Actress Talks Reboot Series, Career Evolution – The Hollywood Reporter
Just because she’s playing an actress in her latest TV series doesn’t mean that Judy Greer has anything in common with her character. “The big difference between me and Bree is that she hasn’t worked in 15 years,” Greer says of her role on Hulu’s Reboot, “and I haven’t had a day off in 15 years — pandemic aside.”
A meta farce of Hollywood, Reboot stars Greer as one of several down-on-their-luck performers who get a windfall when their schlocky early aughts sitcom gets revived at … Hulu. It’s full of industry satire, including older writers clashing with the next generation and programming executives with no experience in programming.
Experience is something Greer doesn’t lack. Her IMDb profile reads like a telephone book, and Reboot is one of just 10 roles she played in 2022 alone. So, while she was game to discuss her new series when she hopped on a Zoom in October, the conversation kept turning to the perspective gained from one of the most uniquely prolific careers in Hollywood.
Reboot reminded me a lot of The TV Set, Jake Kasdan’s 2006 movie in which you played the manager of a writer whose pilot script gets grossly distorted by the broadcast TV machine. Did you think of that at all?
That movie’s one of my favorite jobs I’ve ever had. I loved making it, and I loved the finished product — which is not always the case. At the time it came out, it was weird — it kind of gave people nightmares. The reception from people in Hollywood was like, “Yeah, I saw it … I saw it.” It was real — whereas I feel like the reception for Reboot has been a little better. I think we might be in a place where we’re more willing to make fun of ourselves and see ourselves seeing. It did feel like The TV Set disturbed people in the industry.
When I first went to an upfront presentation, I was like, “Oh, this is exactly how it was in The TV Set.”
Of all the pilots I’ve done, I haven’t gotten that many picked up, so I’ve only been to one real upfront. It was a really intense, long day — creepy sometimes. But it did feel like an honor.
As much as they’ve probably changed since 2006, there are still those weird corners at parties where they corral actors and force them to meet advertisers who …
Grab a little side boob? Yeah. That happens.
From left: Keegan-Michael Key, Johnny Knoxville, Calum Worthy and Judy Greer on Hulu’s Reboot.
Between Reboot, The TV Set and your own memoir, I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star, you’ve done a lot for demystifying Hollywood. Is that something that you set out to do?
Total accident, but I think I’m in good company. It feels like everything is getting demystified these days — with social media, certainly. And it does go both ways, I guess. Everyone uses filters and FaceTune and all this shit, but, at the same time, we’re all like, “Look at what I ate today!” The big movie stars of my generation are now doing TikTok videos and shit, and I’m like, “What about the mystery?” It’s funny to see inside everyone’s houses, though. I am happy to just tell things like they are, as I see them. So while I don’t totally think of myself as demystifying things, I will always give an honest answer.
In Reboot, you play an actress who’s working for the first time in years — whereas you seem to have never stopped working. Do actor friends who’ve had fallow periods ever ask you for advice?
Nobody asks me for a pep talk — not about that. But if they did, I wouldn’t really know what to say. A career in the arts is like a human body. Every one is so specific and so different and evolving all the time.
In terms of your career evolution, what projects do you identify now as the big leaps forward?
There were a couple. 13 Going on 30 was really good for me in that it was so successful and people loved it so much. I was in a movie a really long time ago called Adaptation. I had a really small role, but I felt like that moved the needle in a way that I hadn’t noticed before. I felt another little rung of the ladder when I did The Descendants because it showed me in a different light that I don’t think people had really seen me in before — just this one scene where I was really upset. Having someone like Alexander Payne pluck you is helpful, always.
There’s a particularly funny episode of Reboot in which your character crashes the writers room. Have you ever been the actor in the writers room?
On Reboot, I really wanted Lexy Perez Steve Levitan to meet my dog, Mary Richards. But the day I brought her to work, the timing was so weird that I had to text and be like, “Can I come up to the writers room and introduce you to my dog?” I had my wig on and the whole thing — I’m basically Bree in that moment, bringing my dog up to the writers room as they’re breaking stories and shit. I’m just like, “Isn’t she so cute, just running around? Am I interrupting?” (Laughs.) It was not lost on me what was happening in that moment, so I was like, “OK, I’m leaving now!” I’m always invited into the writers room, but I know better than to go.
You briefly appear topless in the first episode, in a scene where your character reunites with her ex, played by Keegan-Michael Key, for the first time in years. On the page, does that make you laugh or does it make you uncomfortable?
Being topless was not in the script. What was written was her trying to get her top off and everything. When you’re shooting scenes like that, you can wear a bandeau or pasties, but, when it comes down to it, it’s a pain in the ass shooting around all kinds of undergarments. So I said, “Let’s just do the scene and then you guys can just deal with my boobs in the editing room.” When the scene was edited together, they were like, “Well, we have two versions, and there is a version where we can see your breasts — and it’s very funny. We’re never putting this in the show if you don’t want to, but why don’t you come and see what you think?” So, I saw it, and I thought it was funny. Do you think it’s funny?
Right? I think that made it funnier. It’s funny and awkward and surprising, and I feel like it might make the audience feel like how Reed [Key] was supposed to feel. There are so many different kinds of nudity, and that was nothing as far as my comfort level. If I was doing some crazy sex scene, I weirdly think it would be less interesting to me to show anything. This is comedy, and they’re just boobs. We never freak out when dudes have their shirts off.
I would not have asked about it if you were a man.
It wouldn’t have even come up! I’m a little old-fashioned, so I do always ask my husband before I sign up on that stuff. He’s such a good sport, and he’s so supportive. We met when I was well into my career and I had already done it before.
I heard an interview with you in which you mentioned the trap of the “wife-mom” role once you play it. Has that been a slippery slope in terms of offers coming in?
I had a really sweet conversation with my dad about this a long time ago. I think I’d taken my first mom role, and I was complaining about it to him. And my dad says, “Think of how many more roles you can play if you can also play a mom!” Oh yeah. I’m not going to speak for all actresses, but there’s a time in your life, usually in your 30s, where you get those first couple of roles and you’re like, “Seriously?” Then you get over it because, often, you actually are a mom. I did this movie with Lee Pace, a real hit called Marmaduke. I’m sure you probably own it … The Criterion Collection.
I didn’t see it. I’m sorry.
Oh, really? I’ll wait if you want to watch it real quick. I’ll never forget making that. We had just gotten to Vancouver to shoot, and Lee and I were immediate friends, doing hair and makeup tests and costume fittings — and then this young woman walks in and she’s like, “Hi, I’m Caroline Sunshine. I’m playing your daughter.” We looked at her like, “Get out!” We were speechless, and I don’t think we ever got over it. But that was a moment where I was like, “Whoa, that’s a grown-up playing my daughter.” But my dad is right. There are all different sizes and types of mom roles, and some are bigger and better.
How is your career in your 40s compared to what you maybe expected it to be?
Way better, even though I can’t say that I had low expectations. Strangely, I’ve always been very zen about my career — and no other part of my life. In every aspect of my life, I’m a control freak and I obsess and stay up all night and I worry. But when it comes to work, I’ve always felt really taken care of by the universe. I’ve trusted when things do come my way and when they don’t. There’s so much content, and not every woman in her mid-40s is a mom or cliché. And Hollywood is making baby strides into more equality and more representation of women behind the scenes, making more roles for women like myself in front of the camera. The truth is, the older you get, the more complicated things can be — and so can the roles.
What types of roles that you’ve yet to play are most interesting to you?
I’ve done so much. I’ve been so lucky. But there are two things I haven’t done — an action movie, like Jason Bourne action, and a deep period movie. I’ve done the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, but I’ve never done a corsets-and-no-tampons period piece. I guess I did The Village, which was kind of a period piece …
The period was the twist.
Yeah, we were wearing corsets, but we didn’t know that it was present day. One thing I learned making that movie is to never take your corset off when you break for lunch because you’ll never get it back on.
Interview edited for length and clarity.
This story first appeared in a November stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.