In town to promote her latest project, Alexander Payne’s highly anticipated “The Descendants,” actress Judy Greer traipses into the press-reserved seventh floor suite of San Francisco’s Ritz-Carlton in towering platform heels, looking fresh-faced and chic in black skinnies, blouse and velvet blazer. As one of the youngest writers in the room, my peers have bestowed me with the opening question, but almost as soon as I open my mouth Ms. Greer cuts me off in order to close the windows and blinds – concerned, you see, about any ambient noise that might make its way onto our recording devices. As if we weren’t already charmed by her effusive manner, her candidness made for a lively discussion that felt decidedly less like work and more like catching up with an old friend.
“I would have played any character in an Alexander Payne movie,” Greer cheerfully admitted, citing the acclaimed director as the main draw to the project, which stars George Clooney as Matt King, a Haole patriarch who tries to reconnect with his two daughters in the wake of a tragic accident that leaves his wife Liz in a coma. A poignant mix of drama and comedy, Matt’s mourning is complicated when he discovers his wife’s infidelity. Greer plays Julie, the wife of Liz’s lover.
While Julie doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, she’s much more nuanced than typical media portrayals of the victimized spouse, which is precisely what Greer honed in on.
“It’s hard to have a role that size be that compelling,” the actress noted, before adding with a laugh that, “I would know since I play a lot of supporting characters – basically all supporting characters.” And yet, this doesn’t faze her at all. As far as Greer is concerned, the material is what is paramount.
“It’s not my job to stand out,” she conceded, but rather to “be part of the story that I’m telling.” (Although working with the likes of Payne can’t hurt, either.)
Despite filming on location in Hawaii, Greer was unable to fully enjoy the island’s attractions as she was simultaneously working on Mark and Jay Duplass’ “Jeff Who Lives at Home” (set to be released next spring). Flying back and forth between New Orleans and Honolulu was a challenge in and of itself but, worst of all, the Duplass brothers informed her that for continuity purposes she “better not come back with a fucking tan.”
Through numerous post-screening Q&As as awards season gets underway, Greer has observed plenty of audience reactions firsthand. By her account “The Descendants” seems to leave people in an emotional state of shock, adding that the film will make you laugh, cry and sometimes both at the same time.
“I think people will really love seeing George play this role,” Greer continued, “His fans will connect with him in a way they haven’t before because they’ve never seen him play [such a] vulnerable role.” Critics, likewise, have already pegged his performance for an Oscar nomination, with some even hailing it as his best to date.
As for her own career, Greer is currently finishing up season three of animated series “Archer,” enjoying a stint on “Two and a Half Men” and developing a new show for ABC. She’d like to branch out more from comedy, even half-jokingly suggesting that her dream role would be “Matt Damon’s love interest in a Jason Bourne movie.” While we can’t make any promises on that one, her turn as a conflicted mother and wife in “The Descendants” ought to bring more dramatic roles her way.