So, Judy Greer, just how does it go when a passerby recognizes you as the go-to, always-standout-but-not-quite-household-name character actress that you are?
“It's changed over the years,” Greer tells PopcornBiz. “It goes now from like, 'Aren't you that girl from that thing?' I say, 'Probably.' Then they say, 'What thing?' Then I say, 'I don't know what you would've seen me in.' That's kind of how it begins.”
All that may change once audiences see Greer – who has scores of film and TV roles to her credit, probably most visibly as Kitty Sanchez on “Arrested Development” – in director Alexander Payne’s film “The Descendants,” in which her character is drawn into George Clooney’s search for the truth about his comatose wife’s secret life: the actress is earning raves for her seriocomic performance. “It’s sort of small on the page, but ‘meaty’ is a good word for it,” she says of her part. “I often plays roles that are medium to small and they're not even this close to well-written, so this is dreamy!”
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Working with a filmmaker as accomplished as Payne and a co-star as renowned as Clooney altered her perspective while making the film, says Greer. “Sometimes you think that if you're not really good in a scene you can say, 'Well, it wasn't my fault , it was the director's fault…' or 'It was the other actor's fault…' I was not going to have that scapegoat this time – I knew that it was all on me. I was very nervous working with Alexander because I wanted him to like me so much. I wanted him to think that I was a great actress.”
She also never plans on back-burnering her considerable comedic gifts. “If you just look at my resume, obviously that’s my main sort of thing that I do,” she affirms. “I'd never ever stop wanting to be funny. It's really fun to be funny. The night after work is much more fun when you've been making people laugh all day than if you've been sitting in the corner with your iPod on crying. What I like to do is make people laugh. And it's fun to find in a movie like this – which Alexander has described as a comedy – to find the real moment, find the real comedy and not the slapstick comedy.”
On a more overtly silly track, Greer will continue to pop into “Two and a Half Men” in a recurring role as the ex-wife of Ashton Kutcher’s billionaire Walden Schmidt. “I'm a part of something, kind of a part of for now anyway, that’s television history,” she says. “It's been a cool thing to be around and to see that side of television and to be a part of it. I've enjoyed Ashton quite a bit. I was thrilled to do it. When I get job opportunities like that I just think, 'Why would I NOT take it?' I couldn't think of any good reason. [Executive producer] Chuck Lorre has always just been so supportive and lovely to me. He's put me on the show twice as a two different people. They never do that! Ashton has been great. He cast me to star in the show he was producing on television a few years ago. It was just such a no-brainer and it's been really fun to be around it. And it's been fun to feel the energy and the sort of massive sigh of relief from the crew that they're back to work, that everyone has their job again.”
And she’ll be back on the upcoming season of “Californication” for another one-episode stint as Trixie, the hooker-confessor for Hank Moody (David Duchovny). “I love my little one cute episode a season,” she says. “It's super fun. I love that character so much. It was funny, I'd just done a movie with David Duchovny when he got picked and they were going to start shooting. He said, 'I want you to do the show.' I said, 'That's cool, but I heard about your show. I'm going to tell you right now, I'm not taking my clothes off and I'm not having sex with you. So find a character that I can play that doesn't do those things.' So then they made me a hooker. I was like, 'How amazing is it that of all the guest starring characters on the show it's the hooker who doesn't nude up and have crazy sex?'”