Freedomland isn't merely the title of Julianne Moore's new movie. It also describes how this former Army brat feels about the home she (finally) discovered in Manhattan two decades ago.

Moore had come to New York from a roustabout life. Moore, born Julie Anne Smith in Fayetteville, North Carolina, had a father who was a judge in the U.S. Army's Judge Advocate General Corps who moved his family from base to base: Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Virginia, New Jersey, Nebraska, New York, Alaska, Panama, Germany - all in all, they had two dozen temporary homes around the world.

After a life on the road, his smart, red-headed, well-read daughter was able to blend into any surrounding and, later, into any part, from those in off-Broadway plays to an Emmy-winning dual role as two half sisters on the CBS soap As the World Turns to Oscar-nominated performances in several hit films, ranging from Boogie Nights to The Hours.

This month, she stars alongside Samuel L. Jackson and Edie Falco in Freedomland, portraying a suburban woman plunged into a highly charged and gritty mystery involving her missing child, which tears her New Jersey neighborhood apart. On the other side of the Hudson River, in Manhattan, Moore remains the wide-eyed girl getting off the bus with the suitcase in her hand, marveling over the Big City where she found a home after a lifetime of traveling.

With her husband, native New Yorker Bart Freundlich, whom she met when he was directing her in The Myth of Fingerprints, and their children, Cal, eight, and Liv, three, Moore has settled into the "way West Village" neighborhood that she dreamed about living in as a young girl. Here's Julianne Moore's story about the home she found in the city known for opening its doors to immigrants.

Let's start with the bus. Where did you first arrive in New York City? Where do buses come into? Port Authority. I stayed with a friend. There were four of us in a studio apartment with a big dog while we looked for an apartment. I found a studio on the East Side and a job at a restaurant waiting on tables. It was called Mumbles, now called Benjamin's, on 33rd Street and Second Avenue. Basically, it was one of those things where I just walked into every restaurant I passed on Second Avenue and asked for a job until I finally got one.

Then you started getting off-Broadway jobs, right? Actually, I got my first one after about four or five months of living in New York. It was a regional-theater job. First, I was in Buffalo, New York. Then I went to Boston to do a job there. Then I came back to the city and I had some little jobs on TV. Then I ended up on a soap opera, As the World Turns, for three years. That was my first big job. I guess I started in 1985.
So you've lived there since? Except for, like, four years, when I lived in Los Angeles.

Is there one place where you went in the beginning and still go to now? When I was still a senior in college in Boston, I got an [acting] job in the city. It was my first trip to New York alone. I was terrified. I flew to New Jersey, took the bus into Port Authority, took the subway down to Sheridan Square, and walked to the theater. This was all at the crack of dawn. I think rehearsals started at 11 or something. I got there so early. I didn't have anywhere to go and I found myself in the way West Village, so I started walking. I walked down Bank Street and there was this place called Café Sasha Sasha on the Hudson. I went in and had a cup of coffee. I was so excited and thrilled by the area and I thought, Wow, if I ever live in New York City, I want to have a house in the way West Village. Finally, Christmas 2004, I moved into my house in the way West Village. So, it took me a long time.