By Andrea Cuttler, Vanity Fair
Judy Greer's résumé knows no bounds. For the past 15 years, she's lit up our screens -- at home and at the movie theater -- playing beloved characters like Arrested Development's philandering secretary, Kitty Sanchez; The Descendants' scorned wife, Julie Speer; and a range of quirky, hilarious rom-com sidekicks in, well, just about everything. Later this week, Greer will open on Broadway in the Theresa Rebeck-penned and Jack O'Brien-directed dark comedy Dead Accounts. She plays Jenny, a woman whose husband has a pretty manic personality and a pretty big secret -- one that has audiences biting their nails until the very end.
VF Daily: I saw the show last night--you were so good. Norbert was so good. It's incredible that in such a small cast there were so many wonderful performances.
Judy Greer: I am so happy to hear you say that. I had a girlfriend in the audience last night. She came backstage with me, and she was like, "You're so tall! You were just so tall up there!" And I was like, "Is that the only thing that you're taking away from this?"
That's hilarious. You are so tall! So are you based in L.A. usually or New York?
I live in Los Angeles, and I'm just here for the show.
How has it been? One of my favorite lines in the whole play was when you did the Brooklyn thing, that hand motion of, "It's not Manhattan. It's Brooklyn." And anybody that's ever lived here knows that that is really the mentality of people that live in the city.
That gets a big laugh from New Yorkers and, also, not knowing what the garbage disposal is gets a big laugh from New Yorkers.
And you're from Michigan, right?
Yeah. My family is all in Ohio, and my parents have retired and moved back to Ohio, so now when I go home to visit them, I go to Ohio.
Where in Ohio?
A teeny, tiny little town called Carey, Ohio. C-A-R-E-Y. It's in the middle of fucking nowhere. It takes forever to get there. My mom's always like, "You never come home!" and I'm like, "Dude, because you have to take two planes and then rent a car and drive for two hours." It took me less time to fly to Colombia, the country. Like, I flew to Bogota in less time than I can actually get to the town where my parents live.
So did you feel that growing up in the Midwest helped you play your character, Jenny? She's kind of the opposite of everything the Midwest stands for ...
Yes, I think it helped me to actually not be too stereotypical in my portrayal of her. I think it gave her more depth--the fact that I'm not that person. Or that they didn't cast someone who was super-serious. I'm quirkier; I can't help it!
I was looking at the last thing you did with VF.com, and it was for The Descendants last year. At first I thought how different these projects are. But then I thought, There are a few similarities here between characters, one of them being that you're playing a wife that was wronged by her husband.
I put so much of who I am as a person into every role I play that they all kind of feel the same to me. They all are more based around what's happening in my immediate life at the time that I'm playing the character than anything else. I do feel some similarities between these women. I think they're both really vulnerable, and I think Jenny has a harder time showing it and is really uncomfortable by her emotions, whereas Julie in The Descendants -- they're both totally trying to hold themselves together and Julie just has an easier time giving in to her emotions. I think they're both really strong.
So how has it been working with Katie Holmes and the rest of the cast and crew?
I wouldn't say anything bad anyway, but I'm not lying when I say it's been one of the -- I also don't want to say anything hyperbolic because I want you to believe me -- it's been so special. Everyone always says, "Oh, she's great, it's great, the project's great." But it really is. It's been terrific. I mean, Jack O'Brien, I wish I could just record every word that comes out of his mouth because I'm learning more from him and this process than I feel like I've learned from any other director I've ever worked with. And I think Norbert Leo Butz is one of the greatest actors I've ever worked with, and I've worked with a lot. And Katie is one of the hardest-working actresses I've ever worked with. She cares so much. She works so hard. She's early to rehearsal and the last person to leave. She brings really awesome snacks, by the way.
What's your favorite?
She brings these jalapeno dried-tomato chips. Like a chip made of a dried tomato. She goes to this place called Organic Avenue and brings all of these snacks from there, and it's pretty awesome.
Oh, I need to go there!
Yeah, go there. I mean, don't stalk her or anything. Can you imagine? You're like, "Hi, I'm Andrea. Judy Greer told me you'd be here!" That would be so amazing. God, I am the worst friend ever. I am terrible at having celebrity friends. I've just been impressed by her work ethic, honestly, and her ability as a single mom, to juggle being an awesome mom. I mean, she's always like, "I went to Suri's class this morning. I was reading to the first-graders." And I'm like, "How do you do that?" I can barely schedule in a workout and getting to rehearsal, and I'm just here by myself in an apartment. It's small. She's like got a kid, she works out every day, she's cooking dinner at night for her daughter, she manages to go and get her a new dress if she has a special thing, going to her lessons after school ... it's pretty impressive. She's pretty impressive. I've rarely seen her without a giant cup of coffee in her hand, I will say that.
That's the key--you figured it out!
So how has it been doing the Broadway thing versus film? Could you pick one if you had to?
Gun to my head, I probably would choose Broadway. Hollywood has been beyond good to me. You know, ask me at the end of February when I've been doing this play 150 times and I might be like, "Oh, hell no, get me back to L.A. I need to do a movie." But not today on this beautiful fall day in New York City -- I'd have to pick Broadway. I trained to be onstage. I always wanted to be onstage. And when you're onstage, you can't really hide behind any tricks or quirks as much as you can in a movie. I was telling Jack last night -- now, what I've been really trying to work on, believe it or not, please don't make a comment -- you saw the play -- I'm really trying to work on pausing less, because I'm a very pause-y actor. In movies, that stuff is really edited around, and onstage, I'm really feeling it. I feel like I'm standing there thinking too long. I've been working with this amazing vocal coach named Andrea Hering, who's in New York. And she helps me get my voice in shape, to be heard, by 1,000, hopefully, people. But all that stuff -- that feels like my job. It's so cool. Sometimes you go to a movie set and you go to hair and makeup for two hours and you sit in your trailer all day, and they send you home because they didn't get to you. And it's just fun to really work every day.
So do you have any pre-show rituals or good-luck charms?
I used to listen to music on my iPod before the show, but then last week my battery died and I couldn't and I had a really awesome show. So then I was like, "O.K., now I'm never listening to music." Whatever stupid thing happens moments before I have a good performance, I'm like, "That's the new thing I'm going to do all the time."
So when it went dark last night during intermission, I thought, I have to ask her this but . . . what happens during intermission? Do you guys talk? Does everyone stay in character?
Well. No. No one stays in character, ever, even when we run offstage for a second. None of us are like that. I've never worked with someone like that, but I kind of want to just because it would be so weird. Jayne usually goes to her dressing room. Norbert usually will go to his dressing room and shut the door. Josh is already upstairs in his dressing room because he's not onstage at that point. Usually Katie and Norbert and I, either on our way back down to go back onstage, for a few minutes we usually will talk. Usually it's like, "Sorry I fucked this up." This is the long answer to tell you that we usually have to apologize for something terrible that we did onstage to the other person and try to figure out how not to do it again. And Katie and I will go in our dressing room and gossip about whatever for a few minutes. I usually run up to mine and go to the bathroom. Kind of boring.
But now I know!
Yeah, it's not that exciting. I should say, "We all light candles and we gather around and say a prayer together to the theater gods." No, it's usually so we can pee.
More from Vanity Fair:
25 Years in the Life of Model Kate Moss
Paris Jackson Rocks T-Shirts with Dad's Face
Lady Gaga, Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston: Vanity Fair's Classic Nude Portraits
Best James Bond Moments in the Last 50 Years
Spilling the tea 24/7. Never miss a beat. Learn more