10 Things 'Grace & Frankie' Star June Diane Raphael Didn't Know About Hollywood Before Making It
Netflix's Grace & Frankie actress June Diane Raphael had dreams of being a TV star since she was a little girl who woke up at 9 AM on summer mornings to watch Regis and Kathie Lee with her sisters. Her fixation obviously remained past the 10 AM slot, which was when I Love Lucy aired. “I just became obsessed with Lucille Ball — I’ve been a grandmother since I was like five, I have very old-timey taste — so I just thought she was the funniest thing ever,” the star says. “The physicality of her humor and comedy, she’s beautiful. I just completely fell in love.” Now here she is, age 36, cracking audiences up across screens big and small.
Raphael has come a long way since she performed in a NYC sketch comedy show while living in complete debt with her best friend Casey Wilson. Her and her genius humor have been featured in movies like Bride Wars (which she also wrote with Wilson), Going the Distance, Forgetting Sarah Marshall as well as shows like Happy Endings, Drunk History, and currently, the new Netflix favorite Grace & Frankie . I recently spoke with Raphael, who’s one of the most genuine, hilarious, and uncensored celebrities I’ve ever met. And it wasn’t my first time. So when we got on the phone, I couldn’t think of anyone better to spill some serious truths about the realities of Tinseltown and what life is like under the flashing lights. Here are some unlikely lessons Raphael has learned while making her way through Hollywood.
1. Living Off Of Credit Cards Can Pay Off
Raphael recalls when she was just 25, performing in a sketch comedy show in New York with Casey Wilson. Agents were interested in both of the performers, but they still had no work. “I tell you, there was no paycheck. We had things happening but our bank accounts did not reflect that,” she says. They lived on credit cards for about two years. Now, she laughs about it, saying, “We have a story that’s just like, this is how you should not do it.”
But it wasn’t always laughable. “We used to have creditors calling us so much that our cell phones would never stop ringing from 1-800 numbers. This was our life, like we knew them by name,” she says. The risk was complete “blind faith that it was going to work out,” which was a feeling she and Wilson, both “delusional” in their twenties, shared. “We kind of pulled the trigger on not having day jobs like two-and-a-half years before we should’ve. And then had to dig out way out of financial debt,” she explains. Eventually, everything worked out and their debts were paid off. “I’ve always felt this way: If I’m not willing to invest in myself and put my own money into this, then how could I ever ask anyone else to do it?,” she says. “But at the same time, I probably could’ve continued to have a part-time job.”
2. Your Struggle Is What Makes Your Story
Raphael says that whenever a somewhat promising opportunity came along, she and Wilson would both quit their day jobs. “I was like, ‘Well, now I’m Meg Ryan, and I must open up my schedule, have every day free for the calls to come in! Because they’re gonna need me and I can’t be waiting tables when it happens,’” she says. While she was waitressing and Wilson was an assistant, Raphael said they did “insane things.”
“We had a three bedroom apartment in the East Village, we moved in with boyfriends and parents so we didn’t have to pay rent, and we’d up-charge the girls [who lived there] and were just living off of that income,” she says. “After that year-and-a-half of putting everything on credit cards, we then spent another in complete debt and we almost got evicted from our apartment in New York. I had to go to court,” says Raphael. Their struggle not only became their success story, but material for the 2013 movie Ass Backwards, which Raphael and Wilson wrote based on their life experiences in their twenties.
3. You Will Make A Huge Fool Of Yourself
Even a celebrity gets mortified in front of other celebrities, namely Raphael in front of her G&F cast members. She tells me the “really horrifying” story of when she was late to the cast’s very first table read. “I had just given birth so I was pumping breast milk in the little dressing room and someone knocked on the door saying they were starting in five minutes. I was just finishing up, but I was so early on in motherhood that there’s like apparatus to clean and bottles to put caps on, I couldn't find my bra,” she recalls. “It was a comedy of errors. You don’t wanna be the last person to arrive. When it’s Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, Sam Waterson and Martin Sheen, I need to be the first one there, let’s be serious.” She was totally mortified, with her “body betraying [her]” and “sweat pits like down to [her] jeans.” But she quickly won them over, especially Fonda. “She’s a total feminist and activist and I was like, ‘I’m pumping breast milk!’ She was like, ‘Oh my god, amazing!’ It was fine. It was certainly not the introduction I wanted,” she says.
4. Fame Doesn't Turn All Actors Into Ego Maniacs (But It Can)
Unfortunately, the hustle doesn’t always humble stars like Raphael. “I’ve seen actors who struggled for years and then do get a big break and get on a network TV show and then become monsters,” the actress says. But on the flip side, actors can be totally modest, too, even if they didn't have a rough struggle. “Michael Cera, who I’ve worked with, is one of the nicest, most grounded, most connected people I’ve ever met,” she says. “And he’s been working since he was very young.” Struggle or no struggle, Raphael says it’s difficult to tell whether or not an actor’s past will cause them to be gracious. “I haven’t seen such a correlation in terms of behavior, but I’m glad that I had that [experience],” she says.
5. Most Actors Are Innately Narcissistic
“Oh definitely,” she states about all actors having an element of narcissism in them to some capacity. That said, they are a complex breed. “It’s a very interesting combination. It’s such an interesting juxtaposition,” she explains. “Total narcissism to put yourself out there and say, ‘Look at me. I have something to say. I wanna be seen,’ you have to have that on some level, that confidence,” she says. “But then you also have to have total empathy for the human experience and vulnerability to be able to say, ‘Come see all of me.’ The bad parts, the good parts.” Raphael commends fellow actors for doing what they do, saying, “I think it’s also incredibly brave. I lot of people can’t do [that], just on a personal level, forget about performing it. Willingness to be like, ‘Come look at my demons.’ It’s not easy. But it’s so fun.”
6. A Career In Hollywood Can Actually Make Relationships Stronger
Raphael is one actress who would never let narcissism or dedication to the craft negatively affect her friendships, especially those with others in the business (like Wilson). In fact, the industry can help those friendships. “We include each other in so much stuff. I was on Happy Endings, Marry Me, I’m sure she will be [on Grace and Frankie]. We’re very supportive of each other,” she says of her friendship with Wilson. “I’m very invested in her doing well.”
She admits that they have lost parts to each other, but says, “I’d rather it be to someone whose talent I really believe in and someone who I just want to succeed in life.” I can’t imagine it didn’t ever get even a little competitive between them, though. She admits that time in their twenties, climbing their way to fame together, definitely got “very interesting.” She recalls one getting an agent before the other and calling each other crying about the struggles of acting. Ultimately, it led to growth in their careers, both together and separately. “Overall, it’s a really special relationship,” she says.
7. There's A Reason Actors Date Actors
Brangelina. Bennifer. Speidi. Actors just love dating (and sometimes marrying) other actors. But according to Raphael, there’s a reason behind the madness, and even though she’s been married to an actor for seven years, she ironically never saw herself with one when growing up. “Honestly, I pictured myself with like a stock broker when I was growing up, a typical businessman,” she says. “I’ve certainly asked Paul, ‘Can you just wear suits everyday?’”
Dating non-actors was “weird, too,” according to the star, because she realized actors just understand one another. “They really know what you’re going through and they know the hours. We’ve scheduled so many trips that we’ve had to cancel,” she says. “We can really support each other in that way.” That said, being with a fellow actor doesn’t come without its challenges. “I’m now not only invested in my own career and the ups and downs of it, the huge disappointments. I’m also going through his. It can feel up and down all the time,” she says. But the pair is learning to find balance. “Finding the space where you can just be happy with yourself and not base it entirely on, ‘Oh, did I get this part? Did I not? What did they say?’” At the end of the day, it was Scheer’s life goals that caused Raphael to fall in love. “I have to say, I think I could never be someone who’s not passionate about what they do.”
8. Casting Directors Don’t Care About What You Look Like, At Least Not In The Way You Think They Do
“I remember in my twenties being very focused. When I auditioned for something, I would spend hours figuring out what to wear and how to do my hair,” Raphael says. Then, her mindset shifted to focus less on “putting on lipgloss and mascara” and more on “figuring out who this character is and actually knowing lines.” Being on the other side of the casting table is what changed things for Raphael. “Sometimes it’s about looks, but a lot of times it’s really not and it doesn’t matter what shirt you’re in,” she says. “I started to realize [that] everybody wants you to do well. I think I’d come into it so scared and, ‘Oh, they hate me,’ and ‘They don’t want me!’” Believe it or not, casting directors want the people they watch audition to succeed. “Now I’m realizing they want this to be a good experience for them and for you, so give it to them.”
9. Even The Biggest Stars In Hollywood May Not Ever Feel A Sense Of Security
Big-time celebrities have the fancy mansions, cars, and getaways. But according to Raphael, they aren’t usually feeling truly secure or even satisfied. “Even the really big actors are losing out parts to other actors. We’re never quite settled,” she says. The Clooneys and Pitts especially. “Everybody’s worried and feel like they’re losing out to the next one. The really big movie stars are like, ‘Did my last movie work at the box office?,’ ‘Am I gonna get financing for this little Indie film I want to do?’ ‘Is anyone gonna watch it?’”
In fact, the bigger a star is, the more pressure. “I see more and more, once you put yourself out there, people are coming to this movie or not based on [your] name. There’s a whole other level of pressure.” The money is nice, but only to an extent. “Believe me, there’s a lot of financial freedom that comes with the Jennifer Anistons of the world, don’t get me wrong,” she says. “But at the same time, was I’m noticing there’s not the level of exhale that I would assume. That’s the life of an artist, you’re never quite happy with the work,” Raphael says. But she likes it that way. “That is a good thing. I don’t wanna be at a place where I’m like, ‘Oh good. I don’t have to worry anymore.’”
10. No Part Will Make Or Break Your Career
When asked if she would go back and change anything if she could, she says no — especially when it comes to parts she didn’t get or lost to another actor. She admits that when in her twenties, her hope would ride on the idea that certain opportunities would change her life. “What I’ve started to realize is, it doesn’t,” she says.
Images: Gravitas Pictures (2); Netflix