Piper Perabo Shares Her Morning & Bedtime Rituals

Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images
Welcome to Early Birds and Night Owls, a series that takes a nosy look into the morning and nighttime routines of successful people.
Piper Perabo’s breakout role was playing a singing bartender from New Jersey named Violet in the 2000 classic (part rom-com, part sexy musical) Coyote Ugly. Her latest is Sara, an international DJ, on the Idris Elba-helmed Netflix series, Turn Up Charlie. Based on their gigs alone, I think it’s safe to classify both characters as night owls. Perabo has been working steadily for over 20 years and for her job, she says she’s learned to both wake up early and stay up past her preferred bedtime of 10 p.m. In preparation for Turn Up Charlie, she was hanging out in Elba’s DJ booth until late — for research, she swears — but if she had it her way, she’d “sleep in” until 7 a.m. To me, that’s not sleeping in at all so after some convincing, Perabo who originally described herself as a night owl (the New Yorker in her), conceded to the hard truth that she’s an early bird.
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Here, Perabo shares some of the daily habits that have led to her decades-long career.
Rise and shine: Rocky and Bullwinkle became a lifelong alarm clock
I don't have trouble waking up. Early in my career, my first studio movie was this kids’ movie called [The Adventures Of] Rocky and Bullwinkle. It was my second job and there were a lot of like big actors in that movie [like Robert De Niro and Rene Russo]. One morning, I woke up to the phone ringing and it was the first AD and he was like, “Where are you?” I jumped out of bed and started sprinting. I had slept past my alarm. I was like 22-years-old and my whole body burst into sweat. When it’s a movie crew or a television crew, that could be like 90 to 150 people waiting for you. So, it took one time of me missing my alarm and I don’t think I’ve ever been late to anything again.
Coffee run: Feeling like a local in every city
No matter where I'm working, I find the greatest coffee shop in that city. I even choose where I'm going to live based on if I can walk to the best coffee shop in that town. The first thing I do in the morning is jump out of bed, throw on a coat and a hat, and walk to a coffee shop. If I'm doing a movie in Bucharest or Romania or wherever, after three mornings of going to the same coffee shop in a row, by the fourth morning you walk in and no matter what city or place in the world they're like, “Hey, good morning!" They remember you. At least there's one person in the world who knows you and says good morning. You begin to feel part of a place really quickly. Then I come back to the house, take a shower, get ready, and go to work.
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A podcast-free walk: The news isn't going anywhere
That walk back from the coffee shop with my first cup of coffee is when my mind really starts going. My morning walk is how I reconnect with the world at large. That brisk walk in cool, bright air is really important to me. I'm not listening to the news. I’m not doing a podcast. I’m just walking. Your day can feel so overwhelming if you start by listening to "behind the trade deal" and "Trump just arrived back from Vietnam." Like, holy mackerel, just put your feet on the ground. One foot in front of the other. Take some deep breaths, listen to the birds, just do the present. The whole world will be waiting for you when you get back.
Tackling tough stuff: You never know when you’re going to have to murder somebody
I'm the most productive between my first and second cup of coffee. I accomplish things in the morning, but I get my good ideas at night. I try to tackle my hardest tasks at the beginning of the day, unless it’s out of my control. You don't get to choose when you do the murder scene. Sometimes it's first thing in the morning, sometimes it's the last thing at night. It's not always up to me when I’m gonna murder somebody.
Nighttime ritual: Bed of roses
Before I go to bed, one of the things I love to read is gardening essays. There's a slow routine to them because it's gardening and they're talking about really precise, quiet, beautiful routines. There are essays written by famous gardeners on how to prune roses in the fall, their different roses, where they live, blah, blah, blah. One that I love is a book of essays called Onward and Upward in the Garden. It’s by E.B. White’s wife, Katherine. She wrote a lot of famous gardening essays. Hers are really good if you're trying to fall asleep, or if you just want to learn how to garden.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Turn Up Charlie starts streaming on Netflix March 15.
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