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Louie’s Ursula Parker on Jumping Off Subway Cars and Playing Louis C.K.’s Daughter, Jane

Normally, Louis C.K.’s adorable TV daughter Jane is the best. She busts thieves, complains about injustice, and always shoots straight, even if it’s rarely what her father wants to hear. (Back in season two, she explained sweetly, “I like Mama’s better because she makes good food and I love her more so I like being there more.”) So when Jane stepped off the subway train all alone during last night’s episode, “Elevator,” and even though I know Louie is not the kind of comedy in which something really bad would happen to her, the panic was real. Ursula Parker, the 10-year-old actress who plays Jane, called Vulture after school last week to talk about what it’s like working on the show and tell us what the only acceptable time to jump off a subway car is. She also talked about her violin- (and lyre-) playing, Jane’s psychological state, that one time she made a movie with Channing Tatum, and the surprise ending of Divergent.

Are you still in school or are you done for the year?
I’m still going to school. We recently had the Agora, which is an ancient Greek kind of marketplace thing. It was really fun. I played the lyre and I was an ancient Greek musician!

You played the lyre?
I just learned. It’s pretty easy! We also did a movie about the wanderings of Odysseus. It was our project, and I love it. I love ancient Greece. It’s very interesting and mystical. It was almost like a film, actually. I was Athena and Polyphemus, which is a scary cyclops [laughs].

Which did you prefer?
I loved both of them. Athena was nice because she was a goddess, and it was so funny because I was in full costume and everything. And then I was Polyphemus, and I had a little cyclops mask that I made myself out of cardboard.

Was it scary?
Actually, yes! I creeped up on some of my classmates and they were shrieking.

I really like your work on Louie. Are you allowed to watch your scenes?
I’m allowed to definitely watch my scenes, but only my scenes.

What did you think about Jane getting off the subway?
What in general Jane does is a bit unusual and even a little insane. It makes her sort of colorful, complex, and even mysterious! I love playing her. She isn’t boring and predictable. She’s definitely not afraid to be different.

Did Louis tell you anything about why Jane did that?
Louis didn’t really tell me. There were a lot of logistics involved with closing the doors and everything. Personally, I think Jane is growing up and she’s questioning reality and asking, “Am I in a dream? What’s real?”

Is that something you do?
No, I usually forget my dreams. I rarely remember them.

It made me nervous when she got off the train. You would never do that in real life, right?
Oh, no, no. Actually me and my mom have the same subway rules! I would never jump off a train like that. That’s just something I would not normally do. Unless there’s a fire on the subway or something.

Later in the episode when Jane goes to her mom’s, she’s singing to a stuffed animal. What was that song?
I actually wrote that song. It’s one of the songs I created on GarageBand. I liked it because I think the lyrics nicely complimented the scene. It’s about basically doing what you’re not supposed to do, because you’re not supposed to jump off a subway. The name of the song is called “What to Do.”

Did you write it for the episode, or had Louis heard you singing it before?
No, he asked me to sing something to the animal and I thought, Oh, I’ll sing my song! I wrote it as a little GarageBand experiment on my iPad. It was definitely not written for the episode.

What did he say when you sang it? Was he impressed?
Yeah, definitely. I think he loved the song, personally.

Jane is pretty funny. What do you think is the silliest thing Louis has asked you to do on the show?
Probably putting my leg behind my neck, for like no reason, in the episode “Moving” in season two.

Did he know you could do that?
I’m very flexible. Since I was really little I was always really flexible. He saw me stretch and I was like, “Oh, yeah, I’ll do that!” I can put my leg up and behind my neck. I can actually put both legs behind my neck, but I can’t walk on my arms yet.

Are you practicing that?
Yeah, I’m going to try to do that actually. Walk on my arms while my two legs are behind my neck. I don’t think it’s quite possible yet.

Do you have a good time making the show?
Definitely. If I had to pick my favorite scene, it’s probably from this season. I really love the unusual development of my character and all the interesting psychological things.

Psychological things?
Uh-huh! [Laughs] Spoilers!

What do you call Louis? Louis or Mr. C.K.?
Everyone calls him Louis, so I do, too.

Do you get a lot of adults asking you what he’s like?
Oh, yeah, definitely. A lot of adults always ask me, “What’s he like?” I like him because he has a very clear idea of what he wants. He also pays great attention to detail, which I think is very important. He wears many hats on the show and he’s mostly seriously focused when he works. I love that he does not generally sugarcoat comments. And I like that he doesn’t treat me like a baby. A lot of adults don’t know how to relate to children. They either treat you like you’re 5 or like you’re 50. Maybe because he has his own kids he knows how to relate to us.

So he gives it to you straight when you’re doing something wrong.
Exactly, and he says it in a nice way, too.

My favorite scene of yours is when Jane is playing the violin and Louis tells her to stop it.
That scene was hilarious. Oh, and by the way, regarding the violin-playing, stay tuned!

Will there be more?
Ummm, maybe!

Have you ever been yelled at for playing the violin?
No, no.

Only Louis would do that.
Yeah, it was supposed to be funny!

When did you start playing the violin?
I started when I was 3. When I was 2 years old, I had this fascination with playing the violin. I had this little music group and I looked at this picture on the wall and thought, Violin! I wanna do that! I started with the Suzuki Program, which welcomed younger kids. I was working on one piece for the whole year actually. You start with rulers and pencils and stuff, not even the real violin. For my first concert, it was funny because I was looking at the audience the entire time and at the end my teacher had to drag me off of the stage. I’ve loved performing since I was really little!

Do you have a favorite composer or kind of music?
I like all sorts of stuff. I like Vivaldi and Mozart, all sorts of pop music to happy songs to Katy Perry. Everything, I like everything. All sorts of classical stuff and contemporary stuff. I love music, period. I like ancient Greek things now too! I like the Seikilos song. It’s an epitaph. I was actually performing it today with my lyre. It’s the oldest song ever found in the whole entire world.

Do you remember why you wanted to act?
Yeah, I remember, it was never my or my parents' intention to pursue acting. I was in this little talent show playing the violin and an agent approached us. I began acting and I discovered I loved it, so I continued. And I think playing the violin is very similar to acting. They both deal with performance and expression and interpretation, sometimes even improvisation.

A lot of the movies you’ve been in are for adults. Do you get to any of those?
Yeah, definitely, even though it means that my parents need to cover my eyes and ears sometimes. I’ve seen Straight A’s, Cold Comes the Night, and recently I’ve shot more movies that I’ll be able to see like ExplosionLost in Austin, and Bad Boys Crazy Girls.

Do you remember working with Channing Tatum and Katie Holmes in The Son of No One?
It was a long time ago, but they were both extremely thoughtful.

Did they hang out with you?
Oh, yeah. Katie was very caring and Channing was super exciting. I remember him holding me upside down between the scenes to keep me entertained, and I loved it.

I read you’ve played violin on Sesame Street, too.
I don’t 100 percent remember, but I think it was an episode called "Great Vibrations" with Bob, Abby, and Grover. I played Mozart and introduced the violin to children.

I wish I could find that on YouTube.
I actually haven’t seen it either. I don’t generally watch too much TV. I like movies, especially movies based on books, like Divergent.

Oh, you’ve seen that?
Yeah, I read all those. I read The Hunger Games. And I started Harry Potter. And I heard Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is going to be filmed. I’m hoping it’s gonna be really good!

How did you like Divergent?
I was obsessed with it for a long time. Like really obsessed with it, for at least a two- or three-month phase! I was really into it.

Did you read all three books or just the first one?
Uh-huh, definitely all three books.

What did you think of the ending?
Yeah, it was so sad. I did not expect that. Then at the end I realized, it’s written from two perspectives! I thought it was really interesting, I loved it. I also read the second book in Miss Peregrine, it’s called Hollow City, and the ending will really surprise you.

You think I should read that series?
You should. They’re really, really, really good. Read the first one and then the second one and you will be amazed. There’s also black-and-white photographs in it, which makes it really interesting. It’s like a documentary of this fictional world. And literally every single sentence is like, “Oh, my God!”

Photo: Marcel Thomas/Getty Images