Speaking to PEOPLE on Monday at the Los Angeles premiere of Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood, Gayheart, 47, opened up about her relationship with her estranged husband as they co-parent daughters Billie Beatrice, 9, and Georgia Geraldine, 7. (The actress filed for divorce from Dane, 46, in February 2018, citing irreconcilable differences.)
“Well, here’s the thing,” she said at the event, where guests sipped on Casamigos cocktails. “There’s a new normal for me and my family, as you know. And it’s taken us a little bit to get that down. Not going to lie, it hasn’t been easy. But I think what’s exciting is what’s ahead because there are so many different things that could happen now. I mean, we have so many options, and the good news is my kids are happy and healthy.”
“My ex Eric and I, we are friends and we are doing our best to co-parent and maintain a family, even though we’re not married. Legally we’re still married, but separated,” she said. “And I think we’re doing a pretty good job of it. Life is just good. There are so many exciting things happening.”
As for whether their girls have the acting bug yet?
“Sadly, I think they do. But we are not exploring it yet. They are very young,” Gayheart said. “They like to sing and dance and act and play piano, but we’re pushing, ‘Get your education, and we’ll deal with that later.’ “
Gayheart also touched on returning to the spotlight for the Quentin Tarantino movie after “taking a decade hiatus to be a mom.”
“Literally, I called my manager and I said, ‘I think I’m ready to go back to work. My daughters need to see me work. I’m missing it,’ ” she recalled. “She goes, ‘Perfect. We have an audition for you.’ So I went in and I read for it and next thing I know I’m shooting. It’s a small part, but it was amazing to shoot.”
Her costar Brad Pitt “couldn’t have been sweeter,” she added.
“He’s such a professional,” she said. “He’s such a great actor, super smart guy. But it was a little unfortunate because our scenes are quite volatile. So we stayed in character a lot to get through those scenes. But when I was done tossing a Bloody Mary in his face, he was lovely, and I think he’s like the perfect guy next door, but way sexier.”
“Him and Quentin together are magic,” she continued. “I think people are going to be very surprised at the magic that Brad and Quentin created in this movie.”
The highly anticipated film comes two months after Gayheart opened up for the first time about the her tragic 2001 car accident that resulted in the death of a 9-year-old boy, Jorge Cruz Jr. Gayheart shared her story on her friend’s The Only One in the Room podcast in May, revealing that she still has “trouble talking about” the accident.
“A 9-year-old child died. And, you know, everything changed from that,” she said. “It just turned my world upside down and I lost faith in everything, like, I questioned God, like, ‘Why me? Why Jorge?’ “
The actress told PEOPLE shortly after that while opening up was “scary,” she hoped to comfort others grappling with tragedies in their lives.
“I did it because I was thinking, if there’s one person out there who feels the same way and I can offer them some perspective of it all being okay, then it’s worth it,” she said. “Today, I am able to ponder those questions and still realize that I deserve to be happy. That I am meant to be on this planet and that I have a purpose and I’m making, living amends for that, even though it was an accident.”
Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood hits theaters Friday.