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From the New York Times, this is The Interview. I'm Lulu Garcia-Navarro. At some point in almost every performance she gives, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has this look. If you've watched Seinfeld, The New adventures of Old Christine or Veeb, you definitely know it. It's that perfect mix of irritation and defiance. Like she's saying, Try me. That spikiness has always felt revelatory to me, especially three decades ago when Julia was first putting these kinds of women on our screens. In recent years, she's been moving in new, more introspective directions, but still pushing against conventional wisdom about women. That's especially true on her wonderful hit podcast, Wiser Than Me, where she interviews older female celebrities. She's also doing more movies, including two independent films with the writer and director, Nicole Holfeber, about the struggles of middle age. She's got a recurring role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her newest movie is called Tuesday. It's directed by Dina O. Pusich, and in it, she plays a mother whose teenage daughter has a terminal illness. It's a surreal dark fairy tale. One of the main characters is a CGI parrot who represents death. And as she told me, she was nervous about taking it on.


Clearly, even in her 60s, Julia is not done challenging herself and those of us watching her. Here's my conversation with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.


Hi, Lulu.


How are you? I'm great. How are you?


I'm good.


I have a lot of questions about the new movie, but it's a pretty heavy film. So I just want to warm up a little with some other questions before we get into that.




Am I right that you're in a new Marvel film at the moment? It must be a very different set to be on.


Yeah, it really is.


What's It's not like when you're actually on set? I mean, is it as manic as it might seem?


No, it's not manic at all. It's very well organized. It's very methodical, and I don't mean that in a negative way. Particularly on this film, they're very much focused on, frankly, the human story, believe it or not. I think they're trying to go back to their roots, as it were, for real. There's a lot of focus on that. They're trying to stay away from as much, I guess you call it, CGI or whatever as possible so that the stunts are everywhere. In fact, I had to do a couple, which I loved.


What stunts have you been doing? And what's that been like? Because you normally do movies with stunts.


Well, I've been in movies with stunts, but not in really once I've performed. And by the way, I'm making this out to sound like I'm flying through the air like Captain America or whatever, but I'm not. So it's just a very, very, very, very brief stunt. It's practically nothing.


So I don't want to- You're not doing a Tom Cruise, like flying over a Canyon?


No, I'm not on the motorcycle jumping off a cliff. But even the little bit that I did do took a few days of rehearsal. It's gobs of fun, in fact. The only thing I don't is being away from home. But other than that, it's really been a very happy experience. I'm not kidding. It's wild to witness it. For example, I'll just say one other quick thing. On set now, one of the two editors is on set and is doing a rough edit as we're shooting. The reason for this is so that it's a... I mean, if you have the budget to do that, you have to have a certain budget to be able to do that. But ultimately, I think it's a financial savings because then in the moment, on the day, it's like putting pieces of a puzzle together to get these things right. If you realize you need that angle of this hand coming in from that direction, you can get it on the day as opposed to trying to reshoot it or realizing in the edit room six weeks later. So it's a wild amount of detail and attention.


Do you have complicated feelings about what the superhero franchises have done to films in general? Because when you've chosen to do films lately, they've been smaller films, they've been more intimate films. And then you have these massive franchises that have taken over in so many ways. I'm just wondering how you look at that.


I look at it, gratfully. I mean, I don't... Look, there's no guarantee that just because a movie is in a franchise, it's going to work. There's a scores of examples of exactly that. And even in the Marvel universe, they've had some clunkers. I'm not sure that the size of a franchise is the problem with the entertainment business. I do believe that the corporations eating up corporations, eating up corporations may be more of the problem, but not the franchise itself, if that makes sense.


You mean the consolidation in the industry with less competition and therefore- Yeah, and lots of cooks and lots of people with opinions.


The idea of a new idea or an independent idea or an outside the box idea is harder to sell, to make, it seems.


Well, I guess that dovetails really nicely. Let's talk about Tuesday, your new film, because that is exactly the opposite. It is a small film. You play the mother of a terminally ill teenager, but this is also a fantasy film in that death is portrayed by a talking parrot. Why did you want to do this film?


Well, I read the script, and I was immediately intrigued by it because it was so unusual. The themes of the film captivated my imagination. That is to say, loss and grief and motherhood and denial and death and dying. All of that is interesting to me. I feel that this way of exploring these themes using magical realism to tell the story. I'm not going to lie, I was nervous about it because it's very strange. I met Diana a couple of times, and we talked a great length because I wanted to really get a sense of her, and could I give my heart to her and trust her? Because if this didn't work, if this really fell flat, if this bird that's in the movie who's played brilliantly by Irindsay, Kenya, if that doesn't work, we've got a real problem. I needed to talk to her very seriously about her intention and her vision. I I fell in love with her and the story and took this leap of faith, which it was.


Yeah. I mean, in preparation for this and after watching the film, we had a lot of discussions about the parrot and how to describe the parrot and what the parrot is. It's an unusual device in this movie. And not to get all college English seminar on you, but- Oh, God, I won't be able to answer. But when you were coming to this and you were having these discussions, what did you see its meaning to be in the film?


I saw, for me personally, and it doesn't mean this is for everyone because you can interpret this any way you like, but for me, he was my death doula. He was my guide for me, my character.


That's a really great analogy because in the film, he leads you through these various stages of dealing with the death of your daughter. I have to say, as a mother myself, it was pretty hard to watch.


Yeah. I mean, even talking about it as I can feel it, it's hard to even talk about.


Yeah. You said that you were interested in exploring these ideas. Can you tell me why?


Sure. Well, they're fundamental. It's funny how we're all going to die, and everyone we know is going to die. We're all going to die. And yet we do not waste any time really thinking about that. I probably shouldn't use the word waste, but we don't think about it a lot. Maybe it's a good thing, but it is amazing because We all have that in common, and it's not something you go through life considering a lot. I've lost people very close to me in my life, and those losses are hard to reconcile. Still are. I've given birth to two children, and I don't want to be misunderstood, but there's something about giving birth and the awesomeness of that. Then when my father died, and I was with him when he died, there is a similar thing, the waiting. I was struck how similar that was in certain ways to waiting for a baby to come. It has a mystery to it that is undeniable, as does the birth of a person. I also, I myself, had cancer now many years ago, but even so, the idea of that coming to knock on your door was like, Alarming, shall we say, which is the understatement of the century.


But- Did it give you a different relationship with your own mortality? I mean, you described it as something knocking on your door.


It did.


Not that I thought, I'm leaving, that I'm going to die from this then. I wouldn't allow myself to think it, but it was right here, chirping in my ear. I don't have an arrogant sense of my my immortality anymore. I don't, the way you do when you're 20. I don't feel like that anymore. I feel a little more present, and I feel a little more grateful.


Yeah, I know from other cancer survivors that it can fundamentally change your idea of how to live your life. Totally.


Oh, yeah.


In a good way.


Oh, yeah, absolutely. I have so much to celebrate, and I feel an enormous sense of gratitude.


In this film, you have this scene where you say to your daughter, I don't know who I am without you, what the world is without you in it. I have to say it's a devastating line because I think any parent just knows how unimaginable it is to experience the loss of a child. How did you, while you were making this film, experience that yourself? I mean, what were you tapping into?


Stuff I didn't want to tap into. I don't want to sound too actor-y.


Please sound actor-y.


No. I don't like that. But I was on location. We shot this in London, so I was not with my family. Those few days that we shot the pivotal scenes in the movie, I had to call home a lot. I really was a tad unhinged. It was a hard place to go in my mind. Even though it's pretend, and I recognize that, and I'm not in any way implying that it's not pretend. You do have to flirt emotionally with stuff in a very real way to give authenticity to a performance, and it was a hard thing to do. It was a hard thing to do, and it was a hard thing to recover from after. That's why I had to call him a lot. That was a hard time. Let's just put it that way. It was hard.


Can I shift out of the movie just for a moment because it is painful, I think.


Wait, before you do, can I ask you a quick question? Of course. I love your name. Is your real name Lulu, or is that a nickname?


My real name is Lourdes because I'm Hispanic, Lourdes. But I've always been Lulu since I was born. It's a very common nickname. I'm Cuban, and so I've always been Lulu, and so that's who I am.


Well, lucky you, Lulu. I love it.


Thank you. One of the messages, of course, in the film is not only that death is necessary, but that it can be beautiful, that it actually isn't something necessarily to be afraid of. And I recently heard an episode of your podcast, Wiser Than Me, where you interviewed Patti Smith, and you talked about the different ways that you've processed the death of people in your own life. Have the conversations you've been having on your podcast helped you process the many ways, the surprising ways in which people just deal with the hard things in their life?


Yeah, it's really one of the many impetuses to making this pot. What is the plural of impetus? But whatever. Impetie. Impetie. It's one of the impetie.


That sounds wrong.


Let's use it. To having these conversations on the podcast because all of these women that I'm talking to have really lived very full long lives. And that, of course, means they've experienced loss. And I'm really interested to talk to them about how they move beyond it or with it or into it or what they're... I mean, I'm just loving to have those conversations. I want to hear from these women who have experienced an enormous amount of life.


Yeah. I mean, I find what's comforting about them, and sometimes a little depressing, is that how many of the same themes, sexism, prejudice, self-doubt, they have experienced themselves. I'm wondering, what is your takeaway from hearing these women having gone through so many of the things that we're still going through now?


There's a sense with most of them, not everybody, but there's a sense of, okay, I'm done with that bullshit. I don't know if we can swear on your podcast. You can swear. But anyway, I'm done with that. I'm done with self-doubt. I'm done with shame. I'm done with feeling weird about being ambitious. The list is long. We all know what it is. I think for me, the takeaway is, oh, we can be done with that sooner than we thought. We don't have to take 60, 70 fucking years to come to that conclusion.


What have you applied? What are you done with?


Well, I'm working on being done with self-doubt. I'm working on being done with shame. I'm working really hard on finding joy. Finding joy.


I like the way you paused and really thought about your wording because you said, I'm done with, and then you said, I'm working on being done with.


Well, I haven't accomplished all of this yet. I mean, I'm still a Old habits die hard. I have a stronger sense of strength now than I did when I was 30 or 25. But I feel like there's still room to grow.


I want to just note one more thing about your podcast, which is that your mom appears on the podcast. You've talked about going to therapy with her when you were 60 and she was 87. Okay, talk me through why she agreed to this, because I've laid my differences with my mom, who's 85, aside. I figured she's that age and she isn't going to change. But maybe I'm thinking about this wrong.


I went to therapy with my mother because she said something to me. It might have been my dad's birthday, my dad who had passed, and she was remembering that it was his birthday. She said something about, I'm sure you're thinking about your dad, and I know there was stuff there that I wish we'd been able to deal with or talk about when you were younger, because my parents were divorced. I wish we had a chance to do that. I said, Oh, well, Mom, what's keeping us? Why don't we do it? And so off we went, and we did it. It was very, very helpful. It's not like everything becomes It's perfect, but that's not possible under any circumstances. But it was an opportunity to communicate in maybe a more honest way and in a safe way that was helpful to both of us, and I have no regrets about it. If you're thinking about it with your mom, and if you think your mother would be into it, I encourage you to do it because you might not have the opportunity community in 10 years, and you might think, Oh, if only.


Did it heal things, unresolved things? Did you see her differently after that?




I know I'm asking you a lot of personal questions.


I assume you're going to charge me after this.


I am. But it's because you've been very open on your podcast.


I know. A huge mistake.


Do you feel that?


Well, I know it's weird because I don't know. I've never done anything like this. I think it surprises me a little bit. I'm incredibly private, point of fact. I mean, I really am. So it is a strange thing. But I also don't think that I've... I don't have any regrets about what I've shared on the podcast, but it is new territory for me. But I don't know. It's also good. I think it engenders a way of thinking about communication that might be good.


All right, let's get out of the heavy stuff. I want to ask you about being funny. You've had these 10-pull roles, Seinfeld, The New adventures of Old Christine Veep. Would you do another long-running TV series? Are you open to that now?


Yes, I am.


What is it about that episodic thing where you really develop a character over years that you like?


God, it's so much fun. If you get the right group of people together, It's like holy water. It's so magnificent. It's like a team sport. It's team play, and it just doesn't get better than that. It's a treadmill, though, I will say. I mean, it is absolutely a treadmill, and it's an enormous amount of work to keep doing that and keep up what is hopefully a level of excellence over a long period of time. There are built-in challenges. Maybe a limited series might be a little more doable right now because to get locked in to an eight-year run on something might be a little daunting. But people aren't doing that anymore anyway. Everything is much shorter lived, it films, entertainment-wise.


Thinking about Seinfeld and just how things are made now, could Seinfeld be made now?


Probably not. I mean, what the hell is happening in network television anymore? I mean, you When Seinfeld was made, it was really unlike anything that was on at the time. It was a very different style of comedy and style of storytelling and a different premise. It was just a bunch of losers hanging out. I mean, it wasn't like a family or even a workplace comedy. I'm not suggesting the other is bad. I'm just saying it was very different. I would say one main reason it wouldn't be made now is because it's hard to get anything different different, recognized, and particularly nowadays. Everyone's running scared, it seems. Although I will say, actually, I say this, and then I will also say that at A24, where this movie was made, They are not scared of different.


Are you worried about where Hollywood's at right now?


A little bit. I am a little bit. I hope... I mean, people need to be entertained. People like to be entertained. So it's not like I feel it's not going to disappear here, but it's going through a transition. I don't know how it's going to end up.


So one of the things that I was thinking, though, when I was looking at your characters on these long-running series, Selena Meyer on V, Belaine on Seinfeld, even Zora, the character on Tuesday, they're often not very likable people. Is it fun to play people that act in unsympathetic ways?


Yeah, it is. I love that. Why? Because it's so interesting. I don't know. I like an anti-hero. Also, we said that with people, nothing is pure. Nobody's pure. Everyone makes horrible mistakes. Takes and fails. I think that's more interesting. I think conflict is more interesting, and I think it's funnier.


When you say it's funnier, obviously, conflict is a great source of comedy. But I guess what I'm asking you is that, is there an unlikable part of you that you bring? And I'm just wondering if...


I can't believe I just asked you that. Yeah. Wouldn't it be funny if as you said that, like horns came up out of my head and my tongue rolled out and It was like a spiked tongue. Yes, I am unlikable.


Not that you're unlikable. I think you're lovely. What I'm saying is, for example, I think that, and I am quite proud of this, I'm a pretty prickly person. I guess that's what I'm asking. Is it because maybe you think you're too nice in real life that you're drawn to these characters, or maybe that's part of you, too, that you're a maybe difficult person and you are drawn to them because that exemplifies something about yourself?


Well, I don't think I'm a difficult person. I wonder what other people would say. I am an opinionated person, and I have strong opinions and strong instincts. I think you're awful, Lulu.


Thank you, Julia.


You're a prickly bitch, is what you are. No, but anyway, I really do. I am not like these people I play, but I am interested, I guess, in some aspect of myself that, for example, with Selena Meyer. She She was essentially two years old and thought that the world revolved around her, and any mistakes she made was simply not her own. It was somebody else's. That's a fun ego thing to tap into, to not consider anyone else around you other than yourself. What does that mean? What does that mean when somebody does that? It means, obviously, they haven't been well-nurtured. That goes without saying. But it's also an incredible incredibly funny place to start with a character.


Talking about Veep, it does make me wonder about how hard it is nowadays to be funny about politics. You are very political. You even hosted the DNC in 2020. One of the things that people say that they like about Trump is that he's funny, and maybe they mean that he's entertaining in a shocking and irreverent way. I'm looking at your face. You clearly don't think that he's funny. No. But one thing that people do say on the other side about the Democratic Party is that it's become too puritanical. Your former co-star, Jerry Seinfill, recently made news for talking about political correctness in comedy. I'm just wondering, as a famous comedian yourself, what you think about that.


I think that if you look back on comedy and drama, both, let's say, 30 years ago, through the lens of today, you might find bits and pieces that don't age well. I think to have antenna about sensitivities is not a bad thing. It doesn't mean that all comedy goes out the window as a result. When I hear people starting to complain about political correctness, and I understand why people might push back on it, but to me, that's a red flag because sometimes it means something else. I believe being aware of certain sensitivities is not a bad thing. I don't know how else to say it.


Are there things that no longer feel funny to you that once did or things that are funny now that you didn't notice before?


That's a good question. We're going to have to revisit that question because I don't know. I don't know quite how to answer it.


Well, we are going to speak again.


In our next session, doctor, we'll discuss it then because I'm not sure. I have to think about that. I want to be thoughtful about it.


After the break, I call Julia back to get her answer to that last question, and we also talk about taking big swings in comedy.


There's enormous risks. Look, you're going to fail. You're going to fail. In order to be very funny, you have to take huge risks. Sometimes those risks really pay off, and sometimes they truly do not.


My name is Sam Anderson. I'm a I'm a staff writer for the New York Times magazine. Over the years, I've interviewed actors, artists, athletes. Recently, I've been spending time with animal people. Wait, what happens if I put my fingers in that bottom page? He will probably buy you. Scientists, ferret breeders, a heavy metal band that rescues baby puffins. He got one. Everyone has a story.


When I was a kid, I had bats in the family bathroom.


She didn't hear my mom backing into the driveway, and she got pushed by my Jessica, the rat, used to eat ice cream out of my mouth.


Because thinking about animals seems to open up a little door. This is the baby. An escape hatch out of the human world. We got a little spirit. Is that your blood or it's blood?


I think it's I'm coming really close to my head.


From the New York Times, this is Animal. Listen to it wherever you get podcasts. Look at them.


Hi, this is Lulu. Well, hello, Lulu. Where are you? What are you doing?


I'm in Georgia right now. I'm shooting the Marvel movie here.


We talked about the Marvel movie, so you're actually down there doing your thing.


I am indeed, yeah.


I was wondering if you'd been thinking about anything from our previous conversation.


Yeah, I wanted to make sure that I answered this whole idea of political correctness I can't really remember what I just said. I wanted to go back to that and be very clear about where I stand. My feeling about all of it is that political correctness, in so far as it equates to tolerance, is obviously fantastic. Of course, I reserve the right to boo anyone who says anything that offends me while also respecting their right to free speech. But The bigger problem, and I think the true threat to art and the creation of art, is the consolidation of money and power. All this siloing of studios and outlets and streamers and distributors. I don't think it's good for the creative voice. That's what I want to say in terms of the threat to art.


I was also thinking more about what you said and having brought up Seinfeld in his comments about comedy. My intention wasn't to put you on the spot, but more to understand how you think about risk-taking in comedy.


There's enormous risk. Look, you're going to fail. In order to be Very funny. You have to take huge risks. Sometimes those risks really pay off, and sometimes they truly do not. You have failed miserably. But that's the joy and the tragedy of doing anything funny.


You said, though, that last time it wasn't a bad thing to have sensitivity in comedy. Do you think it makes comedy better that people are now more attuned to how some of their comments might be received?


I don't know. I can't judge that if it's better or not. I just know that the lens through which we create art today, and I'm not going to just specify it to comedy. I think it's also drama. It's a different lens. It really is. I think even a classically wonderful, indisputably great films from the past are riddled with attitudes that today would not be acceptable. I think it's just good to be vigilant. Even I was thinking about this I thought, Well, pretend this show, your show, The Interview, was being made 40 years ago. I would posit that diversity would not be something you would be considering in terms of the guests that you would bring to the show. Okay, so that's interesting, isn't it? I mean, things have shifted. In that case, I would say things have shifted very much for the good. Also, actually, Lulu, probably you wouldn't be the host.


I think, Julia, you're probably right.


I think we have to keep working to make it better, words and all.


What I was thinking about our previous conversation was a moment where I asked you about unlikability, and I was thinking that I used the wrong word. Okay. What I was trying to get at was how I've always admired and this is the word that I would use now, the sharp edges that you bring to your characters. Does that description ring a little bit more true to you?


Yeah. I don't play good girls. I don't play girls that behave a way that a good girl should behave. Or if they do, they do it with bitterness and anxiety. I've played a lot of characters who push back on the position that they're in, that are not content with their place in the world. I would say that that's... I mean, women are having the right to take it away. Women are not content. I play women like that.


Do you think you're still trying to prove yourself?


Always, yeah.




Oh, yeah.


Tuesday in this movie coming out, I'm certain nobody would have considered me for that role 20 years ago or something. That's probably because they just thought of me only as a ha-ha funny person.


We left our last call on a question you wanted to think some more about. Have you had any thoughts about how your sense of humor has changed or not over the years?


Sorry, I forgot to think about it. I didn't do my homework. Oh, my God, Lulu. I'm so sorry, please. Please, please. Let me pass, please. I don't know. I think my working sense of humor, that is to say what I bring to my performance, I think that that's probably gotten better. I've been in the presence of so many people from whom through osmosis and watching them work, I have learned things about physical comedy, about the nuance of comedy, about the smallness of comedy. But there's always room to learn more. For me, that is an incredibly joyful adventure. That's my last minute procrastinating cliff-noty answer.


That's Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Tuesday will be in theaters nationwide starting June 14th. This conversation was produced by Seth Kelly. It was edited by Annabelle Bacon, mixing by Affim Shapiro. Original music by Dan Powell, Diane Wong, Elisabeth Etoupe, and Marian Lozano. Photography by Philip Montgomery. Our senior Booker is Priya Matthew, and our producer is Wyatt Orm. Our executive producer is Allison Benedict. Special thanks to Rory Walsh, Ronan Borelli, Maddie Macielo, Jake Silverstein, Paula Schumann, and Sam Dolnik. If you like what you're hearing, follow or subscribe to The Interview wherever you get your podcasts. To read or listen to any of our conversations, you can always go to nytimes. Com/theinterview. Next week, David Markezi talks with Serena Williams about life after tennis.


That had been my life for over 40 years.


And so it was like, you don't go from literally a 40-year career to just going, Okay, what do you do today?




I'm Lulu Garcia Navarro, and this is The Interview interview from the New York Times.