Livonia native Judy Greer on films, TV, and her new book

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Livonia native Judy Greer has made her career playing the best friend in “27 Dresses” and “The Wedding Planner,” but center stage is hers alone as the lead character Lina on “Married.” 
“It’s really fun. It’s way more time-consuming – I have to be at work really early in the morning and you have to work all day every day… I like my character. I like getting to know my character. I feel like a better actor because I’m acting more often. Does that make sense? I felt really close to Lina and knew who she was. I cared about her and I wanted to make her have some real heart,” said Greer, 39, of Los Angeles.
Born Judith Evans, Greer graduated from Churchill High School and DePaul University. She made her big screen debut just out of college in 1998’s “Kissing a Fool” and is best-known for her role in the sitcom “Arrested Development” as Kitty.
“Married” (which ended its first season last month and has been renewed for a second season) follows the misadventures of married couple Lina and Russ (Nat Faxon, who co-wrote “The Descendants,” co-starring Greer). When they’re not bickering about mounting debts and their sex life (or lack thereof), they’re reminded of why they fell in love.
“I felt like this couple was a real couple – they weren’t a TV couple. It felt like their arguments were ongoing,” explained Greer. “I liked the idea that they fight about the same thing forever – that’s what couples do; I think there’s one fight throughout your relationship you just keep having over and over again. It’s basically about who you want to have the same fight with forever. I liked the fact that their problem isn’t resolved by the end of the episode – that’s very sitcom.”
Greer has been nigh-ubiquitous in 2014. She’s appeared in the Sprint “framily” commercials, done voiceover work for animated spy spoof “Archer,” played an ape in this summer’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” co-stars in “Men, Women & Children” (debuting nationwide Friday, Oct. 17), and even penned her autobiography “I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star.”

METRO TIMES: What did you get the idea for your book?
GREER: A couple different things. I always wanted to write a book. It’s always been a fantasy of mine. A perfect storm of things came together at once. I wanted to write a book, but I didn’t know what it would be about or when I would do it. A friend of mine is a writer and she was writing really great essays. We were talking about it and she was like, “You should try writing essays.”
At the same time, I got a phone call from a book agent… I had never met her, so it was a cold call. She said, “I’ve been watching ‘Reluctantly Healthy’ (Greer’s online series of workout videos) and your stories are so funny and you’re so funny. Have you ever thought about writing a book?’ It was so weird all of that happened at that same.
She encouraged me to start writing some essays and she’d edit them. She encouraged me and we went from there. It really happened super organically. I wanted to write a book, but I didn’t think I could do it yet. When I finished my proposal and sold – it seemed like a miracle – it was a pretty incredible feeling.

MT: Who’s the target audience?
GREER: My goal when writing it was writing something my friends would like. I think my friends are really smart and really cool, so I wanted to impress them – that was my target audience in my mind.

MT: Your husband Dean E. Johnsen (“Politically Incorrect” producer) was ecstatic that you starred in an “Apes” movie?
GREER: My husband was freaking out – he couldn’t believe it. I was so excited. He got more emails about it than I did because everyone knows how much he loves the franchise. We even a life-size statue of an ape in our backyard – a lawgiver from one of the earlier movies. He has this friendly rivalry with (comedian) Dana Gould, who’s also a big “Apes” fan. When I got the role of Cornelia, I feel it put Dean over the edge – he might be a winner.

MT: How did you get the part?
GREER: I auditioned with an acting scene, so (director) Matt Reeves could see me act. I got the part, thankfully. Then I met with (movement coach/stunt coordinator) Terry Notary, who teaches you how to be an ape – the physicality and the mental state of an ape. He videotaped me on his cell phone and sent it to Matt. He told Matt he thought I’d be great at it and I got the part.
I didn’t have to makeup because it’s all motion capture – you wear a Velcro unitard. It took me 10 minutes to get ready, which is another bonus because I didn’t have to get there early to go through hours of hair and makeup.

MT: You’ve been making the rounds in the Sprint “framily” commercials lately.
GREER: I think those commercials are great. They’re smart and funny for the most part. They have this surreal, sorta Wes Anderson style – I knew they’re gonna be weird. They’re based on these Japanese commercials. I thought they were weird enough to be awesome and fun to make. I’m so glad I did it.

MT: What’s “Men, Women & Children” [directed by Jason Reitman (“Juno”)] about?
GREER: It’s a really good yet upsetting story about what teenagers are going through right now with social media and what the parents are going through as well – there’s this lack of communication, which is ironic because all everyone does anymore is communicate. No one seems to be actually talking to each other or listening.

MT: On “Men, Women & Children,” you got to reunite with your “13 Going On 30” co-star Jennifer Garner.
GREER: That was the best part. God, I missed her so much. It was so fun. We didn’t get to act together a ton, but we were in Austin, TX together; I got to have her all to myself. It was so good to see her – she’s got so many babies and she’s doing so well. Ten years ago… we were in such different places in our lives. It was really fun to catch up. We’ve kept in touch over the years, but it was really great every night after work to have a glass of wine and talk – we’d have the longest conversations ever. The next night we would pick up where we left off the night before.

MT: How’d you like working with Reitman?
GREER: That was awesome... It was so dreamy to work with him. He’s such a good director. He’s a really good communicator. I really trust him. When you trust your director, it’s the best feeling in the world.

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