For their lineup of the first ever ATX Television Festival, organizers Caitlin McFarland and Emily Gipson cast a wide net and snagged some incredibly interesting talent for their panels on past and current television production.
One panel that left me utterly gobsmacked upon perusal was Saturday's retrospective panel for the short-lived 2006 CBS series Love Monkey which featured Tom Cavanaugh, Jason Priestley and one of my all-time favorite actresses to see on any size screen: Judy Greer.
I remember Love Monkey vividly because it came shortly after the last season of a little cult classic comedy called Arrested Development that got Greer's name out to the alt comedy world in a pretty major way. A Spring-Break-taking-her-top-off-at-work kind of way.
She'd already played JLo's best friend in The Wedding Planner and Orlando Bloom's sister in Elizabethtown. But now her full range of effortlessly nuanced neurotics was being realized. Soon, she'd play major parts in small screen gems like Miss Guided, Mad Love and Archer as well as big screen successes like Barry Munday and The Descendants.
Greer is one of those character actresses that knows how to make the most of every scene she's in. She revolutionized the Bitchy BFF and the Loveable Sociopath just as naturally and completely as the Wounded Wife and the Hopeless Innocent.
No matter what, she maintains that likeable, endearing charm that makes you want to gab forever with her while getting smoothies and mani-pedis.
Before ATX Fest really kicked off, Greer checked in at the Stephen F. Austin Intercontinental Hotel a little early to meet with admiring reporters like myself to discuss how fun the Hollywood journey has been for her, what she loves most about her job and why she loves coming to festivals in Austin.
CultureMap: So you're in Austin at a television festival!
Judy Greer: I know, it's so great! Who does that, right?
CM: How did you get involved in ATX Fest?
JG: This time, it was because of an old show that I did called Love Monkey. They asked if I could come out — and I'm generally kind of busy and it's hard for me — but I really wanted to come and bring my husband because we came here a year and a half ago when he had just started dating. And I credit Austin for being why we fell in love. We literally had just started dating and I had passes to see a movie I was in, so I asked him if he wanted to come along to the premiere.
CM: Was it for the Barry Munday premiere at SXSW?
JG: Yes! It was! (Clapping:) Isn't that movie so good?
CM: It really is so good.
JG: I love that movie. And I truly do relate that movie to my husband falling in love with me because he hadn't seen me do anything before. He had no idea who I was; we were set up on a blind date. We had gone on a few dates and we were clearly in to each other, and then I invited him to Austin for one night to see this movie I'm in. And he's like, "Sure!" But then I'm like, "Fuck, what have I done? What if he hates it?" But then he was so cute and so in to it and now we're married. So... thanks, Austin! (Laughs.)
CM: With your busy schedule, do you ever get a chance to watch yourself on the television? You're on so many shows all of the time, and it just has to be such a rush, yes?
JG: I actually don't watch a lot of myself. But I'm getting better about it. I don't want to ever be worried about how I look when I'm working, so that's one of the reasons. But the more I act, the more comfortable I am with it. And I just produced a pilot; and I was in the editing room for that, which is huge for me.
CM: I suppose then that all the animated series you work on like Archer are like a dream come true then?
JG: Oh, voiceover work is so awesome. It's the best thing ever. It's so fun. But, strangely, everyone records their voiceovers separately. So I work at a recording studio near my house in LA, but the whole big Archer studio is based in Atlanta. And I've never been there. Adam [Reed, the executive producer] just calls me on the phone and I do all my lines with him while he plays the other characters. It's always so weird for me when I watch an episode and I hear Jon Benjamin as Archer, because I always think of Archer as Adam.
CM: So you're also a pretty big deal movie star now...
JG: I'm a movie CO-star, which is way better...
CM: Oh, do you prefer it?
JG: Well, I've never really been a traditional "movie star," but I think it's pretty awesome to be a co-star because I can still go to Target. I like that. I can go to a mall.
CM: But you have fans who recognize you and flash you in public, right?
JG: Oh, yes, I do get flashed a lot. Which is really fun, especially when I'm with people who I don't know very well. People will be like "Whooooooo!" (simulating the flashing technique of her Arrested Development character) and I'm always with, like, friends of my parents. It's pretty great.
CM: That's really an amazing legacy, if you think about it.
JG: I know! I have another one, too, that I'm secretly proud of. In M. Night Shyamalan's trailers for his movies, he always has a scary, shocking twist. And when I did The Village with him, I got the last line of the trailer, when I'm pulling the blinds shut, and I go, "Don't let them in!" And I remember when we were shooting the movie, my makeup lady told me "That's going to be the trailer moment!" And it was! And that was a really big thing for me at the time.
CM: And now you have people flashing you like you're at Spring Break. How awesome is it being a part of the biggest cult comedy of our generation? I honestly don't know anyone our age who doesn't love everything they've ever seen of Arrested Development.
JG: I mean, it used to be that years ago, when people said they liked Arrested Development — when they came up to me and said "Arrested's awesome" — that's how I knew they were cool. That they got it. Now it's just so huge that everyone's seeing it finally and everyone's loving it. (Except for maybe my parents...) But by anyone like us, it's universally loved.
CM: Do you have the scoop on the Arrested movie? Is it happening? And even more importantly, is Kitty Sanchez in it?
JG: I'm just going to say yes to everything because why not? But nobody has talked to me specifically or said anything. I saw Portia [de Rossi] at a party last weekend, and she didn't have a ton more information than I did, so that made me feel better. Oh! And I also was shooting my web series Reluctantly Healthy at a supermarket in L.A. and I ran into Jason Bateman. And we started talking for a really long time, and it was so good catching up with him, and then this guy came up to me, shaking, and he says to me, "Are you fucking shooting Arrested Development right now?" And I had to say no. I said, "I wish. But if you want to tell people we were, that's okay." (Laughs.) So that's why I just keep saying yes.