Judy Greer On Her New Memoir, 'Arrested Development,' & the Year That Changed Her Career
Judy Greer is busy. Of course, for her, that's nothing new; there's the two or three movies she's in each year, the starring role on Archer , the random Arrested Development reunion, or Two and a Half Men cameo here or there. These past couple months, though, have been something else. Between filming Married , a new FX dramedy, and promoting I Don't Know What You Know Me From , her first memoir, Greer's daily schedule is practically a test of her endurance.
"It's a lot more than I'm used to," she said in an interview with Bustle. "It's a little overwhelming."
Any unease would be understandable for Greer, whose supporting turns in movies like 13 Going on 30 and 27 Dresses have made her a familiar, if not always identifiable, face to audiences, as well as provided the inspiration for the title of her memoir. She's used to playing the backup, the cameo, or most frequently, the best friend. Being in the spotlight is a new experience, but, despite any initial discomfort, it's one that Greer is happy — not to mention ready — to have.
"I've been really lucky, really happy, with the jobs I get," Greer said, but "I will say that I still am always open to things changing, to getting more."
And right now is the "more," thanks to Married, the memoir, Archer, and three films coming out this year including July's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes . The phrase "be careful what you wish for" comes to mind.
"I know, right?" Greer said, laughing. "Any time I get tired, I’m like, 'just remember, it might not be like this for much longer.'"
A quick look at at her upcoming work schedule leads one to disagree, though. Along with Apes, there's Jamie Marks is Dead (below), a Sundance-screened drama; Men, Women & Children, Jason Reitman's newest ensemble film; The Good Dinosaur, a Pixar comedy; Tomorrowland, a George Clooney-led mystery; and Jurassic World , the fourth installment in the blockbuster franchise. Notably, in none of those films does Greer play the wise-cracking, supportive, endearingly perky best friend. In some, she's even a lead.
"I remember thinking a couple years ago, I want to be in some real big budget movies because I haven’t been in a giant movie," Greer said. "And then all of a sudden, it was like boom, Planet, Tomorrowland, Jurassic, and I was like okay! Wow, that happened."
The transition from supporting characters to starring roles "wasn't super conscious," Greer said, but there was an effort on the actress' part to make some sort of transition in her career.
"I I did sort of have this desire to try to take some more dramatic roles," she said, adding that 2011, in which both The Descendants and Jeff, Who Lives at Home, two films featuring Greer in serious, memorable parts, were released, was a particularly formative year.
"Jeff Who Lives at Home, the Duplass brothers offered me that role, which was so incredibly flattering," she said, "and The Descendants, I auditioned for that. So it was so cool that at the same time I was really fighting to get them [serious parts], they were coming towards me... it felt like something I got and was working for."
While both films showcased strong performances by Greer, it was The Descendants that had the biggest effect on her career.
"The Descendants changed my career... within the way people within my business saw me," Greer said. "It sort of changed my category, a little bit."
Greer credits another role with changing up her image in a public way, albeit one as different from the lovelorn wife in The Descendants as you can get — Kitty Sanchez, the boob-flashing, foul-mouthed secretary on Arrested Development, which saw its fourth season premiere last May.
"It felt like no time had passed at all, yet it had been, like, 9 years. It was so weird how not weird it was," Greer said, adding that it was "insane how easily it came to me."
"Am I basically just Kitty Sanchez?" she said, laughing. "Maybe I'm just a lot like this character."
The polite, soft-spoken actress (although she does call herself "a fucking dick" once, upon forgetting the name of Hurt Locker director Kathryn Bigelow) isn't very reminiscent of Kitty, but that's probably a good thing. In actuality, Greer is much closer in personality to the "best friend" characters she's known for playing, as exemplified by the heartfelt, frank, and frequently hilarious passages in her book. There's the section in which she describes how truly awkward one's first Oscars is (thrown-out Spanx and accidental bra straps are involved), or the one that gives readers a play-by-play of the experience of peeing next to Jennifer Lopez; even when the the stories aren't relatable (how many of us worry about embarrassing ourselves in front of Meryl Streep?), they feel like they're coming from our best friend.
"I was really thrilled with the response I got from some of my own friends, actually, in my personal life," Greer said. "I was the most nervous about them — my friends are so cool and they’re so smart, and I just really wanted them to like it."
The response from her celebrity friends, as well, several of whom have contributed enthusiastic blurbs to the book, was likely equally positive. After appearing in over 50 films, Greer is on close terms with many of Hollywood's biggest stars, including George Clooney and Jennifer Garner, She was recently reunited with both of those actors for Tomorrowland and Men, Women, and Children, respectively. Although Greer and Clooney didn't have any scenes together ("I never got to see him once, which was like, a super drag"), she and Garner got happily reacquainted on the Reitman set.
"I love so very much Jennifer Garner," Greer said. "It's just fun to be friends with her... she's really special. She was a big influence on me when I shot 13 Going on 30 (below) with her — she taught me a lot about how to handle the stress of being on set all day, every single day, about how to treat people, about being gracious and appreciative and happy. Her attitude, I think about pretty much everything in her life, is really inspiring."
Greer also credits Shailene Woodley, her co-star in The Descendants ("she’s so young and like, in so many ways, so much older than me... she's just got a really strong moral compass"), and Sigourney Weaver, friends from The Village ("just the way she handles herself, just the way her priorities were... I feel really lucky to have worked with such an amazing woman"), as influences.
"I love having my girlfriends, and I love the relationships between women," Greer said. "I feel like they’re always really layered and complex, and I'm always excited to try to explore that in the movies."
Many of Greer's films have dealt with similar themes, whether in the form of friendship (13 Going on 30, The Wedding Planner), mentoring (Carrie), or daughterhood (Elizabethtown).
"Lately, female relationships are being looked at in a more deeper way," Greer said. "I feel like they’re not making a ton of straight down the middle romantic comedies anymore, which makes me a little sad, because I love them, but it also leaves a lot of area open for movies that are more female-driven, and females playing leads that aren’t just like, the damsel in distress."
Greer would "love to work with more female directors," especially Kathryn Bigelow ("oh my god, doing an action movie that she directed? I want that chance every single day"), and hopes to be part of more female-driven casts.
Simply put, "I like acting with girls ‘cause I like hanging out with girls."
Her latest project, Married (below) is less female-focused than many of her past projects, but it's one that Greer is extremely passionate about.
"I really hope it goes on for awhile, I just love it so much," she said.
Married, premiering in July, stars Greer and Nat Faxon (Oscar winner for The Descendants) as a couple fighting to save their marriage. Called a "frank and honest portrayal of a marriage," the series is set to be a showcase for both lead actors, as well as Greer's first non-Archer starring TV role since 2011's blink-and-you-missed-it Mad Love.
"It feels very voyeuristic," Greer said of the show. "We’re taking you into the living room of this couple... we're sort of pulling back the curtain."
Of all the post-Descendants roles Greer has taken on, Married might mark the biggest change in the actress' image. No longer is she just the supportive best friend, that woman you know from somewhere but just can't place; now, she's the star of her own TV show, one that has serious potential to last longer than Mad Love or her 2008 effort, ABC's sweet but forgettable Miss Guided. That doesn't mean the supporting roles are gone for good, however.
"There was a time when it was like, ‘oh I’m always supporting, I’m always playing supporting roles,'" Greer said, but eventually, "you know when you're dating someone, when you have love at first sight, or you just realize one day you're in love? I feel like that's kind of what happened... I've been really happy with that [the "BFF" roles] for awhile now."
Still, there's no question that no longer having to help well-meaning strangers identify your face every time you walk into a store has its perks, as does having Barnes & Noble carry a book with your face on the cover.
"Maybe now they'll be like, 'oh you’re the girl that wrote that book!'" she said, laughing. "That’d be awesome."
Or maybe they'll say "the girl from the movies," or "the girl from that TV show." Not for the first time, Judy Greer is everywhere; this time, though, there's a pretty good chance that people might just know who she is — or at least have an idea.
Image: Verisimilitude; Netflix; FX