Michelle Williams Tells Daughter Matilda Heath Ledger ‘Loved Me Before Anybody Thought I Was Pretty’

Michelle Williams always strives to ensure her 12-year-old daughter Matilda Rose knows what a great man Heath Ledger was before his untimely death.

The actress, 37, opens up about motherhood and keeping Ledger’s memory alive in a new interview for Vanity Fair  — in which she also reveals she recently secretly married musician Phil Elverum.

“I always say to Matilda, ‘Your dad loved me before anybody thought I was talented, or pretty, or had nice clothes,’ ” Williams revealed.

Ledger died in New York City in 2008 after taking a fatal mix of prescription drugs.  Matilda was only 2 years old.

The actor and Williams had dated for three years after meeting on the set of their 2005 film Brokeback Mountain, though had separated five months earlier.

“When you’re a single parent, and that element of provider and protection is missing, it’s scary,” Williams said of raising their daughter after Ledger’s death.

Michelle Williams and daughter Matilda in September 2015

Michelle Williams and daughter Matilda in September 2015

Bruce Glikas/Getty

Want all the latest pregnancy and birth announcements, plus celebrity mom blogs? Click here to get those and more in the PEOPLE Babies newsletter.

The mother of one is most proud of being able to provide Matilda a stable environment as she grows up.

“She hasn’t had her routine disrupted and hasn’t missed class,” Williams said, adding that the ability to have summers as “undone time” with her daughter.

“[I’m] less scheduled, less regulated, less hustle, less go go go,” she explained.

“I parent to let Matilda feel free to be herself, and I am finally loved by someone who makes me feel free,” Williams said of new husband Elverum, who also suffered a tragic loss.

RELATED: Inside Michelle Williams’ Love Life Since Heath Ledger: From Jason Segel to Her New Husband

Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams

Heath Ledger and Michelle Williams

Chris Polk/FilmMagic

The indie singer’s daughter Agathe was just 1½ when his wife, Geneviève Castrée, died in their home in his hometown of Anacortes, Washington, in July 2015 after a battle with stage IV pancreatic cancer. She had been diagnosed when Agathe was just 4 months old.

“She died at home with me and her parents holding her, hopefully having reached some last minute peace,” Elverum wrote on a GoFundMe page set up at the time, according to Pitchfork.

Williams and Elverum got married in a secret ceremony in the Adirondacks with a few friends and their daughters present.

“Obviously I’ve never once in my life talked about a relationship,” she told Vanity Fair. “But Phil isn’t anyone else. And that’s worth something. Ultimately the way he loves me is the way I want to live my life on the whole. I work to be free inside of the moment. I parent to let Matilda feel free to be herself, and I am finally loved by someone who makes me feel free.”

Read More