Julia Louis-Dreyfus on Her ‘Cuckoo Bananas’ New Film ‘Tuesday,’ Why ‘Seinfeld’ Finale Backlash Never Bothered Her and Why a ‘Veep’ Revival Is ‘Doubtful’

Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ career has been defined by Hall of Fame sitcom roles in “Seinfeld” and “Veep” (not to mention her Emmy-winning turn in “The New Adventures of Old Christine”). But in her years since dominating the small screen, she’s gravitated toward a diverse array of film projects.

She played an oblivious Brentwood mom in Kenya Barris’ race relations comedy “You People,” a writer betrayed by her husband in Nicole Holofcener’s Sundance dramedy “You Hurt My Feelings” and the conniving CIA director in a handful of Marvel projects, including the upcoming “Thunderbolts.”

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But perhaps her boldest project to date is A24’s “Tuesday,” the debut film from writer-director Daina O. Pusić in which Louis-Dreyfus stars as a mother forced to confront the fact that her terminally ill teenage daughter is dying. Death is a character, too, in the form of a talking parrot who delivers fate and, in one scene, smokes weed and sings along to Ice Cube. In theaters now in New York and starting June 14 nationwide, the film twists and turns in ways that, without spoiling, Louis-Dreyfus can only describe as “cuckoo bananas.”

“Tuesday” also involves the most dramatic acting of Louis-Dreyfus’ career. Asked how she prepared for some of those gut-wrenching scenes, she tells Variety, “You have to find your way in to make it truthful.”

“It is your responsibility as an actor to bring authenticity,” Louis-Dreyfus adds. “You can’t fake it. I mean, you can fake it, people do. But I believe your job as an actor is to bring truth.”

Elsewhere in our interview, Louis-Dreyfus discusses her hit podcast “Wiser Than Me,” her thoughts on the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” finale and why it’s still not yet the right time to revisit “Veep’s” Selina Meyer.

In the past few years, you’ve joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe, acted in a Netflix comedy about race relations and starred in two low-budget indie dramas from women directors, “Tuesday” being a debut film. What goes into a “yes” from Julia Louis-Dreyfus?

It’s a gut reaction. It’s an instinct I have when I look at material. I’m drawn to material that is not derivative, not a repeat of what I’ve done before. That I feel very strongly about. I’m looking for material that will challenge me and that I’m curious about. I’m looking for material that I can’t walk away from.

Do you believe in the “one for me, one for them” framework? Or is that a fallacy?

I have no idea what you’re talking about. What does that mean?

The idea that actors alternate between passion projects for themselves and more commercial movies for the audience.

Oh, I don’t go by that. That’s not my approach.

This movie features the most heavy, dramatic acting of your career. How do you prepare, both physically and emotionally, for those scenes? Is it daunting?

It’s very daunting. It was a ginormous leap of faith into the arms of my beloved director, Daina, but I was happy to do it because I felt so strongly about the material. You start the same way you do any project as an actor, which is to say you find your in. You find your way into the role that speaks to you, that is truthful to you and your own experience. I’m a mother. I have two children. My bond with them is fierce, and also in my own life I’ve had a lot of grief. I’ve had loss. I’ve lost people very close to me. So many of the themes of the film spoke to me personally.

It’s commonly held among actors that comedy is harder than drama. And yet, in this movie, you’re playing a mother who must watch her child die…

I don’t really compare [comedy and drama]. If you do a comedy or a drama, and you’re approaching it correctly, the approach is very similar. Obviously, there are tonal shifts to material that are required based on the genre. But, honestly, it all comes down to coming at the material from a truthful place. That moment with my daughter in the film was a very, very, very difficult scene to do. Because it was painful! It took a lot out of me. I was happy to do it, but it was very painful.

How do you shake that off at the end of the day?

I couldn’t for a while. It took some time for me to shake it off, and I called home a lot. We shot this movie in the U.K., and my family was all back in California, so I was mighty homesick. I called home a lot to find my bearings again.

The film takes a sharp turn about midway through, especially as it pertains to your character. What was your reaction when you first read the script?

I was surprised! If memory serves correctly, I believe I just read the script, and it was a page-turner because it’s so cuckoo bananas. I was very surprised by the turn it took and was delighted that it did so. I mean, you do not see that coming.

You talked about coming at roles from a place of truth. What does that work look like for you? For example, it’s not explained in the film why your American character is raising this British teenager alone in London. Do you have that backstory in your head, or are you just concerned with what’s on the page?

No, that’s backstory I have in my head.

Is that a conversation with directors, or is it work you do on your own?

It’s both, actually. Daina had a lot of backstory for all of the characters in the movie, which we discussed. And I had my own that I attached to it to make it feel full. And, by the way, that’s an aspect of the film that I really like, so I’m glad you brought it up. Certain questions are not answered — I think that’s super interesting. It distills down this fantasy in a way that I think is appropriate.

With “Seinfeld” and “Veep,” you’ve had two career-defining television roles, which is far more than most actors ever get. Has that emboldened you to search for a third, or is that not what interests you these days?

Well, if I found material that was well-suited to be a series that I loved, of course I would do it. I’m just being driven by the quality of material. That’s what gets me going. But I have to really love it, because doing a series is extremely gratifying and satisfying to work on a character over a long period of time, but you are in it for the long haul. Now, having said that, nowadays you can do things for a shorter period of time than you could, frankly, even 10 years ago. But, like I say, it’s materially driven decisions. It’s not like I only will do movies or I only will do television or I only will do stage. It really is about what’s on the page.

You also have one of the biggest podcasts in America right now, “Wiser Than Me.” What have you learned from doing that?

That has been sort of a passion project joyride for me. I certainly have an even deeper respect for what you do, by the way, because I think talking to people in depth about their lives is a lot of responsibility and takes a lot of work. I take it very seriously. These are older women who are kind enough to give me, frankly, an hour and a half of their time to talk in depth about their lives. So I come to each one of these conversations with a lot of knowledge about who they are, what they’ve done and where they’ve been, so that we can get to the meat of it right away.

You told Variety not too long ago that you missed playing Selina Meyer on “Veep” and have been pitched on revisiting the character, but it wasn’t the right time. Do you still feel that way? Has there been any traction on that?

No, I don’t think this is the right time. But I do miss that character. I loved playing that role. I loved doing that show, my God. It was an enormous amount of work, and it was very demanding schedule-wise and everything else, but God I just loved it to death. But no, I don’t think the time is right.

Do you think it will happen eventually?

I think it’s doubtful, given what the landscape is in American political life.

I was hoping you would pop up in the “Curb Your Enthusiasm” finale. Was there ever a version of it that involved you?

There wasn’t, but I enjoyed that so much. I thought it was fantastic. Larry [David] did a great job.

What did you make of the idea that the mythology around the “Seinfeld” finale had stuck with Larry for so long that he had to basically rewrite it 25 years later?

It makes sense! He’s somebody who obsesses, and it makes sense that he revisited that. I know that the criticism of the finale bothered him, and I’m thrilled that he was able to address it in a really clever way in his own finale. It was fabulous.

What about you? Has the backlash to the “Seinfeld” finale stuck with you decades later?

Absolutely not. We made a great show. That was my big takeaway. That’s what stuck with me.

Before I let you go, I have to ask if you’ve wrapped filming on Marvel’s “Thunderbolts”?


Did you do any stunts?

I don’t know if you’re familiar with the Marvel Universe, but when you join it, you sign your life away in an NDA. So, if I say anything to you right now, I will be executed by the universe.

There are secret agents at your door, I imagine.

Correct. I can feel them behind me. I don’t dare turn around.

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