“You can spot someone from a mile away who has funny bones and Judy has them,” Jason Segel told us recently about Judy Greer, his Jeff, Who Lives at Home co-star. “I’ve always been a huge fan of hers. I have a comedy crush on her. And you can print that.”
Segel isn’t the only one in Hollywood crushing on Greer lately. After an extensive list of supporting roles in film and television as the witty/snarky best friend (13 Going on 30, 27 Dresses, Love Happens), Greer has elevated her career to the next level with back-to-back major roles in Jeff, Who Lives at Home and The Descendants (for which she received both SAG and Critics Choice nominations for Best Cast). In The Descendants, Greer played a betrayed wife and in her most recent film she’s the long-suffering wife of a self-centered Ed Helms. Yet Greer infuses both dramatic roles with her customary light touch, which is why so many respected directors—Alexander Payne, Cameron Crowe, Spike Jonze, David O. Russell—want to work with her.
Greer’s personal life has also been going gangbusters: she married Dean Johnsen, a Real Time With Bill Maher producer, in December. We chatted with the light-hearted, whip-smart Greer recently about dating, red carpet fashion and her partners in crime:
ELLE: The Duplass brothers have a unique filmmaking style. What was it like working with them on Jeff, Who Lives at Home?
Judy Greer: They’re so awesome and very caring. They were raised well. You know how you remember your mom saying, ‘That boy must have good parents.’ That’s how I felt the first time I met them. They’re so polite, such good listeners, very compassionate with their actors and crew. I just got the overall sense that we were all in this together. They love to have us improvise and it just felt so collaborative, like such a safe environment to make a lot of mistakes if you needed to.
ELLE: Did you draw on your own long-term relationships to portray Linda?
JG: Absolutely. I kind of draw on everything, even for comed. I really felt like I was looking at my past relationships and hopes and desires. Sometimes those can break your heart, you know? Thinking about my friends’ relationships, or even movies that I loved that moved me. I kind of steal emotions from anything I can get my hands on and then at the end of the day, I always end up in the corner with my iPod. I feel like my iPod has made me a better actress because I can always find something in music, whether I need to immediately feel happier or sadder, melancholy or angry. I certainly have looked at past relationships and they haven’t all been terrible, but there are moments. Moments where I’ve done such stupid things and I’m like, how could I have been so dumb, or the other person has done dumb things. You know how it goes.
ELLE: Last time I spoke to you, you said you were ‘kind of taken’ with Alexander Payne http://fashion.elle.com/culture/2011/11/15/george-clooney-on-hawaiian-shirts-batman/. A month later you got married!
JG: I know. I met my husband right before I went away to do The Descendants. I was like, Alexander who? [laughing] Just kidding!
ELLE: You met your husband on a blind date.
JG: A mutual friend introduced us. My husband produces a television show and one of the writers on the show that he’s friendly with is a friend of mine.
ELLE: Was this your first blind date ever?
JG: My parents met on a blind date so I’ve always been open to it because they’re married still and happy and in love. In college I went on some blind dates that were terrible, terrible, terrible! I didn’t have high expectations for this one but I was single and it’s kind of hard, obviously, to meet people. I can’t really go on Facebook or a dating website. I so had to be set up!
ELLE: Many actresses say that it’s difficult for them to date.
JG: I know, it’s weird and it’s hard. Also, too, sometimes you meet someone who’s a civilian and you can’t even hang out with them because your schedule is so crazy.
ELLE: Are ‘civilians’ intimidated by your fame?
JG: Yeah, I could talk about that for hours! That’s sometimes true and sometimes not and I also think there’s a power struggle sometimes. Some people have a hard time being with people who are more successful than them. There’s lot of different reasons why it can and can’t work. But I think the overall problem is (a) it’s hard to meet people, for anyone, and (b) when you’re an actress, you’re traveling and working all the time. It’s hard to cultivate a new relationship. For whatever reason, the stars really aligned when I met my husband and I was in town for awhile. I actually had time to go on dates with him.
ELLE: What do you remember most from that first date?
JG: He’s tall, by the way. I’m 5’8” and he’s 6’2” and I thought, I can wear heels with this one! I was so happy about that. My overall impression was that I really wanted to go on a second date. I wouldn’t say that it was love at first sight but it is now. It was so easy; he was so easy to hang out with.
ELLE: Speaking of wearing heels, what was award season experience like for you?
JG: First I have to thank Shai [Shailene] Woodley, because without her I don’t know what I would have done. She was always a highlight of every event. Hanging out with her, we had such a good time together and she was my partner in crime. Some of those events you don’t get to bring a date to, so you better hope you like the people in your cast.
ELLE: She is so poised for her age.
JG: I know, she’s not like a real human. She’s 20 and I totally look up to her and admire her. But that was really helpful, having a pal to hang out with who I genuinely enjoyed seeing. And then it was just an interesting learning experience. I was simultaneously like, ‘Ugh, I have to go to another party’ and reminding myself that ‘this is awesome; you get to go to another a party!’ I would always feel both ways. And when you’re a girl, you’d look at the boys in the movie and be so jealous because when you’re a girl, you have to do the outfit and the hair and the makeup and everything. That all makes a difference.
ELLE: You wore Balenciaga to the premiere of Jeff, Who Lives at Home. Are there other designers you find yourself gravitating towards?
JG: I’m kind of still figuring that out. I don’t have a movie star body; I have a normal girl body. If I was still living in Chicago, I would definitely be 15 pounds heavier! I have curves, hips and a [butt] so a lot of times sample clothes don’t fit me right and I have to have things altered. I’m still finding which designers work best on my body type.
ELLE: Toucing on TV for a moment, it’s hilarious that on Two and a Half Men, you first were Charlie Sheen’s love interest and now you’re Ashton Kutcher’s ex-wife.
JG: I have no complaints! For me, it was pretty easy and fun. I thought it was really cool; I felt flattered that Chuck Lorre gave me the opportunity to come back and play a whole different role, that he liked me enough that he didn’t even care. I was like, ‘does it bother you that I was already on the show?’ He said, ‘nah, I don’t care.’ I was in the second episode after Ashton started and the feeling on set was really positive and exciting. It felt like everybody was just so happy to be back to work.
ELLE: In film, you are working with one A-list director after another.
JG: I love Jeff so much; it’s so dear to my heart. I’m pinching myself a lot these days.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home opens Friday.