Judy Greer Says Hello to 'Wilson,' Refuses to Say Goodbye to 'Archer'
Film and television actress, motion capture performer, voice actress -- it certainly seems like Judy Greer's doing it all. But she'll have you know: she wants more.
After a long windup primarily as that actress stealing scenes on some of your favorite big- and small-screen comedies, including "Arrested Development," "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and "Californication," Greer's career blew up even bigger with her dramatic turn in "The Descendants," followed by a string of blockbuster turns in films including "Jurassic World," "Tomorrowland," "Ant-Man," and "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" (she reprises her mo-cap role as chimp Cornelia in this summer's "War for the Planet of the Apes").
And, of course, for the past seven seasons she's been the voice of kink-minded heiress/receptionist Cheryl Tunt on FX's animated spy comedy "Archer," which recently revealed it would end after three more eight-episode seasons.
Adding to her always-packed schedule was "Wilson," a film adaptation of the acclaimed graphic novel by award-winning writer and illustrator Daniel Clowes ("Ghost World," "Art School Confidential"), who also penned the screenplay, in which she plays a sweet-natured pet-sitter who becomes drawn into the world of a misanthropic, socially maladjusted man who becomes obsessed with his own legacy after the death of his father and the discovery of his long unknown daughter.
Greer joined Moviefone for a chat about her continually wide-ranging career -- and to concede that she's still not yet ready to face the news of "Archer's" impending finale.
Moviefone: I was a fan of the graphic novel, and was really pleased to see how you all captured so much of it with the film, but also broadened it out -- and you're a big part of that: you brought that character to life in a way that she wasn't on the page. Tell me a little bit about looking at that source material, then seeing the script, and kind of figuring out how you were going to bring her alive.
Judy Greer: I like to build my characters kind of from the outside in. I like to know what I'm wearing, and what I look like, and where I am. I would have to say that, besides the work I did on the script that I do, I'm really influenced by like, in this movie specifically, being in Minneapolis, and by how she dressed, and what her house looked like, and the people she was around.
I found, like, a softness. I feel like Shelly's a really grounding force in Wilson's life, but I think Shelly herself is a very airy person. She's very easygoing, and I think she's very good for Wilson, because she just sort of allows Wilson to be Wilson. She doesn't really ... not take any sh*t from him, but she doesn't allow him to drive her crazy, which is why I think he does really well with her, and I think he kind of grows up a little bit with her too.
I think Wilson and Pippi are like just the best couple ever. I think they are true lovers, but I don't know that I think they should be together, which is what I find heartbreaking and beautiful about the movie, and that they'll just have to kind of love each other forever, but separately.
I like how, in the graphic novel, it's sort of like when Shelley gets involved with Wilson we're feeling, "Oh please, no, no, no ..." But in this, she brings a sort of redemptive quality to who he could be going forward. I thought that must have been fun to figure out how to play with Woody, given Wilson's toxic qualities.
Yeah. It was fun, because in some ways, I feel like Woody and Shelly are very similar, and Wilson and Woody are very, very different. I don't know. I would be curious to hear what Woody would say about that. Wilson has a freedom with her that I think he doesn't really have with anyone else.
What's funny is, everything sort of happens exactly how it should, I think, in filmmaking. Laura Dern's last day of work was the day before my first day of work. Woody said he was so sad to see Laura go. He loved working with her so much, and it was just like hard for him that she was finishing. Then he said then I showed up, and then we started having a lot of fun together.
And it was a really sweet thing to say, because I think that kind of happens in the movie, too. He can't stand to see Pippi go, but then there's like, here's this other nice person that can maybe be helpful to me. So it was very serendipitous of a shooting schedule.
There was a period where we'd see you in so many different kinds of movies, and then "The Descendants" felt like a really big moment that kind of helped you, maybe, have even more choices. How are you feeling about your ability to choose what you want to do, the roles that come your way, and just your overall career path and vision right now?
I always want more. I think, in general, I have high expectations. "The Descendants" kind of was a game-changer for me in the way that mostly the people who give me jobs see me. I think I was seen as a comedic actress, and then even though I had done dramatic roles in the past, that one was just different. It was on a whole other level -- the film, not my performance -- but just like the scope of the movie, and Alexander Payne, and George [Clooney], and Shay [Woodley]. So it was just different, and it really afforded me a lot of opportunities.
It was life-changing. It was really great. It was, for me, my dream to work with Alexander Payne. I didn't even know what I needed to do after that. I was like, "Well that's it. I've done what I wanted to do. So everything else now is total gravy." But I've been really happy with the roles and the auditions that have come my way. I feel like I do have some opportunity to pick and choose a little bit.
I always see things, I watch things, and I'm like, "Oh, I'd love to do something like that," or "I'd love to do something like this." So I don't know; I'm never totally ready to say, "Yeah, this is it, this is what I wanted," because I think that would be weird, too, if you're an artist, to like limit yourself in that way. I'm intrigued with what's next. I'm curious about what else is out there and how can I stretch myself? How can I find people to inspire me, and how do I make it so I can work with them?
Now that there's so much television, there's so many more opportunities all the time, but in a way that there wasn't before, when you just had your networks and your cable shows. So I don't know. I feel very hopeful about the future, but no, I'm not ready to say like, 'This is great, and I'm happy." Who would ever say that? I wish I could say that, by the way! I'm always lamenting to my husband, where I'm like, "I wish I didn't want more. Why can't I just be satisfied? Why?"
You do have a couple of choice franchise films to your credit, and presumably, we'll see you in another "Ant-Man" movie, and definitely in another "Apes" movie. Tell me what got you excited about playing in both of those worlds, the Marvel world, and the "Planet of the Apes" world, and keeping in them hopefully going forward.
I wanted to see what it was like on the other side, and do like a big giant franchise movie. I remember having a conversation with my agent about it. Like, "I kind of want to try and be in like big movies. Can we try that?" Then it was, like, insane, and then I got "Jurassic World," and "Ant-Man," and "Planet of the Apes, and I was like, "Whoa, OK, cool."
I wanted to be in a Marvel movie because it's a whole thing. To be honest, I really wanted to work with Peyton Reed and Paul Rudd and Bobby Cannavale. I just really wanted to work with them. "The Break-Up" is one of my favorite movies. Paul Rudd is a genius. Bobby is a genius. It could have been "Ant-Man," or it could have been anything else, I would have wanted to be in that movie. The best is that it's a big old Marvel movie, and I was really happy to see Paul Rudd playing a superhero, because he is a superhero.
Then with "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes," that is like a movie that my husband was obsessed with me being in. I was too. I've been a huge fan of the franchise. He's just the most giant fan of the franchise, and it was just something that I thought, doing motion capture work would be a whole different acting experience. I'm always trying to stretch myself and better myself. It was totally different, and having scenes with Andy Serkis. Andy Serkis and Woody Harrelson, two of the greatest actors out there -- I got to work with both of them!
It was just a huge couple years for me. Yeah, those were kind of the reasons I wanted to do them. I don't want to, like, naysay the big franchise movies, but I find myself more attracted to the people I'm working with, than the scope of the project, if you will.
Through it all, you've been right there with your team over at "Archer." And now we know that there is probably an endpoint ahead. Obviously, you all love working on the show. Tell me your feelings when you learned, OK, there is going to be a definitive full stop at some point soon.
We're in denial. I don't think there will be. We're still trying to find ways to figure out how to make Adam [Reed] write more. I don't know -- it's too upsetting to really think about, so we don't. I don't. I don't like it.
All good things must come to an end, and Adam writes every episode. He must be exhausted from it. It's just such a good thing on so many levels, and it's made me so happy. I think it's such a great show, and it's so smart -- so consistently smart and funny that I shudder thinking that it's going to be over.
Maybe we can get some "Archer" movies out of Adam.
I swear, I hope so. I really hope so.
Lastly, tell me about your plans to expand right now beyond acting.
I directed a movie that is almost finished. It's an independent movie, so we don't have distribution yet. That's next. It was an incredible experience, and I kind of got bit by the directing bug, and now it's like all I want to do all the time.
It's called "A Happening of Monumental Proportions." It follows several people through their day and their life in Los Angeles. It's a comedy. It's a comedy about loss, and trying to make it through your day. The sort of general plot is that a man gets fired on the day that he has to speak at his daughter's career day at school, and like how does he stand in front of her class and deal with that?
I know it's a beautiful script. I hope I made it a beautiful movie, but it's really funny, and I have an amazing cast. I just was inspired by sort of the smallness of the story, and I really like movies about people just trying to make it through their day, and people who are just real people.