By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Judy Greer is pretty much everywhere you turn this summer. She has roles of varying sizes in “Tomorrowland,” “Jurassic World,” “Entourage” and “Ant-Man,” as well as the upcoming “Grandma,” with Lily Tomlin. If that weren’t enough, you can catch the ubiquitous actress on the small screen as the voice of Cheryl Tunt on FX’s animated series “Archer.” And, yes, that’s her in those quirky Sprint “Framily” commercials.
Her hilarious memoir “I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star,” just came out in paperback this spring following the publication of the hardbound edition last year. You can catch webisodes of her offbeat fitness/lifestyle program “Reluctantly Healthy” on Yahoo!
Oh, and she’s back at work shooting the second season of her other popular FX comedy “Married,” in which she and Nat Faxon play a couple navigating the trials and tribulations of wedded bliss. The second season premieres on FX Thursday, July 16 at 10:30 p.m.
How can one actress have all that and more going on? It begs the question: Has Judy Greer been cloned?
“That would be my manager’s dream come true,” she responds with a laugh, still in costume, taking a break for a few minutes while on location for “Married” in a nondescript warehouse near downtown Los Angeles.
On a visit to her set, she and some of her co-stars are shooting a new scene to be added to an episode that she completed principal shooting on three weeks earlier. It’s early May, so her wave of big summer movies is just getting started.
“I was asking my husband the other day, ‘When did I shoot “Ant-Man?”’ she recalls in her sing song way. “He said, ‘I don’t know. It was after ‘Jurassic World,’ but then you did the one in New York.” We couldn’t remember when that happened, but no, I’m not cloned. I had loads of jobs last year, and they’re all coming out this summer. It’s going to be a big summer.”
Greer, who turns 40 on July 20, doesn’t have time to sit back and revel in her success. She’s too busy planning her next moves.
Right after her interview, she’s has to get back to set where as working mom Lina, she is trying to fix up her friend Abby (Sarah Burns) with the widowed father of one of her students at school. The date isn’t going well, and Abby wants to bail out (along with AJ, played by Brett Gelman). The dialogue isn’t what you’d expect from your average network sitcom.
“They start saying things like, ‘He’s so boring. No wonder his wife killed herself.’ And I’m like, ‘She died of cancer,’” she reveals. “It’s so dark. And then Brett and Abby just leave. And I’m like, ‘Guys!’”
Playing a sexually ambivalent frazzled mother of three is a bit challenging for Greer, who is thus far child-free and has been happily wed to TV producer Dean E. Johnsen, for the past three years. She says she sort of models Lina after a close friend, although she actually is based on show creator/writer/producer Andrew Gurland’s wife, Michelle. Gurland co-wrote the 2010 horror flick “The Last Exorcism,” and his television projects have included the Fox pilot “The Gabriels” and the 2012 Showtime pilot “Gurland on Gurland.”
While she waits for her call to return to set, Greer is funny, self-deprecating and forthright.
Q: What can you share about Season 2?
Greer: The thing I was excited about as the scripts began to come in was the evolution of my character, Lina Bowman. She hasn’t gotten anywhere yet but she’s actively looking for her life’s work, after being a mother, of course. She thinks, “My kids are old enough now to deal with themselves so what do I do? What do I want? And what am I even good at?” It’s a comedy so it’s always funny, but it’s also like thoughtful. She wonders what happened to all the dreams she had as a kid, and how did she get sucked up into this mommy/wife vacuum. The things she thought she was going to do with her life, not only is it too late, it’s like she can’t do them anymore. She’s too old. So it’s been fun to discover that stuff with her. She hasn’t gotten anywhere yet but it’s a lot of those conversations. She’s trying to find the fun again in her life.
Q: She finally has a friend this season.
Greer: I’m glad she did. The addition of Sarah Burns’ character (Abby) has been so awesome. I haven’t yet read the last two episodes yet because they’re not finished, but I do know that Lina and Abby start to hang out a lot, and get into some trouble together, which is really fun. I sort of based this character on a girlfriend of mine. I know it’s actually based on (executive producer/writer/director) Andrew Gurland’s wife, Michelle, but just, for my mind, because I don’t know Michelle as well as I know my friend, Janet, and I think of my friend a lot when I’m playing this role. She works fulltime. She’s a creative director at an advertising agency, so she’s got that going for her, which Lina doesn’t. But she doesn’t spend a lot of time with girlfriends, and I don’t think it’s weird. I know she wishes she could spend more time with her girlfriends, but her priority, when she gets home from work, is to spend time with her kids. She has loads of friends; she just never hangs out with them.
Q: She has you.
Greer: Yes, I’m at her beck and call.
Q: You’re not only working with the young actors who play your kids but you’re also working with even more children this season?
Greer: When Andrew told me my character was now working as a teacher’s aide and a substitute teacher, I was thinking, “What? More strangers’ kids I have to hang out with all day?” Let’s say I’ve never really been around children. Personally, I don’t spend a lot of time with kids so when I have to spend a lot of time at work with kids, I’m sure I seem like a fish out of water. I hope it works for the character.
Q: Do you think Andrew did that to you on purpose?
Greer: I think so. He thinks it’s so funny when I’m standing in the (set) classroom, saying “Now, everyone, just be quiet.” Or I say, “Shut up!” And the kids say, “You can’t say that. It’s a bad word.” But it’s been fun to be in a classroom and know that my character doesn’t really want to be there.
Q: How have you managed to swing this series, “Archer,” and the other films you’ve got coming up in the pipeline?
Greer: “Archer’s” easy because I can do it anywhere and it’s not super time-consuming. The other stuff—I was asking my husband the other day, “When did I shoot “Ant-Man?” He said, “I don’t know. It was after ‘Jurassic World’ but then you did the one in New York.” We couldn’t remember when that happened, but I’m not cloned. I had loads of jobs last year, and they’re all coming out this summer. It’s going to be a big summer. I was told not to take a vacation but I’m going to do it anyway. After we wrap this, I’m taking my mom to Ireland because we both have big birthdays this year so we’re going to go see Ireland.
So, yeah, I was really busy last year. I don’t know how I managed that. My manager is an expert at scheduling. My agent said there was no way we could work all those dates out but my manager said, “No, we’ll figure it out, and he does.” So it was a really good year last year.
Q: What’s the secret ingredient that you and Nat Faxon have for playing this couple on the show?
Greer: I don’t know. Obviously, we have really great chemistry together. I met him a few years ago on a beach in Hawaii, but we didn’t stay in touch or become friends or hang out. That wasn’t on purpose. It’s just that we’re both so busy. We just get along well. We have a similar work ethic. We just work well together. I could say something dippy like maybe we knew each other in a past life but I don’t know if I really believe in that, though. We just figured it out, somehow. It was really effortless. We didn’t hang out before we started shooting Season 1. We didn’t spend any time together. We’re just kind of enough similar but enough different to make it fun. We’re respectful of each other.
Q: What challenges come up this season with the both of them working full time?
Greer: The house seems messier to me, definitely. I keep telling (the production team) I don’t the audience to think I’m a pig. They’re like, “You are a pig. You’re busy; you’re working. You have three kids.” Nat, who has three kids, says, “Yeah, this is exactly what it’s like. This is what our house looks like.” And I’m like, “Really? My friend Janet’s house doesn’t look that way, and she’s got two kids.”
We shot a really cool scene last week where we had an argument about whose job was worse. Lina’s more stressed out this season because she’s got more on her plate. We finally have some money. Last year, my friends would ask me (when both characters were unemployed), “How do you guys live?” So we have money and we’ve moved to a nicer house this season. So whatevs. (Financial expert) Suze Orman says it’s not always the best idea to buy anyway. I think Lina working outside the house this season is good for her, but it also awoke her to the question of what she’s doing with her life beyond raising her kids.
It’s been fun to watch the interactions and bargaining between Russ and Lina over responsibilities around the house. Now they can afford to go on vacation but they can’t take time off to do it. It’s like the Gift of the Magi.
Q: Russ is getting even less romance from Lina this season because both of your characters are so busy.
Greer: I don’t know. We shot a pretty graphic love scene last week. I’m still like “That’s weird with Nat.”
Q: Russ has a new woman in his life with Miranda (Kimiko Glenn from “Orange is the New Black”), his assistant. Is Lina going to be jealous of her?
Greer: No, that hasn’t come up yet. I’m not a jealous person and I don’t see Lina as being a jealous person. I can see her pretending to be jealous because Russ wants her to be jealous, but I can’t really see her being jealous. Especially where we started with the series when she told him, “I don’t really want to know about (affairs).” The fact that it hasn’t come up yet in a script is telling. My husband has had young assistants, and I’ve asked him, “Am I supposed to care that you’ve hired another cute young girl?” And he says, “Do you care?” I don’t care. So, okay. It’s nice. I’d want to look at someone pretty.
Q: Do you think your character should have an assistant?
Greer: Definitely. A pool boy. And I want to cast him.
Q: Have you gotten feedback from friends or fans about the show’s depiction of marriage?
Greer: I’ve gotten loads of feedback and almost unanimously, I’ve heard nothing but great things. Even comments like “it’s so depressing but so true.” Andrew Gurland’s humor is very dark but I don’t feel it’s as negative about marriage this season, but I didn’t mind (the negative depiction) in Season 1.
I’ve only been married for three years so, for me, I’m like into my marriage and I like being married. I think it’s great. I felt like what we were saying was accurate but it’s a comedy. But it’s not supposed to be taken verbatim. This season it lightens up in that regard.
People I know who are not married watch the show and people I know who are getting married watch the show, and they still enjoy it. So I don’t think we’re scaring people away from the altar or anything. Yet.
Q: You were in the reunion episodes of “Arrested Development.” Is there going to be another season soon?
Greer: I don’t know. If they are, count me in!
Q: What are your plans during the series’ hiatus?
Greer: Usually, Labor Day weekend my husband take a trip somewhere in America so I’m excited about that. I feel that that will be time I get to just stare at the wall or catch up on all the movies that I was in, maybe.
Q: Is the Ireland trip because of your family roots?
Greer: Yeah. I basically gave my mom carte blanche. I told the travel agent to give my mom whatever she wants.