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Laura Dern talks health care and "The Last Jedi"

It's a big year for Laura Dern, with movies like "Wilson" and "The Last Jedi" and TV shows "Big Little Lies" and "Twin Peaks." But Dern, who is a mother of two, is using her name to help mothers and children who are underserved and underprivileged around the world through the Global Moms Relay campaign with Johnson & Johnson and the United Nations Foundation.

Dern talked to CBS News about her work with Global Moms Relay, what she loved about "Big Little Lies" and what's in store for "Twin Peaks" and "The Last Jedi."

Tell me about your Global Moms Relay partnership.

They reached out to me because I feel like I sit paralyzed by the news, like so many of us, wondering how I can make a difference, and Johnson & Johnson and the United Nations Foundation have said we can make a difference and you can make a difference by liking a photo. You can make a difference by sharing your story or sharing what you're doing. Go to Read about us, share it, like it and we will donate money to these amazing five non-profits who are doing beautiful work.

Also, I had such a great experience last night and this morning with my daughter -- to say to a 12-year-old, "OK, you're on your phone anyway, here's what you're going to do, you're going to go to this website." In the middle of it she was like, "Oh my God, Mom, I'm reading about 'Girl Up.' If I like this photo, a girl in Guatemala is going to get a bicycle and be able to go to school.'" And that practical application of being of service, of making a difference with a minute of your day I think is a really inspiring way not only to think about becoming educated about what others need but actually make the difference.

Woody Harrelson and Laura Dern get political 02:31

As a mom, what do you see with the children these organizations help that really makes you think, "Wow, my kids get that and they don't"?

Today is a very important day in America so I think we're all thinking about what we know to be true. I've never met a person who would disagree with this, despite their politics, and that is every child should have the human right to health care.

Every child should be cared for and have an education. I don't even understand an argument to that. It's inhumane. So that piece at this moment feels like the most essential story to tell. But through these specific organizations, we're looking at the work to prevent malaria, the discussion of maternity mortality, the discussion of girls' education, vaccines -- all of those issues and questions come up and that could make a difference specifically in those areas.

How has having kids changed the way you see the world?

I started activism work in the area of environmental health and worked with an organization I love very much called Healthy Child. I know how much it took me to become educated about our environment and how we were poisoning ourselves and how we could create a healthy environment.

Then I became a mom and realized the impact that the environment has on my children's daily life and that kind made me feel more of that "time's running out" feeling and when I looked in my child's eyes, I could promise what feels like an essential right, which is, "Baby, I will give you a clean glass of water today," and "Baby, I will give you food to eat today." That millions of mothers don't have that luxury is a tragedy and that it's considered a luxury is a tragedy. That shifted for me, imagining what it must feel like to have your heart break when you look in your kid's eyes and you can't provide essential things to keep them alive.

Laura Dern on "Big Little Lies," "Wilson" 05:55

You just came off Season 1 of "Big Little Lies," which examines a very different kind of mom -- rich moms in the suburbs and their rivalries and issues. Is there anything about that show that rings true to you as a mom?

That none of us get to control the outcome of our children's stories. For my character, she has all the money in the world and power and influence and a voice that won't stop, and her child is unsafe in her own classroom and that's just breaking her apart. That part is very relatable, I think, to all of us.

And feeling like you can't juggle being powerful and perhaps even ambitious and goal-setting in your career and be what's perceived as "a good mom." That's not something that men have to consider. It's not a question of career versus parenting, and I think women feel a lot of shame around that, like they're leaving something they should be doing instead of doing what you and I are doing right now.

The show has been such a critical hit. When you first saw the script, did you feel that there was something special about it?

I did. We had made the film "Wild" and it was the same director, director of photography, Reese [Witherspoon] and myself and the same producers -- Reese and her partner, Bruno Papandrea. That felt like coming home again. That was already special, but then I was close with Shailene [Woodley] and Nicole [Kidman] as well, and suddenly this group of friends were going to work together and that was miraculous.

Do you plan to come back for Season 2?

I am excited about the conversation, so we'll see what they come up with.

And then the women will all be friends, which would be different.

It would be very cool to see where we go from here, right?

Speaking of Shailene Woodley, you played her mom in another movie. How was it playing a mom alongside her this time?

Really fun. I love both Shailene and Reese personally like family so having those two specifically be my enemies for a chunk of the series was kind of hilarious and fantastic.

It's taken on this "Sex and the City" role in pop culture where people are like, "I'm such a Madeline, I'm such a Renata." Who are you on the show?

Well, I love that the other girls are saying if they could play another part they would play Renata. It makes me feel so lucky because I just love playing that part so much and it is such a deliciously fun part.

I think what moves me about Shailene's character is considering being a single mom and wanting to be really present for your kids and not define them by projecting onto them what we think we're putting onto our kid, like, "Oh, I'm like this or their father's like that so they're going to be A, B or C." I really relate to that part of that character's story, and I was raised by a single mom so that story moves me a lot and that boy is such an amazing actor.

But also my kids are still little but I'm very heartbroken of the story of Madeline considering her daughter growing up and leaving. I remember myself and another dear friend of mine who's an actor, when we were 20 years old we were talking about a therapist who said that some parents have what's called "anticipatory nostalgia," where you're already anticipating something that might happen years from now, and the example they used was when you're 20 years old and you're already thinking about how heartbroken you'll be when your son goes to college. That stuck in my head because I remember being 20 and thinking, "That'll be the worst day of my life," but it's coming closer and closer. It's shocking, thinking of releasing your children into the world of adults.

You're playing an admiral in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," but your character has been described as very feminine. How do you enjoy playing another strong female character who still values her femininity?

I haven't read that description, actually, so I can't comment on who I'm playing. I don't know if that's the correct description, but what I can say that I love about "The Last Jedi" is that it empowers female characters -- girls and women -- and minorities and an iconic female character like Carrie Fisher gave us. Part of the legacy of "Star Wars" is that women are not just part of the story, they make the story and the mythology of the story. That's always been there thanks to George Lucas and this invention. Being part of that is really exciting and how they are flipping the script in terms of diversity in various roles. I feel super proud to be part of it.

And it's May the 4th, too.

Yeah, May the 4th be with you!

What can you tell us about "Twin Peaks"?

Also nothing! I'm as excited as you to find out because I know nothing and none of us know anything. We know what we did in it, but no one read other scripts or really knows who else everyone's playing, so I feel like a kid in a candy store to see how it unfolds, because David Lynch is such a genius. 

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