Julia Louis-Dreyfus of ‘Veep’ Makes Emmy History
It’s getting harder and harder to decide what Julia Louis-Dreyfus should be most famous for.
You’d think her defining role as Elaine on NBC’s Seinfeld would seal the deal. Then came boffo notices for her lead performances on CBS mainstay The New Adventures of Old Christine and HBO’s sophisticated Veep.
But how about this feat, which somehow has avoided almost all recognition: Louis-Dreyfus, who will receive the inaugural Variety TV Impact Award at the Banff World Media Festival, is the only actor or actress to win lead or supporting comedy acting Emmys for three different shows.
Even she has trouble wrapping her head around that one.
“No, I have no perspective,” she says. “I feel as if it’s sort of happened to somebody else, to tell the truth. I’m honored, and yet at the same time, I haven’t really digested any of that. … I’m really just thinking forward about what the next project is or frankly, what the next scene is.”
In reaching the unprecedented trifecta, Louis-Dreyfus passed several of the people she named as her comedy inspirations, including Lucille Ball, Valerie Harper and Mary Tyler Moore. (Captain Kangaroo was another beloved figure from her childhood, by the way.) And it’s not because she was hopping from one new show to the next each year. Seinfeld ran for nine seasons and Christine five, before Veep launched in April 2012 and gave her the lead comedy actress Emmy five months later.
“I guess you could say they each had different kinds of meaning,” Louis-Dreyfus says. “For Seinfeld, I never thought I would win that, ever. I had lost so many times (four) prior to winning, and when I won it, I was shocked. And for Christine, it was a show that I was starring in (and the award) was in a different category — and the show was brand new. Veep is its own beast, completely different, unlike any of the comedies I’ve done.”
Louis-Dreyfus calls Veep a dream, saying that “if somebody had said to me, ‘What would you really want to be doing?’ I would really want to be doing a very funny, unusual comedy on HBO.” She remains amazed that no one had before centered a program around a character such as Selina Meyer, and the fact that satirist extraordinaire and In the Loop director Armando Iannucci was behind it only added to the magic.
“I loved In the Loop,” she says. “When I thought of the tone and the voice of that, mashed with an unhappy vice president, I felt I had to meet this guy. We met for a cup of tea (that) turned into a 3½-hour meeting — it was so exciting.
“To be honest, I just felt I understood his tone, his voice. I liked him very much. He’s a very sort of gentle soul, and (he) seemed very collaborative.”
Such a comfort level has been non-negotiable for Louis-Dreyfus since long before her Seinfeld days, a lesson hammered home by her experiences on Saturday Night Live from 1982-85. Louis-Dreyfus had been a dedicated theater student at Northwestern, complemented by what she calls a lifechanging experience with the Practical Theater Co. in Chicago, when the producers of SNL recruited her and three others (Paul Barrosse, Gary Kroeger and Louis-Dreyfus’ future husband, Brad Hall) to join the show as writers and performers — all before her senior year in college.
“I was a high school student just a few years prior to that and watching Saturday Night Live,” she says. “It was just a head-spinning moment in my life.”