We were Judy Greer’s last interview of the day for Jeff, Who Lives at Home, but she kept her energy up. She has the serious role in the comedy. As Ed Helms’ wife, their marriage is in crisis and they perform Duplass Brothers’ improvisation to work through their issues. She wants to buy a house and start a family and he wants to buy a Porsche. We also talked about Greer’s upcoming TV pilot, where she’ll be funny again.
Crave Online: Thanks for staying late to talk to us.
Judy Greer: Dude, of course.
I want a nice responsible girl like Linda. Where can I meet someone like her?
Baton Rouge it turns out. Good question, I don't know. I hear internet dating.
The cliché is he’s frustrated and complaining about this traditional home life and wants exciting Porsches. I think Linda’s awesome.
Oh, that’s nice of you to say. I think she’s pretty cool too. I think she’s a little lost herself but I like her. I like her positivity.
Is improvising dramatic scenes different or tougher than improv comedy?
It’s different but I don't know that it’s harder. You don’t immediately know. When you’re improvising it in comedy and people laugh, you’re like okay, that worked. When you’re improvising in a drama you don’t totally know if it’s working. I mean, there’s some part of your gut that knows when it’s working and when it’s not but as far as what the camera’s seeing, you don’t have that immediate input.
It seems like they have a pattern that’s been established for years. Did you and Ed discuss what those passive aggressive or destructive patterns would be?
No, it was really organic and kind of natural and came out of the moment. We didn’t really talk about our backstory or anything. It was just all kind of happening.
Is improvising more like living that drama than if you had a script you could act?
Yeah, because you have to sort of draw a little bit more on your own life, if you want to. For me, it’s sort of like going back in time and remembering arguments I’ve had with people, discussions I’ve had with people. We have the script and in times of uncertainty I could go back to the script always. Obviously in real life there’s no script but when I didn’t really know what to do, instead of making stuff up that didn’t feel organic to the moment, I would just go back to the script.
Linda is sympathetic, but is it a bummer to have the serious role in a comedy?
No, no, not really. I’ve had my fair share of funny roles so I don’t mind it. And I think for me it’s just nice to get to do something different at work.
Yeah, the opposite question is have you ever felt pressured to be the wacky sidekick and be depended upon to bring the comedy?
Well, yeah, definitely. But it’s always fun. There’s pressure there as well but yeah, it’s fun to get to be the one that makes everyone laugh.
Was it fun to pour ketchup on a Porsche?
It was fun for me. It wasn’t fun for the guys on the crew. Everyone seemed really irritated that I was doing it. I wanted to remind them, like, this is in the script. I’m not doing this because I want to, but it was kind of fun.
Did they have to clean it off and do multiple takes?
Yeah, we did it a couple times. They had to clean it a couple times. They didn’t like that but it wasn’t my fault.
When did you discover you could be the one who makes people laugh?
Well, I feel like when I was a young girl, it wasn’t like I was performing but I definitely enjoyed getting a laugh and I kind of knew how to be really super goofy and silly and to make people laugh. I’ve been told it’s sort of disarming and I like the idea of making people feel comfortable. When you can make them laugh, you can usually make them feel comfortable.
Does that help in a business like Hollywood?
Well, it’s helped give me a career in Hollywood. [Laughs]
But to disarm people behind the scenes and in meetings.
I don't know. I think so. It’s not my overall goal but as long as I feel more comfortable, I’m kind of more concerned in meetings and stuff with me feeling better. If I can be funny, sometimes that makes me feel better.
Do you get to be in the 10-episode “Arrested Development” season Mitch Hurwitz is planning?
I don't know. I’m waiting to find out.
I’m sorry for such a guy question, but when you did “say goodbye to these,” were you wearing something they pixilated out?
You didn’t go method and really flash Jeffrey Tambor?
No, I wore a nude sock on my cock. Oh, that was a different thing, sorry. It was a Bando. But it was nude colored.
Did you get to experience awards season with The Descendants?
Yeah, I did. It was really awesome and sort of overwhelming and very exciting.
Has this been a year of doing a little bit more dramatic work than usual?
Yeah, it has. I’ve been able to find some really cool roles that I feel like stretched me as an actress, as a performer and have been really satisfying artistically.
What is “American Judy?” Are you writing that for yourself?
No, I would never do that. It would be 900 pages long. I’m not a good editor. I have two awesome writers. They’re a team, Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan are writing it for me and it’s a half hour single camera pilot for ABC that’s based on my life.
What aspects of your life did you collect for comedy material?
Well, I kind of want to make a joke about being an undercover agent for the CIA, but it’s mostly just that I fell in love with a guy who lives way out in the suburbs and he has two kids and his ex-wife is a sheriff. So that’s what the show is about. I marry him and move out to the suburbs and am now a stepmom.
Do you still live out of L.A.?
We split our time between his house and my house. My house is in the city and his is very far away, in traffic.
You’ve been in a few really cute shows that didn’t get going. What did you learn about the business through those so you could get your own show going?
I think it’s a miracle that I got my own show going so you’ll have to ask, if there’s a God, him. I learned don’t buy an expensive car when you get a pilot. I try not to wear my heart on my sleeve when it comes to television because it’s anybody’s guess why some things stay on the air and some things don’t but I haven’t really mastered it yet. I still find myself getting very excited about the prospect of being on an awesome television show and then having my heart broken when it doesn’t get picked up or gets cancelled, but I’m learning to just keep going and not be bitter.
What’s coming up on “Archer?”
Gosh, that’s a good question. I’m seriously blanking. We got our fourth season pickup so we’re so happy about that. I’m probably the worst person, I have it DVRed and I just haven’t even had the chance to keep up with what episode is on the air.
How great a gig has that been?
It’s the best job. If it paid a little more I wouldn’t have to get other jobs but for now I have to have other ones. [Laughs]