Since she came to fame as the lovable sidekick in hit rom-coms like 13 Going on 30 and The Wedding Planner, “my husband always tells me, ‘You’re not America’s Sweetheart — you’re America’s Best Friend!'” Judy Greer, 44, tells Closer Weekly, in the magazine’s latest issue, with a laugh.
And if you ask her, it’s typecasting. “I’ve always been able to drop everything to help someone,” she admits. “And usually my job in a rom-com is to say, ‘Why are you being such an idiot?’ As my friends will attest, I’m pretty good at that!” In the eight years since she married producer Dean E. Johnsen, 51, Judy’s become just as good at parenting his kids Lucas, 19, and Emilee, 25. “Being a stepmom has been the greatest gift,” she says. “There was a big learning curve, but it’s been so awesome and fun.”
Judy’s also been enjoying her role as Jim Carrey’s ex-wife on the Showtime series Kidding, creating a new signature cocktail and helping others. “I work with this chimpanzee sanctuary in Georgia called Project Chimps, and I’m inspired by my friend Jen Garner to do more charity work,” she tells Closer. “Everything’s so great right now!”
Scroll down for more from our chat with Judy Greer!
You’ve filmed the sequel Halloween Kills with Jamie Lee Curtis. What else is new?
I just wrapped Season 2 of Kidding. I caught up on my voice-over work — I do Ask the StoryBots for Netflix and Let’s Go Luna! for PBS Kids. I also did an animated film, America, for Netflix with Channing Tatum, and we started our 11th season of Archer on FXX.
You’ve been in so many big hits like 2015’s Jurassic World and Ant-Man. What do you get recognized for the most?
13 Going on 30! People love it so much. I think they’re doing a musical. I don’t have anything to do with it, but I’d do anything with Jennifer Garner if she wanted me to.
What do you two like to do together?
Mostly there’s coffee consumption. It’s hard because we live far apart — actually we’ve just been texting about squeezing in a coffee or tequila before I leave for work. I really lucked out. It’s hard to stay friends with people you’ve worked with for so long.
You spoke at her Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony. Why is she a good pal?
She writes back immediately, she’s super funny and always reminds you not to take things too seriously. She also reminds you what’s important: “Everyone’s healthy, everyone’s safe. These are things to be thankful about.”
On that note, you had a love scene with George Clooney in one of your first films!
It was pretty crazy, because I think the actress cast in my role [in 1999’s Three Kings] had fallen out. A handful of us flew to Arizona to audition, and then I was told, “We need to start rehearsing immediately.” They walked me to this room where George was standing — that was our first time meeting — and I was the hugest fan! The first thing he said was, “Pretty crazy, isn’t it?” I said, “Dude, I was balancing my checkbook last night freaking out!” He was laughing, and then we started rehearsing our sex scene. It was the most surreal three minutes of my life to this day!
It also must’ve been good preparation for future love scenes.
I went right into another movie [What Planet Are You From?] where Garry Shandling and I had a sex scene. He said, “Have you ever done this?” and I said “I just did one!” He was like, “With whom?” and I said, “George Clooney.” He was like, “Oh, no!” [Laughs]
When did you first know you had a gift for comedy?
When I was younger I was a ballerina. I kept getting cast in comedic interlude roles. It wasn’t that I thought I was funny. I just realized I’m not afraid to make a fool of myself, which I guess is how it starts.
Your husband, Dean, clearly thinks you’re funny. How did you two meet?
He’s an executive producer on Real Time With Bill Maher, and one of the writers, Matt Gunn, is an old friend who set us up on a blind date. We started talking on the phone. I didn’t know what he looked like until I opened my door! He was tall and handsome. I was excited, but it wasn’t love at first sight — and he’ll say the same thing!
Why was he the one?
I feel like no one told me, “Just date a guy who’s nice to you.” We really need to tell each other that, ’cause nice goes a long way!
You moved in together after seven years. Was that a big adjustment?
No, it wasn’t! We decided to renovate this house to move into together. I call it my Barbie Dream House. Dean said, “Do whatever you want, just don’t paint it pink!” We’ve been going back and forth between L.A. and Thousand Oaks, [California], so it was nice not to be on the 101 a lot.
What was it like becoming a stepmom?
It’s a big challenge to jump into the deep end of a family dynamic you don’t totally understand. You also forget that you have to establish a relationship with them, not just that they need to be taken care of. I made a friend, Michelle, who was on my side and took me through the process. Like, I’ve never gone grocery shopping for people before. I didn’t know what to buy!
Did you want kids of your own?
I did consider it for a while, but I didn’t try. I love my stepkids so much, I can’t stand it. I wanted to give my attention to them.
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Meet my friend Precious @projectchimps today. After 28 years in a research lab, she now has a forever home! Precious is battling kidney disease – like many former research chimps, she needs extra care. Please join me in supporting Precious by making an early donation for #givingtuesday today. After a lifetime in the lab, it’s their time to live!! #unselfie
You’re an empty nester. What’s that like?
My stepdaughter is in grad school and moved in with friends, but we’re lucky the kids are close enough that we can see them.
What led you to create the Judy’s Garden Gin specialty drink for Hilton Garden Inn’s Garden Grille & Bar around the U.S.?
They asked me about creating a signature cocktail — they know me so well. [Laughs] I got to pick the ingredients, but I’m no chef, so I needed their assistance. Sometimes it’s nice to sit at the hotel bar and talk to whoever’s next to you and trade stories. I learn a lot about people, what they’re going through. It’s always so fascinating.
You wrote a 2014 memoir and directed the 2017 dramedy A Happening of Monumental Proportions. What’s next?
I’m working on another book and hoping to direct again soon. I’m so excited about the future.
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Reporting by Diana Cooper