Age & Hometown: 37; Detroit, MI
Current Role: Steely ex-wife Jenny, who has unfinished business with her husband (played by Norbert Leo Butz) in Theresa Rebeck’s new comedy Dead Accounts.
"Aren’t You That Actress?" That’s the question frequently asked to Judy Greer, the film and TV veteran who has spent the past decade stealing scenes in everything from Californication and Two and a Half Men to the Oscar-winning The Descendants and 27 Dresses. Greer has earned her place in pop culture with her “goofy, funny and wallflower-y” characters, causing audiences to recognize her—even if they don’t know from where. “For the first couple years I was acting, there was familiarity, but most people didn’t know why they know me,” Greer says with a laugh. “Eventually, they get there.” Lately, it’s been her role in the “full-on cult sensation” Arrested Development that has fans buzzing, especially since Greer will reprise her role as oddball secretary Kitty Sanchez on the show’s comeback season. “It came back very easily for me,” she says. “I had no problems tapping into that crazy, crazy bitch!” Thankfully, Greer will be decidedly less crazy when she appears in the forthcoming rom-com Playing for Keeps and as Miss Desjardin in the bloody remake of Carrie.
Try, Try Again: “I don’t have an awesome story for people starting out in the business,” Greer says of her career. “It all happened really organically for me.” As a kid, she studied ballet, although “it became clear to me, the older I got, that the cream rises to the top and I was not rising!” In high school, she found renewed self-confidence in musicals. “I wasn’t super popular, I didn’t have a ton of friends, but theater was very welcoming,” she says. When college auditions came around, a frenemy challenged Greer to try out for an exclusive program—and she got in. “I felt like I could live like a movie—reinvent myself and become the kind of person I could have been in high school,” she says of DePaul University’s theater department, where she was criticized for her accent. “They never liked my voice. I almost got kicked out. And it’s funny, because when I did move to L.A., that part of me was so me. They try to strip away everything that makes you you, but being myself was something that actually made me successful in Hollywood.”
A Dead Debut: Since acting school, Greer’s dream was to be in plays. But as her L.A.-based screen career took off, a Broadway debut became difficult to imagine—until an offer for Dead Accounts fell into her lap. “At first I thought it was a joke,” she says. “It’s such a huge honor.” Greer was thrilled to discover that the Broadway rehearsal process—with Tony-winning director Jack O'Brien and co-stars Norbert Leo Butz and Katie Holmes—felt less stressful than a movie set. "The discipline it takes to be in a play is something you don't often find in television and film,” she notes. "If I never did another show, I would [already] be such a better actor on whatever project I have next." So what is next? Greer hopes to continue down the Broadway path, doing “as many more plays as I possibly can,” including shows of the musical variety. “I have this fantasy of being in a musical, but I would have to sing, and I might be a terrible singer,” she says. “The best advice I ever got was from my high school chorus teacher, who said, ‘When in doubt, sing loud.’ So I would sing loud—real loud.”