del Mar 1910 Ocean Way, Santa Monica, 310.581.5533
Chateau Marmont 8221 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 323.656.1010
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) 5905 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 323.857.6000
Mel’s Diner 8585 W. Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, 310.854.7201
Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits 5801 Wilshire Blvd., L.A., 323.857.6300, Ext. 110
Shutters on the Beach 1 Pico Blvd., Santa Monica, 310.458.0030