Judy Greer on The Descendants, Befriending the Other Woman, and Always Playing the Sidekick

Judy Greer. Photo: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Judy Greer may be best known for playing the wacky sidekick, as she did in 13 Going on 30, 27 Dresses, and The Wedding Planner, but in The Descendants, out this weekend, she goes serious as a woman who finds out her husband had an affair with a now-comatose woman (whose spouse is played by George Clooney). We spoke with Greer about befriending the other woman, re-joining Two And A Half Men, and always playing the quirky best friend.

[Greer orders a club sandwich to her room at the Ritz Carlton.]

I thought you were a vegetarian?
I found meat incredibly easy to give up somehow, but then I went back to eating it because I went to Italy. Stupid Italy! Prosciutto is hard for me to turn down, and a rare filet. I’ve been eating meat regularly for the past two months. I was getting bruises; I was anemic and tired and I had crepe-y eye bags, so I just noticed that eating meat makes me look better, but I hate that, I hate that!

Okay. You play the wacky best friend better than anyone in the universe.
Thank you. I’m ready to pass the torch. I’m not above an awesome paycheck, don’t get me wrong. I did have a while where I was like, “Well, I’ve already been the best friend to all of the Jennifers.” I did Katherine Heigl, and I was like, “If I could just be best friend to Katie Holmes, Katie Hudson, Kate Winslet, that would be so awesome to hit up all the Kates and then move on.” Those roles are fun — you get to do all the stuff that the leading actress wishes that she could do and hang out in cool cities because you don’t have to work every day.

So who would you pass the torch to?
I’m not totally sure — I haven’t been paying close attention lately. I love Krysten Ritter in that movie She’s Out of My League

Didn’t she already play the wacky best friend, in Failure to Launch?
That was Zooey Deschanel. I auditioned for that role. All the girls in the office were giddy with excitement because Zooey Deschanel was coming in to audition, and I was like, “Umm, I’m here!”

At least she can’t steal your role in the Arrested Development movie. Are you going to revive Kitty Sanchez?
Hopefully. I’m waiting to find out. I was told years ago, “If we make a movie, she’s going to be a part of it.” My fiancé hadn’t seen any episodes, and I hadn’t seen them since they were on television. It’s so funny to notice all of the little things I missed the first time. You have to watch that show three times per episode.

Your role in The Descendants is a departure. So serious and sad.
It doesn’t feel like a crazy departure for me, mostly because in my personal life I’m able to experience all of those emotions. But I think every actress or actor thinks they have an untapped range, like a range their audience isn’t familiar with. And that’s not the first time I’ve done something really dramatic; it’s just the first time that it’s been recognized. I’ve been looking for the last couple years to get out of the quirky sidekick role. For some time I thought the next step would be getting the lead, to be the girl with the best friend. So, if that doesn’t happen, I have so much fun doing these parts. I don’t think of myself as a comedic actress, I just think of myself as an actress.

Your character finds out that her husband has been cheating on her. You’re engaged — how would you react to something like that?
It’s hard to think about that when you’re about to commit to spending the rest of your life with someone. But obviously it happens — it happened to me in college with just a boyfriend who was cheating. I had to call this girl and have coffee with her. We had dinner.

You confronted the other woman?
Yeah, we stayed friends; she is awesome. I want to meet the woman because I would want to see. I think there are lots of different reasons why people cheat, but I guess I have that sick sense that I want to see: What was it? I think it starts as a physical thing, but at the end it does turn into, Is that person better, funnier, smarter, more interesting?

Your character forgives the other woman, who is in a coma. Sounds like you wouldn’t even need the woman to be in a coma to forgive her.
It’s natural to have that curiosity about her. And then the next phase is, “I hope she fucking dies. I hope that woman gets hit by a car. I hope she gets fucking acne all over her face.” You hope she goes down. And in the film, you see her down, and you see your wish come true. And then you see her children and her husband. It makes you feel like the devil to be like, “I wish she was dead.”

On a positive note, in the film you get to kiss George Clooney.
It’s fun to kiss George Clooney! We had this crazy sex scene in Three Kings a hundred years ago, but we never kissed in that; it was just sex. Alexander [Payne, the director] is so concise and knows what he wants, so he usually gets it pretty quickly. But the kiss scene we shot more than two dozen times, from this angle, and this angle, and this angle. George is famous for doing practical jokes, and eventually I was like, “Fuck! Is George playing a trick on me? Is this a joke? At some point is everyone going to be like, Ah! We’re just kidding!

And you’re getting to work with Ashton Kutcher again. You came on Two and a Half Men as his estranged wife, but you were also on in 2007 to date Charlie Sheen.
I’m so old that now I’m circling back. I guess it’s either because they like me, or Ashton said, “It should be her.” I hope it’s both. But it feels so different; it doesn’t even feel like the same show. I enjoyed working with Charlie, and that was before all of the other stuff, and he was fun, charming, helpful, and cool. But the set feels more fresh and energetic now. And I have bangs. So it’s like I’m basically a different person.

Judy Greer on The Descendants, Befriending the Other Woman, and Always Playing the Sidekick