She's generating major buzz -- perhaps even Oscar buzz - for her role in Alexander Payne's The Descendants.
But actress Judy Greer is just happy to be in the film at all.
"Oh, I expected to be cut out," she says earnestly, sitting in a conference room in the office of Fox Searchlight Pictures in New York this week. "This is obviously a nicer way to go."
With her endearingly high-pitched voice and sunny disposition, Greer is a lot like the characters she's played in a variety of films and TV series: too self-aware to be chirpy or perky and yet managing to be bubbly just the same.
Her pessimistic view of her work in The Descendants is not "because of the work," she says, "but because I always expect to be cut out.
"I usually play supporting characters," the 36-year-old actress says. "When a movie gets long, those are the first to go. It's never like I have the assumption that I'll be in the movie. I like to be pleasantly surprised. I've been doing this so long and I still enjoy it so much. But it's still always a miracle to me that I'm in the movie."
She's particularly dazzled by this film. The Descendants is one of the most acclaimed films of the year; the Alexander Payne effort stars George Clooney as a Hawaiian lawyer coping with the impending death of his comatose wife, who discovers that she was having an affair. Greer plays a woman he encounters in his search for the man who cuckolded him -- and gets a juicy scene at the end that's crucial to the film.
So saying yes to the role wasn't too difficult, she admits: "Well, start with the fact that they were shooting in Hawaii," she says. "And then the double miracle of having a scene where I smooch George Clooney. And the biggest miracle: Alexander Payne was directing. So I was happy just to be in the room - I mean, that's already one of the best days of my career."
Greer is too modest. She's been working almost since she graduated from the theater school at Chicago's DePaul University and moved to Los Angeles to try to find acting jobs.
"I won the lottery," she says, to describe her success. "My fantasy in my head was that I'd try this and then go to Sarah Lawrence for graduate school -- although I didn't know what I'd do there. When I got to L.A., my mom wanted me to get my manicurist's license and do nails. I might have been good at that -- although I don't think I'd like to do toes."
This interview continues on my website.